Institutionalization of Change
At this point in the change process, the employees are no longer talking about the changes, resisting change, or experimenting with new ways of being. Ideally, the changes have now become permanent and the new behaviors have become embedded as part of the organizational culture.
“Institutionalization” refers to the successful integration and assimilation of the behaviors and skills required of the change process. Have the employees successfully changed their ways?
Feedback is required to ascertain whether the desired state has been attained or whether decisions have to be made about what more needs to be done and/or if a celebration is in order. This is also the time to determine what has been learned and what can be applied to future changes as they occur at a later time.
There are some researchers who question whether institutionalization of change is a realistic outcome or goal in this era of rapid change. According to Jick & Peiperl (2003) it is the “journey” that should be institutionalized, and organizations should perhaps be looking toward an orientation of continuous change; this notion of continuous change will be addressed in the last topic of this module. When changes persist over time, institutionalization is said to have
occurred. If changes are directed toward facilitating the employees to become more knowledgeable, skilled, and empowered to take charge and design their own responses to change, then institutionalization is a valuable goal.
Cummings and Worley (2005) identify three organizational and five intervention characteristics affecting the degree to which change programs are institutionalized. These characteristics are synthesized below.
The degree to which an intervention is perceived as being in harmony (congruent) with the organization’s managerial philosophy, strategy, and structure. For example, interventions in which all stakeholders participate are more congruent with an open and flat organization than with a highly bureaucratic and hierarchal organization. Thus, it is more likely that change proposing such interventions would be implemented if the organization is open and has a culture
of employee involvement.
The stability of the environment and technology. If the environment is unstable, the change target must be buffered and protected in order to see the process through to institutionalization. If the environment is stable in all aspects except where the change is to be realized, the process of institutionalization may occur more readily than if the environment is chaotic and unpredictable.
Unionized settings may make change more difficult to implement unless there is a good relationship between union and management. If there is conflict between the two groups, every phase of the change process will likely take more time and involve strategies specifically for dealing with conflict.
Features of organizational development (change) interventions The extent to which goals are specific so that they can be clearly understood. It is important that the goals are clearly specified in an effective manner that would enable the employees to understand and work towards achieving these goals with success.
The extent to which different intervention characteristics can be specified clearly in advance.
Here again, if the employees are clear about what they are supposed to be doing, and if the manager is an expert or a helper, then it is more likely that the employees will be able to do what is required of them.
The level of change involvement must be clearly specified and understood. For example, is it the entire organization that is affected or a small department or subunit within the organization? As long as the focus is kept on the target of change and resources are directed toward that target, institutionalization can be facilitated. The importance of pilot groups and small groups who agree to try the new changes has been discussed in relation to earlier phases of change.
Degree of internal support to guide the change process, which can be leadership support by the manager or by internal and external change consultants, is important. The employees must have help and resources to institutionalize changes. While the manager is no longer viewed as the only person responsible for change, there is no doubt that the expertise, compassion, and understanding of the manager and top executives would correlate with successful movement through change.
A sponsor who can initiate and allocate rewards for certain outcomes can facilitate change transition. This is not a common ingredient of change programs. However, if there is an individual, or a group with support and energy directed toward assisting the employees move through change, chances are increased that the outcome will be positive.
Processes of institutionalization
Below is a synthesis of the processes of institutionalization as outlined by Cummings and Worley (2005):
A continuous process of socialization and communication about beliefs, preferences, norms, and values that the change fosters is necessary to promote the persistence of the proposed changes.
Communication and talk about what the problems were, why change is important, and the positive outcomes should be ongoing throughout the change process. As the employees invest more time and energy it is easy to become tired and discouraged. It is at this time that an escalation in communication is important.
Commitment was discussed in Module 4, and it includes initial commitment as well as commitment over time. Assessment of commitment and strategies to motivate the employees to carry on and practise the new behaviours in a climate of trust and safety is important to the final outcome of change processes.
Allocation of rewards is important. Throughout all phases of the change process, it is important to allocate rewards for the new behaviours both extrinsically (praise, promotions, bonuses) as well as intrinsically (the thrill that comes when one does something well, when one learns a new skill, and when one can add value to members within the organization). Rewards become particularly important as the new ways of doing things come to be expected during the final
stages of change.
Being able to diffuse or transfer interventions from one system or unit to another, so that the larger organization can be accepting of the new ways and can facilitate the transition process. If the employees can see that others have done things differently and are being rewarded or are becoming more skilled, it may motivate them to experiment with something new. Again, the importance of pilot groups who volunteer has been stressed as a strategy; it is a strategy with successful outcomes at each phase of change.
Detecting and sensing problems and developing solutions on an ongoing basis as one experiments with the new ways of operating is part of the institutionalization process. Those who assist their organization through the phases of change will readily talk about chaos, not knowing, and being prepared for ambiguity and crisis that must be dealt with as one goes along. The manager/leader must have the belief and trust in the organization and its employees that solutions will be developed at every step of the way.
Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2005). Organization development and change (8th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Publishers.
Jick, T.D., & Peiperl, M.A. (2003). Managing Change: Cases and Concepts (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Question 1. Discuss your understanding of institutionalization of change. In your discussion, indicate how organizational characteristics affect institutionalization. (20 marks)
Define institutionalization and describe the outcome as having employees able to perform the new behaviors; also discuss the organizational characteristics making references to the readings on this topic.
Question 2. Describe your assessment method to determine if institutionalization is evident.
What outcomes and indicators would illustrate that institutionalization is evident?
Describe how you would evaluate the institutionalization of the change making references to the readings on this topic. Describe some of the outcomes and indicators that would suggest that institutionalization has been successful.
Question 3. Select and describe three institutionalization processes that would illustrate that institutionalization is not evident as a result of the change implementation process.
Identify the organizational processes that clearly indicate that institutionalization is not evident.
Explain your rationale.
Question 4. Discuss how a manager could create the capacity for continuous change, learning, and improvement. In your discussion, include examples and references to the readings.
Demonstrate your understanding of creating an organizational culture that is engaged in learning and is able to continuously change as the need arises within the organization. Cite references to the readings on this topic.
Question 5. Describe future trends that may impact upon the role of the manager in relation to institutionalization of change. Include examples that would be relevant to your particular workplace environment.
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1. A successful integration and assimilation of skills and behaviors needed for the change process that is persistent over time, is referred to as the “Institutionalization” process. In order to assess if the desired state is achieved or there is something to be improved upon, managers need to obtain feedback.
Organizational characteristics that affect the degree to which change program is institutionalized, according to Cummings and Worley (2005) are:...
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