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Module Eight: Reactive Versus Proactive Change and the Origins of Vision in Organizational Change Efforts

Learning Objectives

  • Debate with peers in order to examine the effective use of proactive and reactive change strategies
  • Compare and contrast the effective use of leadership vision and team vision in organizational change efforts
  • Demonstrate an understanding of both reactive and proactive change through the defense of either type of change

Reading and Resources

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Library Article: A Theoretical Framework of Organizational Change
This article discusses a framework for organizational change.

Library Article: Employee Participation in Organizational Change: Investigating the Effects of Proactive vs. Reactive Implementation of Downsizing in Swedish Hospitals  (Optional)
This article is about differences in proactive versus reactive approaches to organizational change.

 

8-1 Discussion: Support an Argument Position

 

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In organizational change, there is a debate in the literature about the benefits of proactive versus reactive change efforts. Your instructor will assign you one side of the debate, either proactive change or reactive change. While both positions in each argument are important, your task is to state why you believe your side is more important than the other position and support the argument with at least three references from peer-reviewed literature using APA formatting. Your argument should contain a conclusion and the reasons to accept the conclusion.

After you post your initial argument, you should debate your point in response to two of your peers who had the opposing view.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.

 

Answering the question of why change is needed almost always points to either reacting to some issue, event, problem, or need or perceiving the need to position the organization for an expected future or possible future with a proactive decision to make the needed changes to get there. For most leaders, change is primarily reactive. As much as we would like to believe that leaders are at the forefront of thought in planning and strategy for the organization, most organizational change is still reactive and not proactive. Most leaders make changes because they feel the pain, not because they see the light. With that said, both types of change are needed for organizational success. It is incumbent on leaders to adapt and make needed adjustments for the organization to survive and hopefully thrive. These needed changes are typically reactions to internal and external forces on the organization. As an example, customers want a product in the color red, so red becomes an available color for customer selection. Sometimes reactive changes occur to improve processes, products, or services or to better meet need or demand. This ongoing monitoring of the internal and external environments is critical for the organization to stay at the forefront of the market and its demands, new technologies and their new deliverables, and for continuous improvement in processes.

Proactive change is different from reactive change in one important component: Proactive change is typically better researched and better considered than reactive change. With proactive change, there is typically time for research, critical reflection, and careful decision-making, but reactive change is often to fix a problem or tweak a process, as soon as possible. In a real sense, reactive change is often about the urgency of demand, time, and the pain the problem is causing, whereas proactive change is about research and critical reflection targeted toward a hoped-for future. Proactive change is more labor-intensive in the long run, whereas reactive change is often an adrenaline rush, and sometimes too much of an adrenaline rush, as many leaders confirm their own importance to the organization through periodic reactive changes that produce this adrenaline rush that they find stimulating and confirming of their importance. Most leaders and organizations would be better served by a more proactive approach to organizational change.

When you think about the origins of an organizational vision, what comes to mind? Is it something like the supreme organizational leader locked in a room alone, developing a perfect vision for the organization’s future? Vision is a difficult topic, with some believing that exceptional leaders develop a brilliant vision on their own, and the organization and stockholders benefit from it. In reality, that is not how it usually plays out. Organizational visions may be considered alone or written in a day or two in a team setting, but real organizational visions get built over time in the minds of the leaders. Vision development is first and foremost about being well informed. Knowledge of the internal environment, the external environment, industry trends, forces impacting the industry, new technologies, and new processes is part of the thinking that needs to be considered in vision development. Because of the knowledge required from many different areas, it is almost impossible for any leader to be well-enough informed to develop a solid organizational vision alone. Leaders who develop great vision statements for their respective organizations almost always do it by being good listeners who are well informed by others. With an upper-level leadership team, the usual theme is that all of them are smarter than any one of them. Some will argue strongly against this, citing great visionary leaders. While there is some truth in this dissent, these extraordinary leaders are the exception and not the norm for best practices in vision development. In fact, Steve Jobs was considered one of the great visionary leaders in business, but at the end of his leadership of Apple, when he was asked about team input into the vision and decision-making, he stated, “You have to let the best ideas win.” That is right, from someone who proved that vision development is not a solo endeavor.

 

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