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Assignment 1: Discussion—Organizational Evolution and Change
As you may have noticed, our discussions throughout this course have been progressive. Transitioning from virtual group challenges to a deeper consideration of how technology has affected organizations over the past several decades seems to be the next logical step. Often, people will say that change is the constant in organizations, and this proposition would be difficult to dispute. However, technology has been a large part of the ongoing change, and the organization of the early twenty-first century certainly looks different from an organization of the 1960s or 1970s. Try to imagine a 1960s-era leader or manager being transported into a twenty-first-century organizational setting or office. Although that might be the fastest way to note just how much technology has aided organizational evolution, it is not possible. Technology has evolved, but not enough to transport people through time.
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Consider the aforementioned aspects, and using the module readings and the Argosy University online library resources, research organizational evolution. Then, respond to the following:
- Explain how technology has affected organizational evolution in the past forty years.
- Comment on the types of technology, the pace of technological advancement, and the factors that have affected the pace of organizational change during this time.
- Have these factors enhanced or harmed organizational communications?
By the due date assigned, post your response to the appropriate Discussion Area. Through the end of the module, review and comment on at least two peers’ responses.
Write your initial response in 300–500 words. Your response should be thorough and address all components of the discussion question in detail, include citations of all sources, where needed, according to the APA Style, and demonstrate accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Module 7 Overview
Up until this point, the discussions, readings, and research have revealed an evolutionary process. Organizations are evolving and so is OB. Consider how organizations were managed twenty, thirty, even forty years ago. Organizations often produced or offered the same products and services for decades without fear of losing markets. Competitive advantage was arguably not a factor and when it did emerge, many organizations were not positioned to face the challenge.
For example, when only one or very few organizations manufacture airplane parts, the prices charged for parts could be set to ensure huge profit margins. These high profit margins enable the masking of operational inefficiencies and overhead, whether it is people and/or products. However, when new part suppliers emerge, their operational inefficiencies come to light very quickly and they are challenged to become competitive in a diversifying marketplace. If these organizations are to survive, internal structures need to be evaluated.
Perhaps you or someone you know has experienced this in your profession. Perhaps your organization is currently experiencing this phenomenon of being challenged to gain competitive advantage in a world where once you did not even have a competitor. What factors have contributed to emerging market competition?
Technology is one factor that has aided the emergence of competitive markets. Technology began to enhance efficiency at a fast pace. Keeping current has not only become a necessity, but doing so has become easier due to the very instrument that contributed to the evolution—technology. As organizations continue to evolve, new behaviors will emerge as people and organizations begin to learn in new ways. What will organizations look like forty years from now? As you review, research, and discuss these issues, ponder what you think organizations will look like in the future.
Change is the only thing that is constant in an organization. Changing consumer expectations, business and political environments, and social patterns and behaviors have made adaptation and innovation the keys to organizational success in the twenty-first century. Adaptation includes modifying existing practices, goals, processes, and standards, whereas innovation requires that an organization encourages new ideas that open up potential new business opportunities, thereby driving business growth.
An organization can evolve or grow only when the organization adapts and innovates constantly. These two processes are characteristic of a “learning organization,” where people constantly learn to learn. People in a learning organization learn to:
- Solve problems
- Work toward company goals
In a learning organization, individual assumptions and self-centric learning, where learning is conducted for the individual to elevate himself/herself above other members, are replaced with team learning, where learning occurs together. Team learning can only occur once trusting member relationships are established. Also, in learning organizations, different points of view are not only valued, such views are sought after in order to give the organization additional perspectives and opportunities. Organizational members are encouraged to be continual learners who seek continual self-improvement believing that such personal improvement will strengthen the whole organization, as throughout the organization, systems thinking pervades.
If all of what is being shared sounds familiar, it is because these components have been discussed throughout various sections of the course thus far. When considered together within the organization as a whole, the organization is essentially in a learning mode. The organization is innovative, adaptive, and evolving.
In this module, you will learn about the distinguishing features of a learning organization. You will understand how OB is managed in a learning organization. This module’s materials will be another important component of your course project regarding a change effort.
Research on Organizational Behavior
Organizations need to follow certain basic principles in order to succeed. These principles require an understanding of the business environment, commitment to master personal skills, a culture without prejudice and bias, a common goal and vision, and team spirit.
Organizational structure is important, and as shared in an earlier module, a traditional bureaucratic hierarchy will probably not work in the twenty-first century global environment. Hence, designing an effective structure for an organization doing business globally takes on new meaning and challenges. The structure needs to be based on the hierarchy of the organization’s groups as well as the organization’s functional units, which may not be in one country, but many. Such a global presence may be more fitting to the structure and design components of a post-bureaucratic organization as discussed in Module 2.
Here are some questions that you, as a change agent, need to answer while conducting change efforts concerned with how teams in global organizations will affect such an initiative:
- How will you clearly communicate the need for change to employees and stakeholders of the organization?
- What type of structure should the organization have to be most effective?
- What type of design should the organization have to be most effective?
- How concerned should you be about the culture of the potential host country if considering moving production or services, that is, offshoring?
- Who will hold the power and how will power be used to make the change effort successful?
- How will conflict be planned for and how will conflict be addressed?
Learning Organizations—Then and Now
The concept of a learning organization is quite recent and stems from leadership and management gurus’ beliefs that a successful organization is one that can achieve a constant exchange of knowledge through shared vision, leading to innovation and growth. While this concept has been accepted in principle since the latter part of the twentieth century, successful implementation has proven difficult because of misinterpretation and resistance from the workforce, including leaders and managers. If everyone is not on board with the concept, then the effort is likely to fail after great time and expense.
