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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Organizational Change Management, Volume 29, Issue 3.
Close encounters with open futures
If you had wondered how come the orchestra went on playing while the mighty “Titanic” went down as the icy reality check, you should watch, listen and read what the world’s media have to say about human waves of migrants, refugees and adventurists flooding the increasingly isolationist and unfriendly societies in the European Union. The orchestra of the European media plays leftist tunes and politicians encourage poor refugees of civil wars to look for safe shelter and a better future once they cross the Mediterranean Sea. While the orchestra is playing, the safe shelter sinks and most of the countries start erecting fences, closing borders, slowing down the processing procedures and filtering the migrating masses for terrorists and individuals who want better jobs not safer lives.
This issue opens with a special section on management and the future of open collaboration – symbolized by free and open source software, Wikipedia, crowdsourcing. The authors examine the limits of hierarchy and the benefits of a more open, a more democratic, a more “humane” (meaning humanist, solidarity- and empathy-based) nature of wiki-like communities, from the community of Wikipedia contributors to the first saints and martyrs of the Wikileaks. Jemielniak et al. take care of these papers, so my role is to present the non-special section contributions.
We should begin with Zhang Xiaojun’s et al. “Co-evolution between institutional environments and organizational change; the mediating effects of managers’ uncertainty,” which offers us a glimpse of a real battleground for the future shape of our economies, namely, the conflicts and transformations of Chinese state-owned enterprises. The way the authors collected their data is interesting: they did not limit themselves to a strategic planning meeting, but went to the production fields, to the monitoring centers and even visited the employee apartments. They did not hesitate before addressing sensitive topics, such as stealing oil from the pipelines, so they quote one of the managers as saying, in fact, that he does not have a clear road map for dealing with theft:
We cannot control society directly and cannot regulate the behavior of local residents. This makes it difficult for us to react to stealing activities of local residents. We should always deal with emergent issues that arise from stealing activities.
An attempt to account for both the technological and human uncertainties (which the authors name a HeXie-approach) is a very interesting attempt to design a solution, which allows to reduce risk without resorting once again to the purely hierarchic structure and the top-down communist party policies. Does it mean that the Chinese not only redesign and reconstruct global communication routes (the new silk road policies) but also the global creativity tapping and complexity-taming approaches?
Sibel Caliskan brings the issue of a global transformation to an individual level by asking “Are you ready for the global change? Multicultural personality and readiness for organizational change.” The empirical studies, which formed the reality check for this paper, had been conducted in a retail company (2,000 employees in the headquarters and 15,000 in 350 local and 74 foreign-based shops) and the core question was simple – can we observe a correlation between a multicultural personality and a readiness to accept organizational change, which is usually linked to the global challenges faced by the organization in question? The answer is not quite clear. On the one hand, we hear that there is a correlation but if it is rather modest, then researchers might suppress their results since publishing more unequivocal studies offers them a better chance for academic recognition. The suggestion is that there is already evidence, but it is not exposed properly. On the other hand, we do also hear that “in a given sample of a Turkish retail company, which is in the process of globalization, employee’s multicultural personality characteristics do not determine the organizational change perception and their readiness for change itself.” In other words, we should be looking for structured talent pools identification and cultural diversity training programs and not for personality traits.
Chang Yi-Ying considers “High-performance work systems, joint impact of transformational leadership, and empowerment climate and organizational ambidexterity: cross-level evidence” and states that his aim is to examine: “the direct relationship between the experience of HPWS as actual functioning systems and organizational ambidexterity at the unit level. Organizational ambidexterity refers to the capacity of an organization to simultaneously utilize existing market opportunities efficiently and to initiate creative and innovative solutions to anticipate and meet future market demands.” The overall result of this Taiwanese study is the discovery that a firm-level empowerment climate does promote the occurrence of organizational ambidexterity at the unit level, on the shop floor in other words. Managers should use information sharing to encourage ambidextrous activities (by the way, the computer and electronic sector may differ a little from other branches of economy, so some of the HPWS may be easier to implement in this fast-growing sector than in others).
Last not least, Kevin Johnson asks us to consider “The dimensions and effects of excessive change.” Not all is change that glitters and some managerial methods of implementing change may actually be quite harmful by simply overdoing it. Johnson is interested in healthcare management and in a tripartite reaction to change: i.e. cognitive, affective and behavioral. What he points out is that too much change may lead to cognitive uncertainty, emotional exhaustion and to a lower support of change among the employees of public healthcare organizations (in his case the Canadian institutions had been studied). As Johnson states in his conclusions: “constant organizational change is needed to stay competitive, but such changes bring uncertainty, which in turn disrupt the necessary stability created through certainty. Future research should continue to explore this paradox in this sector, for which uncertainty is reported as highly negative.” In some places the author speaks explicitly about nurses who bear the burden of organizational change in healthcare institutions and this track seems to me to merit further research attention.
Slawomir Jan Magala