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Even when all faulty factors have been successfully identified, and there is an incentive to start a major change, there must be a clear vision on how to do so. This requires more than just strong management, in such a moment a person or a group is necessary to lead the movement. While the definition of effective leadership is still argued upon, some form of it is needed to push the organisation onto new tracks.
Moreover, a continuity of leadership is crucial for already initiated changes to continue and develop. J.P.Kotter, professor at Harvard Business School and founder of Kotter Management Consulting, argued: “Management’s mandate is to minimize risk and to keep the current system operating. Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always demands leadership. Phase one in a renewal process typically goes nowhere until enough real leaders are promoted or hired into senior-level jobs. Without a sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.” Initiators of the change must have real power in their hands, as well as a cohesive plan to achieve their goal. A leader must be able to enforce their plans also for the others to abide by them, after all who would listen to a leader without any power?
This leads us to bureaucracy which is another important aspect to discuss. The underlying goal of the system is to avoid uncertainty by creating a specific set of procedures and positions. It makes the hierarchy clearer, with responsibilities divided among the personnel. It is usually a very efficient system because the employees know what actions to take or who to address in most situations. However, this approach kills the initiative for change and makes the emergence of a leader practically impossible, as leadership position often exceeds the power of a manager. Geert Hofsetede noticed that these rules prevent the superiors from abusing their power against the lower-ranking members of staff. However, he blamed the profound formality of the system for blocking innovation, stating that “the superiors have no power by themselves, only the power that their bureaucratic roles have given them as incumbents of the roles - the power is in the role, not in the person”. Managers’ hands are tied by the strict limits of their positions. If they want to lead the change, they would need to start with making the relationships in their company way less formal.
To sum up…
Organizations have a massive inertia and are naturally unwilling to change. This is a result of a strong company culture, excessive bureaucracy, or pure lack of vision. An even stronger force is necessary to tear these established bonds apart and revolutionise the ways of conducting business activities. In large companies one person is often not enough - a universal sense of urgent threat is needed to incentivise the crew to reprogram their approach. The complexity of organisations and a multitude of prerequisite factors are the reasons why achieving change is so difficult.
References: Kotter, J.R., 2007. Leading change - Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), p.96- . Hofstede, G., 1980. Motivation, leadership, and organization: Do American theories apply abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9(1), pp.42–63.