Warren Buffett once said that “you never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” Swimming in the tide of company culture and organizational changes is a never ending endeavor. It is imperative that the tide of adapting corporate culture and organization to societal changes, customer demands, and employee satisfaction be vigilant. Whether the business is small or large, the understanding of the problems, the dynamics of the change, and its effect and ultimate acceptance within the organization are critical in order to maintain a place in your strategic position without the tide exposing your shortcomings and drowning you in a sea of organizational chaos. This is exemplified in the examination of two different companies of diverse size and purpose, but facing the same fundamental challenges.
The first business is a national company, Senior Lifestyle Company that owns senior assisted care and independent living units across the United States. Their mission statement is drawn from the acronym “CHART” which stands for caring, honesty, appreciation, respect and teamwork. It is within this framework that the company seeks to succeed in customer satisfaction and employee retention and advancement. This company is large and experiences constant corporate change. Particularly daunting is adapting to the extended active lifestyle of residents and the demands of processing residents through the maze of bureaucratic paperwork necessary to afford care. The biggest challenge is the coordination of changes through a corporation that operates approximately ten-thousand units nationwide. The time necessary to deal with the individual needs of the residents coupled with the standardization of employee responses to these demands. The corporate objective is to handle each of a myriad of issues within the ideals set forth in the “CHART” acronym. Implementations of the values of “CHART” begin with management and must be exhibited in the handling of each employee. It is through this example that the employees become aware and learn to exhibit those same core values in dealing directly with residents.
Similarly, in small business the challenges are the same. Larry Lott Interiors is a small boutique interior design store. They employ only three designers, a bookkeeper, and part-time delivery men. However, the corporate challenges are strikingly the same. In dealing with a rather high end market where is the constant pressure to create an environment that satisfies the customer and simultaneously satisfies the artistic desires of the designer. This must be accomplished in a manner that does not alienate either participant. Of particular importance are the timely ordering, tracking and delivery of particular items for customers. Indeed, this is the most significant challenge with the corporate setting facing the employees. There is a segregation of these duties, i.e. sales and ordering. Crystal clear communication becomes imperative. This necessity is enhanced when customers are expecting delivery of certain pieces with a certain timeframe and deadline. Therefore the challenge of communication set the corporate culture between the employees and is the impetus to the transparency and communication with the customer.
Both of these companies’ challenges, in corporate culture, fall from the same tree, the ability to constructively communicate needs. The “CHART” values are necessary in both businesses. Therefore, whether, small or large, business adaptation to cultural change begins with respectful, transparent, and empathetic communication. It is incumbent that each voice be heard, their positions heard with respect and that each person have a role on the team.
In order to draw a comparison/contrast on how the two firms execute organizational changes, a manager from firms was interviewed on various aspects.
Contrast/Comparison between Senior Lifestyle Corporation and Larry Lott Interiors
The mission statements of both firms are almost similar since both carry the message of provision of the best services that fulfill the needs of the homeowners. Larry Lott Interiors is a small outfit employing very few people while Senior Lifestyle Corporation is a huge firm with a thousands of branches spread out in many states in the country. While both firms have an almost similar corporate culture, Garden Estates corporate culture is highly developed and rooted in what they refer to as “CHART” for caring, honesty, appreciation, respect and teamwork. Garden Estates corporate culture is uniformly executed in all its branches, a sign that the management attaches a great importance to it. The corporate culture of Larry Lott Interiors is not clearly spelt out and does not seem to be a routine management concern. This difference in how corporate culture is executed might be attributed to the size, level of competition, length of service and the level of professionalism of the employees. Larry Lott Interiors have few employees and it may be easier and faster to share ideas unlike in Senior Lifestyle Corporation where the number of employees is not only high but also diverse.