Therefore, the first objective for an organization that wants to begin the transformation process into a learning organization is to make people aware of the concept of a learning organization. Then, the organization’s structure needs to be built based on openness and flexibility. The change initiatives for transforming the organization into a learning organization need to be actively supported by effective leadership and management styles. Employees should be empowered to take responsibility and ownership of tasks and encouraged to work toward the organization’s goals.
If all of this sounds familiar, or even repeated, such is by design. The intent of the modules was to bring the modules together not just systematically, but also wholly so that the systems thinking component would run throughout the modules, even if not explicitly stated. Consequently, this serves as an example of how a learning organization might operate, and this example will further the goal of learning through innovation, experimentation, openness, adaptability, flexibility, and seeking opportunities instead of problems, etc.
The interconnectedness and interdependent nature of a learning organization of the twenty-first century are clearly different than the learning organization first conceived. Why? The world has quickly become ever smaller and there are more countries that are developed or developing at a faster pace than ever before. People are hungry for change and an organization intent on surviving and being a part of this global phenomenon will have to keep pace. In short, twenty-first century organizations will need to adopt a philosophy of ongoing learning.
Consider some of the challenges leaders and managers might face while transforming organizations into learning organizations.
- Are the current employees likely to support or resist such change initiatives and how can the information in this and previous modules aid such an effort?
- What tools might be useful in the twenty-first century that were not readily and/or easily accessible in the latter part of the twentieth century?
Professional Point of View—Learning; Technology; and the Evolving Organization
MIT’s Thomas Malone on Collective Intelligence. (2013, June 14). Building a Smarter Planet. Retrieved from http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2013/06/mits-thomas…
Technology can mean many things. For the purpose of this course, technology is considered to be the Internet, computers, and even telephones. On learning that organization thoughts became common business and leadership concepts, each of the aforementioned technology tools were made available, but not at storage and speed capacities available at this point in the twenty-first century.
In the late twentieth century, the Internet was growing, not that many homes were connected, and certainly developing nations did not have access. However, the speed of processing was archaic by today’s processing standards. Most organizations used land-line telephones. Videoconferencing was available but very expensive. Even teleconferencing was very expensive. Pagers were more common than cell phones. Cell phone holders struggled with connectivity, as tower systems had not yet been developed. These are but a few of the technology areas that have quickly advanced and become a central part of conducting business.
Now developing countries may not have computers and the Internet in every community and certainly not in every home, but there are central computer and Internet stations available in many communities. The pace with which technology will spread to developing countries will likely be even faster than such occurred in the last decade. Once people hear about, see, and use technology, the more it is desired.
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, computers are used in various forms, such as desktops, laptops, notebooks, iPads, etc., in nearly every business—large or small. Developed countries have the Internet widely available so that everyone is connected. Cell phone technology has advanced to a point where many homes and businesses no longer have landlines. Connecting to the Internet via cell phones is now common practice.
This development has affected OB in many ways:
- Communication expectations have changed.
- Learning about global opportunities occurs with more ease and speed.
- Research regarding the culture of potential host countries can be performed by clicking a few keys either on the computer or even on a cell phone.
- Verbal interface is quickly growing such that even the clicking of keys may become obsolete.
- Virtual conferences will be held that project meeting members into a room versus watching via video.
All of this has occurred at a very fast pace and likely will continue to develop at a similar pace for many years in the future.
As you consider your course project, consider how technological advancements will aid or hinder your efforts. The irony is that you may be completing this assignment, the course, and the program using the technological advancements just discussed.
Analyzing and Assessing the Evolutionary Process
Now that you understand technology plays a critical role in any organizational endeavor, and that technology helps to shape OB, do you wonder how all of this has come together in such a short amount of time?
Let us consider this circularly once again in that there is an organic component involved (at least metaphorically)—the evolutionary process. When drafting a new change initiative and when considering how teams in a global business environment might affect such an initiative, it is important to both analyze and assess how the components of organizations and OB have evolved to the level discussed in this course. This has not occurred overnight but over many years.
In the nineteenth century, various industries began using steam powered machines to increase production. Factories had many workers completing similar tasks to increase the production of goods. Throughout the twentieth century, technology continued to enhance production and operational efficiency. Computers were developed which not only helped to track volume and deliver forecasts, but began to control production and assembly lines eliminating the need for many human employees.
Once technology began replacing humans, humans had to develop new skills, new knowledge, and new purpose. Many twenty-first-century organizations do not really produce or manufacture tangible goods. Service related organizations selling knowledge became one of the new employers for displaced humans. However, manufacturing organizations are still thriving and essential to society. Many of which have embraced technology from the service side as well.
Technology also speeds up the innovation process through the product development and marketing phases. In the global business environment, technology has created a borderless world. In other words, there is no physical border to cross and there is nearly instantaneous communication with people in other countries. The speed and pace of business continue to increase as the world becomes increasingly smaller.
What factors might have triggered the need or desire for such an evolution? Perhaps they occurred naturally. However, as part of the continual learner process, leaders and managers who realize that organizations have evolved and continue to evolve will likely be better positioned to lead and manage their organizations into the next decades.
Module 7 Summary
In this module, you were afforded an opportunity to learn about the evolution of organizations and how such evolutionary change will affect the manner in which you research your course project as a change agent. Learning organizations were discussed with consideration of how organizations in the twenty-first century need to remain open and flexible regarding relationships between leaders, managers, and employees.
Technology was demonstrated as having enhanced the pace of growth, design, and types of organizations over the last few decades. Technology has metaphorically made the world smaller and changed the way business is communicated and conducted. In short, OB appears in an evolutionary process that will continue to evolve given the pace of technological advances.