Contemporary change issues for modern managers

Technology in the workplace: Recent advances in technology are changing the workplace and affecting the work lives of employees. We will look at two specific issues related to process technology and work. These are continuous improvement processes and process reengineering.

Continuous Improvement Processes: This search for continuous improvement of all organizational processes. This search or continuous improvement recognizes that good is not good enough and that even excellent performance can, and should be improved upon. For instance, a 99.9 percent error-free performance sounds like a high standard of excellence However, it doesn’t sound so great when one realizes that this standard would result in the US Post Office losing 2,000 pieces of mail an hour or two plane crashes a day at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Quality management programs seek to achieve continuous process improvements so that variability is constantly reduced. When you eliminate variations, you increase the uniformity of the product or service. Increasing uniformity in turn, results in lower costs and higher quality.

As tens of thousands of organizational introduce continuous process improvement, how will employees be affected? They will no longer be able to rest on their previous accomplishments and success. So some people may experience increased stress from a work climate that no longer accepts complacency with the status quo. A race with no finish line can never be won – a situation that creates constant tension. This tension may be positive for the organization, but the pressures from an unrelenting search for process improvements can create stress in some employees.

Process Reengineering: We also introduced process reengineering in articles. Process reengineering is how you would do things if you could start all over from scratch. The term reengineering comes from the process of taking apart an electronic product and designing a better version. As applied to organizations, process reengineering means that management should start with a clean sheet of paper – rethinking and redesigning those processes by which the organization creates value and does work, ridding itself of organizations that have become antiquated. The three key elements of process reengineering are identifying organization’s distinctive competencies, assessing core processes, and reorganizing horizontally by process.

An organization’s distinctive competencies define what the organization does better than its competition. Why is identifying distinctive competencies so important? Because it guides decisions regarding what activities are crucial to the organization’s success. Dell, for instance, differentiates itself from its competitors by emphasizing high quality hardware, comprehensive service and technical support and low prices.

Management also needs to assess the core processes that clearly add value to the organization’s distinctive competencies. These are the processes that transform materials capital, information, and labor into products and services that the customer values. When the organization is viewed as a series of processes, ranging from strategic planning to after sales customer support management can determine to what degree each adds value. This process value analysis typically uncovers whole lot of activities that add little or nothing of value and whose only justification is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

Process reengineering requires management to recognize around horizontal processes. This means using cross functional and self managed teams. It, means focusing on processes rather than functions. It also means cutting out unnecessary levels of middle management.

Process reengineering has been popular since the early 1990s. One of the main consequences has been that many people especially support staff and middle mangers have lost their jobs. Those employees who keep their jobs after process reengineering have typically found that their jobs are no longer the same. These new jobs typically require a wider range of skills, including more interaction with customers and suppliers, greater challenge, increased responsibilities, and higher pay. However the 3 to 5 year period it takes to implement process reengineering is usually tough on employees. They suffer from uncertainty and anxiety associated with taking on new tasks and giving to discard long established work practices a formal social networks.