Organizational change is a practice done in every firm that is interested in shaping itself as a way of responding to the dynamics in the market such as competition, introduction of new products, changing customer tastes, human resource concerns, government regulations, shareholder interests, resource scarcity, and environmental concerns among others. Larry Lott Interiors and garden Estates also appreciate the importance of organizational changes. However, the degree of execution of the changes is different. In Larry Lott Interiors, every employee is a manager of its own an execution of any change is the work of each manager although their current issue is to align the skills, experience and knowledge of the employees with the jobs they are doing. Senior Lifestyle Corporation’s organizational changes cut across many areas from aligning the strengths of each worker to jobs, hiring new people, introduction in a variety of products and services. For example, the idea to introduce more continuum care retirement communities that provide independent, assisted, memory care, skilled nursing and physical therapy service all on one campus and also the decision to offer affordable, high quality apartment homes with specially-designed amenities to meet the needs of older adults. If the current changes are anything to go by, then an organizational change is highly regarded practice in Senior Lifestyle Corporation. There are also current changes involving improvement of restaurant dining style services, provision of transport services, introduction of community exciting activities and their resolution to offer incentives. Although certain changes have been implemented without little effort, this has not been the case in some changes. The implementation of ‘CHART’ in Senior Lifestyle Corporation is one such example where there was difficulty given the geographical distribution of the branches and the enormous number of employees. Nevertheless, Senior Lifestyle Corporation is currently embarking on ambitious organizational changes such as development of new marketing strategies, documentation, incorporating core values of ‘CHART’ and change in style of reporting to their shareholders.
Every change in an organization is never welcome news to all the workers. While some workers appreciate, others may be hesitant to accept the changes. As such, it is the responsibility of those who propose changes to also think about how resistance to changes will be handled in the event there will be some form of resistance. In both firms, communication of the changes to the employees is one of the strategies employed which may include meetings with line and senior staff, encouragement of open communication, use of relevant materials such as books, team building exercises and verbal communication with rewards. One way of inspiring employees which has been employed by Senior Lifestyle Corporation is through mentoring and coaching while maintaining positive relationship with employees so that they can feel part of the family. On the other hand, Larry Lott Interiors approach is reward based. For example, apart from listening to the concerns of the employees, they are also rewarded when they achieve sales targets. The fact that there exists resistance organizational changes imply there should be well-thought mechanisms to remove the barriers. When it comes to removing of barriers to changes, both firms agree that communication and empathy towards employees is the best option. Understanding, teamwork, education and coaching are some of the additional approaches used by Senior Lifestyle Corporation. While Larry Lott Interiors’ design is more horizontal, Senior Lifestyle Corporation design is top down.
Leading and managing successful organizational change is one of the central issues in management. As such, it has attracted a lot of interests among various researchers and authors. There are also a number of lessons that can be learned from available literature although they may not be directly associated with strategies applied in successful organizational changes. When it comes to the best article or book rich in ideas for successful organizational changes, the two representatives from both firms differ in tastes. According to manager of Larry Lott Interiors, the bible is the best book to use. However, Senior Lifestyle Corporation manager was inconclusive on the best article or book since he has read many books on leadership strategies and tactics over the years. In addition, he mentioned of putting into practice whatever he had learned in the past in order to know what works and what does not work. This may imply that certain theories in books may work while others work depending on the prevailing circumstances. He also mentioned that management at Senior Lifestyle Corporation is currently studying the books Tuesday Morning Coaching and From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Value-Based Leadership. This suggests management at Senior Corporate Lifestyle share similar values in management based on the resources they share.
Larry Lott Interiors and Senior Lifestyle Corporation have many things in common despite their differences. They both value organizational changes aimed at adding value to the firm. They also believe in employee engagement and approaches towards removal of barriers. The approaches employed by the two firms is in line with Burke’s view in Burke (2002, p.1) that for long term survival, organizations must change and adapt to their respective environments by instituting changes such as fine-tuning which involves installing a new system for sales management, initiating programs to improve quality of products and services or changing the structure to improve decision-making without first changing organizational strategy. Larry Lott Interiors is a small firm which also happens to be young. As it grows, there is a need to borrow some ideas from Senior Lifestyle Corporation.
Burke, W., (2002). Organization Change: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications