The past few days have been filled with friendly discussions about the 6.4 percent plunge of the Philippine stock market. I am not a finance person and this article is not about finance. Rather, it is about one of the certainties that anyone in business knows and grapples with every day– change, risk and its inevitability.
Knowing the inevitability of change, businesses have developed their own strategies for dealing with it and being change-adept. Rosabeth Kanter, one of the few admired women management gurus, explains that a change-adept organization begins and ends with its people and their capacity to act. To be change-adept is to develop individual competence. It also means to equip the employee with the skills and tools needed to take action and to make decision. Such empowered employees, it is believed, translates into organizational competence.
To be change-adept, therefore, is to develop in our employees that innate desire to act and to make things happen boosted by the knowledge that they have the power to act and the confidence that an act can ultimately lead to desired performance. For most organizations, attainment of desired performance can lead to reward. For us ordinary employees, the knowledge that if we perform well, it can get rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically, prompts us to do more and be more; to initiate and to act on it. Hence, reward and performance are mutually reinforcing and can lead to what Kanter calls a virtuous cycle of higher and higher achievement.
If the power to act can make things happen, its lack can lead to the opposite. For us employees, to be placed in a situation where we are expected to act but powerless or constrained to do so, can be frustrating. Kanter observed that such feelings of powerlessness corrupts; those who lack the tools of power and who thus come to feel powerless stifle innovation, over-control others, emphasize rules and behave punitively. Hence, it is suggested that managers be professionals themselves and must be the educators of professionals. It might help if there are fewer prohibitions and restrictions, less over-the-shoulder monitoring, and offering more help in learning how to do the job autonomously, how to exercise judgement and how to customize solutions for unique customers. In a word, trust in our employees. Trust that they would act for the good of the company.
After all, we may have the best, competent and committed employees but unless they feel that they are making sufficient contribution to their organizations, their enthusiasm to act and to contribute may wane. Moreover, Ulrich and Smallwood observed that “organizations are the universal setting in today’s world where individuals find abundance in their lives through their work, and they want this investment of their time to be meaningful.” In this sense, for organization managers, know that competence may deal with the head (being able), commitment with the hands and feet (being there) and contribution with the heart (simply being)”.
If we want to be agile and adaptive, Kanter suggests that organizations should cultivate the imagination to innovate, the professionalism to perform, and the openness to collaborate. Innovate, stress learning, collaborate with allies and partners, and involve your people.
So, are we ready to be change-adept?
Miss Caning is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.