Introduction The changes endured by Coastline occurred in the very specific context of privatisation. In this perspective, clashes of paradigms are common, in particular in the way knowledge is viewed and exercised as well as between the past and present goals of companies engaged in such process. As described by Grey and Mite v (quoted in Wilson, 1995, p. 59): “If ‘post-industrial society’ does offer the possibility of decentralization of work and industrial structures, as well as an increase in the quantity of information and / or knowledge, it is important to remember that these changes have emerged in particular circumstances, that is, the countervailing tendencies towards (re) centralization of overall control; an increasing privatization and commercialization of social life; a commodification of information and knowledge; and an extension of surveillance and control.” In the Coastline Electric case, this tensions result in a radical change of the place of engineers in the company, and how their knowledge is being recaptured by other staff while engineers embark on totally different day-to-day tasks.
Described by Bowen and Lawler (1992) as “a means to enable employees to make decisions” (quoted by Erstad, 1997), this question addresses the wider issue of knowledge distribution as well as the issue of the amount of power legitimated by this knowledge as demonstrated by Burns (2000) in a post-modern view of power as a constructed reality which allows the dominant groups to impose their will on others. The authors adopt a post-modern approach to the case, where numerous references to the way the reality is constructed, is observed throughout language and different points of view, and where engineers – as object of the change rather than actors of the change – are given “a voice.” Overall, the case study examines the steps of the process by which engineers were actually and gradually marginalized in their own field and dispossessed of their former power, and how senior management eventually achieve its goals of within a few years after the privatisation by constructing a new corporate reality. Empowerment as a vector of deprofessionalisationIt sounds like a paradox that empowering people, that is, according to Erstad, 1997, “a change strategy with the objective of improving both the individual’s and the organization’s ability to act” may lead to a loss of professional practices in the company.
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However, even if she then argues that “empowering employees does not mean dis empowering managers but rather permits time and energy to be used more efficiently and productively by all players”, one can only notice that in the Coastline Electric case, engineers were actually ripped of their traditional power. This is due to the fact that engineers’ power (it is, according to French and Raven’s 1959 definition, both a legitimate and expert power) was largely legitimated by their knowledge, and that losing the exclusive exercise of it actually weakened their legitimacy both as professionals and managers. Indeed, engineers’ managerial dimension was also weakened (although officially reinforced) by the fact that TQM and team working usually comes along with the “concept of horizontal surveillance among the individual team members” (Wilson, 1995, p.
66) in which team members control each others work. Furthermore, TQM procedures and “Job Redesign” measures (acquiring a part of engineers’ knowledge) also provide them the power to check their own work individually and therefore change then vertical control process by making them more independent of engineers. The programme “Partner Coaching” is also a good example of how TQM procedures may lead to a normalization and therefore to the controllability of individuals, as Wilson demonstrate: “The techniques of ‘strengthening’ a corporate culture become the preventives of contamination of employees by rival values and the alignment of employee purpose with the normative framework laid down by the “cultural engineers” of the organization.” Formerly in the hands of engineers only and top-down oriented, the decision-making and the control process is now much more diffuse, resulting in a kind of Foucault’s “panoptic on” in which everybody monitors everybody without explicitly assuming the task. Threatened in their autonomy both as experts and managers, the marginalization of engineers results in the of the organisation as a whole. The question remains whether on the long-term this should lead to an improvement or a deterioration of the company’s performance. Knowledge distribution as a vector of normalisation One of the most striking measure implemented by the new management is the process labelled as “job Redesign” by which the checking of the work by engineers is replaced by an auto-check of the staff’s work, using a step-by-step guide.
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To achieve this important step, rules of the guide have been written by the engineers, therefore transforming what is known as a tacit knowledge into a explicit knowledge easily transferable. Although White and Jacques (1995) argue that post-industrialism often emphasizes the importance of ‘changes in the knowledge requirements of workers (from an emphasis on technical knowledge to an emphasis on scientific or theoretical knowledge) ‘, one can also see the Job Redesign process as a ” of knowledge”, as Wilson (1995) describes by “systematically gathering together ‘all of the great mass of traditional knowledge, which in the past has been in the heads of the workmen… then recording it, tabulating it, and in many cases, finally reducing it to laws, rules, and even to mathematical formulae’ (Taylor, 1912, p. 204).” The shift from an embodied form of knowledge (Blackler, 1995) carried by the engineers to a typically encoded form of knowledge (Blackler, 1995) straightforwardly presented in a step-by-step guide resulted naturally in a shift of power from engineers to staff.
... tell me. It would be great if everybody’s knowledge of language was equal, but unfortunately that’s not how ... was very intimidating to me because I had no knowledge of that language, thus it was an extremely disempowering experience for me ... of knowledge, and therefore will use bigger and more complicated words. Another type of communication is done through body language. Body language is ...
But the professionalization itself did not shift as the encoded knowledge is somehow incomplete, as Blackler (1995) points out: “Knowledge is multi-faceted and complex, being both situated and abstract, implicit and explicit, distributed and individual, physical and mental, developing and static, verbal and encoded.” And as a Coastline electric engineer recalls, “you need to know why as well as how”, which is the usual limitation encoded knowledge. This limitation is also implicit in Ouchi’s (1979, quoted by spender, 1996, p. 67) distinction between the objective bureaucratic knowledge and the cultural knowledge of clans. Therefore, the physical removal of most engineers from the company (by early retirement or other means) and the reduction of their knowledge to “how to” guides results in a dissolution of the long-established professional knowledge and experience. A successful planned change How such a dissolution of knowledge and the marginalization of the traditionally (in this sector of activity at least) well established engineers occurred in Coastline Electric? In Lewin’s (1947) perspective, one could say that the managerial team in charge of the design of the change strategy and the implementation of TQM and BPR procedures, has achieve a somehow sheer example of planned change. The three steps of unfreezing, move then refreeze were gradually and successfully implemented: first, they ‘unfreeze d’ by clearly articulating the need of change (to meet the new challenges, as quoted page 33 of the case) and building a negative image of the present situation (‘organisation as vulnerable’, p.
Then they created a new vision to channel the change and set goals explicitly (p. 34), and implemented the ‘move’ by using various techniques (TQM, Job Redesign, new language, etc. ) involving all of the staff from bottom to top. Finally they ‘refreeze d’, securing the new rules and practices by emphasis ing the satisfaction of the technical staff and neutralising the engineers’ power (with the rule-based engineering process, the recruitment procedure, the weakening of the EMA, etc. ).
... apparently more likeable than those who use Ms. This change in the language appears to be threatening to males invested in traditional ... role in defining and maintaining male power over women. She believes that sexism in the English language takes three main form: ignoring ... mind; she is mouthy. He excersises authority diligently; she s power mad. He s closemouthed; she s secretive. He climbed the ...
Thus, although some like criticized Lewin’s theory as being to simplistic, as seen in Kanter et al. (1992, quoted in Burns, 2004, p. 88): “Lewin’s model was a simple one… This…
is so wildly inappropriate that it is difficult to see why it has not only survived but prospered”, one can describe this case as a successful planned change. The success of the change can also be put on courtesy of the ability of the senior managers’ team to take into account the power and politics issues in Coastline Electric. As Nadler (1993, p. 92) emphasizes in his ‘three action steps model’: “the issue of power implies the need to shape the political dynamics of change in order to meet the support of the power groups or at least to neutralise them.” Engineers’s support was met trough actions such as ‘Partner coaching’. They were simultaneously neutralised by the reduction of their number, the dissection of their knowledge and the weakening of their influence (through the EMA).
Language as a vector of change Nadler (1997, p.
96) also mentions the use of language and symbols as a key factor to shape the political dynamics of change: “By providing a language to describe the change and symbols that have emotional impact, it is possible to create new power centers.” New power or even new perceptions, as Butcher and Atkinson (2001, p. 554) point out by mentioning “the particular relevance of the active management of language in changing the mindsets that underpin models of organisational change.” This issue emerges here and there in the case, noticeably in the new job descriptions, the swap of the word ‘industrial’ to ’employee’ in the title of the HR manager, the word ‘engineer’ disappearing from job titles to be replaced by ‘Team Manager’ or ‘Distribution Manager’, etc. The engineering skills and ‘culture’ are often referred to as “old”, anachronistic or even simply not needed anymore. Butcher and Atkinson (2001, p. 557) further argue that “There is also a well-documented relationship between language and power. Language is strongly associated with the use of power (Wilson, 1992), because power attaches to those who exercise legitimate naming (Bourdieu, 1991) and to those who can persuade others that things are as they think they are (Strati, 1998).” Therefore the change of the term ‘engineer’ for ‘manager’ in job title is not only a manifestation of power from the top management – as Bakhtin points out (1981, p.
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293): “There are no ‘neutral’ words and forms. All words have the ‘taste’ of a profession, a genre, a tendency” – but is also the expression of the loss of status by the engineers toward technical staff as they are now referred as ‘managers’ by their subordinates. Since the engineer status used to be omnipresent and related to top and middle management in Coastline Electric, the loss of status turns into a loss of power. This loss of power then made the implementation of the whole organisational change easier and deeper, therefore shows the central role played by language as a vector of change, co-constructed by the different participants. The shift of paradigms as a source of resistance What is striking in the Coastline Electric case is the absence of real resistance, except an unsuccessful attempt around the “Rule-based engineering” issue.
For the rest, engineers as well as the other staff seem widely to support the change and the implementation of the TQM programme in particular. But in her research involving middle managers from companies engaged in a process of privatisation, Dixon (1995, p. 23) finds out that “The results were surprising as, contrary to popular opinion, middle managers were very positive about what had happened. They also made many suggestions about what their companies needed to do to sustain and encourage their own development for the future.” Therefore the ‘clash of paradigms’ that could have been expected between the clan culture observed by the authors and the market culture induced by privatisation (Hooijberg and Petrock, 1993, p. 30-31) did not happen, or at least was quickly and efficiently overcome. Indeed, the strategic position of middle managers in the centre of the organisational flux of knowledge and action, acting as “processors of information” (Dixon, 1995, p.
... remarkable change in organizational infrastructure. Techniques to adopt change management Different researchers have identified a lot of techniques for making change lucrative through change management on organizational as ... implementation”. Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3. pp. 266-275. Bovey, W. H., Hede, A. (2001) “Resistance to organizational change: the role ...
25) make their support a necessary factor of success in the implementation of a change of such importance. Apparently, top management at Coastline Electric easily gained this support although it is not very clear how they actually manage to motivate engineers to act as TQM champions: some of them actually got their salary cut down while large number was encouraged to leave, which could have create a strong feeling of uncertainty among engineers. Nevertheless, uncertainty, as well as resistance, seems to be limited and manageable, as nowhere in the case is there an engineer’s word telling the concern of being sacked. At worst do they fear to be assimilated among other managers or technical staff. This trend, also found in Dixon’s research, is interpreted by her as an acceptance of the concept of “a job for life” (Dixon, 1995, p. 23).
Nevertheless, it could be argued that this seemingly lack of concern is to be put on the account of a kind of self-protecting denial, or even simply an artefact of the interview in which people might speak warily of a difficult matter. Conclusion Carter and Growther’s case study presents how a major organisational change, in the form of the implementation of a TQM programme, lead to the unravelling of the engineer profession in a company where it used to hold a central and powerful position. This was done in a postmodernist approach by interviewing different stakeholders in the process and mainly by ‘giving a voice’ to those most concerned by the change, that is the engineers. Among the mechanisms deployed to come to this result, they put a stress on the language used by the top management to create a new reality within the company, which is central in the postmodern approach, as White and Jacques (1995, p.
51) emphasise: “Because meaning is assumed to be constructed within, rather than reflected through, language, postmodern assumptions concerning social change focus on power relationships functioning through the medium of language rather than on accuracy, objectivity or reality.” Through this also emerges the issue of power, which I argued was an legitimate kind of power built on the history of company and finding its origins in the specific embodied knowledge of the engineers (Blackler, 1995).
By changing the nature of this knowledge (from an embodied form to an encoded one) was a major step toward at Coastline Electric. This process, as well as the use of language and the modification of the power relations in the company, is framed in one of those global quality programmes known as being sheer examples of planned change (De Cock and Hipkin, 1997, p. 663).
Therefore, using both Lewin’s and Nadler’s model, it was argued that managers in charge of building the change strategy actually achieved their goal pretty well by taking in account every factor likely to help of block the implementation of the programme. What remains unclear finally is if the programme actually aimed at the unravelling of the engineer profession or if it was just an inevitable outcome.
The case give few clues in form of managers explaining that some of the engineers practice were not needed anymore. But the final word may be of De Cock and Hipkin (1997, p. 666): “The predominant meaning of the BPR programme… was that of de manning. Little evidence was present that could point to a genuine attempt at process analysis or re-engineering.” Bibliography. Butcher, David; Atkinson, Sally.
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