John Bosman: October 2009 Archives

Organizational Change

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Changes in sports organizations typically occur in one of four areas, products and services, technology, structures and systems, and people.  Technology changes occur in the production processes, the skills and methods it uses to deliver its services, or its knowledge base.  Product and services changes involve the addition, deletion, or modification of other areas.  Structural and systems changes involve modifications to areas of a sport organization such as its division of labor, its authority structure, or its control systems.  People change involves modifications to the way people think and act and the way they relate to each other. 
The reason change is seen as paradoxical is because sport organizations must change if it wishes to remain competitive, but management prefers stability and predictability as opposed to change and uncertainty.

The different perspectives on organizational change include population ecology, resource dependence, the life cycle approach, institutional theory, evolution and revolution, and the contextualist approach.
Population Ecology: doesn't focus on change in single organizations but on a population of like organizations in a particular geographic area or niche.
Resource Dependence: when organizations come to depend on their environment for resources critical to their survival as they become unable to generate internally the different types of resources they need
Life Cycle Approach: based on the idea that biology provides certain concepts and models that appear to have some relevance for understanding organizational cycles
Institutional Theory: suggests that organizations change their formal structure to conform with expectations within their institutional environment about appropriate organizational design.
Evolution and Revolution: organizations resist change, and even when faced with the possibility of failure, organizations will often continue to do what they have been doing in the past and not make the necessary adjustments to ensure their survival
Contextualist Approach: focuses on a single change event or a discrete episode of change.

Organizational change can be caused both internally and externally.  Resistance to change can stem form self-interest, lack of trust and understanding about the implications of change, differing assessments of change consequences, the cost of change.

Ways of dealing with resistance and implementing change include: education and communication, participation and involvement, establishing change teams, idea champions, facilitation and support, negotiation, manipulation, cooptation, and coercion. 

There are 6 stages in the change process.  They are:
1. Pressure and Arousal
2. Intervention and Reorientation
3. Diagnosis and Recognition
4. Invention and Commitment
5. Experimentation and Search
6. Reinforcement and Acceptance


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Of the definitions of conflict presented by Slack & Parent, I like the Morgan version.  It simply states that conflict occurs whenever interests collide.  Building on that, Slack & Parent says that first, the parties involved my perceive conflict to exist, and if no one does see conflict as existing, then it doesn't exist.  Second, there must be two of more parties.  Third, one or more party must be preventing one or more other party from reaching their desired goal(s) through what is called a blocking behavior.  Fourth, the blocking party must result in some frustration, anger, or some other form of emotional response.
Slack & Parent asks, "Is conflict dysfunctional to the operation of a sport organization?"  I believe that it can be both a detriment and a motivator.  Without conflict, what is there to spark ideas and promote creativeness within an organization.  If an organization was without conflict, the work day would basically consist of repetitive tasks, day in and day out.  Conflict forces employees to work a little harder to come up with a better way of doing something.
Between horizontal and vertical conflicts, i believe that vertical conflicts are a little more easily resolved.  In a horizontal conflict, the parties are on the same level within an organization, so neither side really has any weight to throw around.  In a vertical conflict, the higher ranking party will most likely prevail.
In terms of stimulating conflict, the book presents 3 different ways.  Introducing new blood, manipulating communications, and creating competition.  I think that introducing new blood and creating competition are fairly similar, as bringing in new blood will stimulate the remaining employees.  As far as manipulating communications, i don't really see how that would provide more positive results than negative.

Power and Politics

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Organizational power is, according to Slack & Parent, one of the most widespread yet more problematic concepts in the organizational theory literature.  It is not something we can see within a sport organization, but its effects can be clearly felt.  It's the ability to get someone to do something they would not have otherwise done or "the probability that one actor in a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests".  There is individual powers and organizational power.  Sources of individual power include: Legitimate Power, Reward Power, Coercive Power, Referent Power, and Expert Power.  Organizational power comes from: Acquisition and Control of Resources, The Ability to Cope With Uncertainty, Centrality, Nonsubstitutability, and Control Over the Decision-Making Process.
Organizational Politics pervades all sport organizations, although it is somewhat intangible and hard to measure.  Slack & Parent says, "Politics is related to the use of power; political skills involve the ability to sue the bases of power effectively to convince those to whom one has access; to use one's resources, information, and technical skills to their fullest in bargaining; to exercise formal power with a sensitivity to the feelings of others; to know where to concentrate one's energies; to sense what is possible; to organize necessary alliances."  Ways to increase political power within an organization include: Building Coalitions, The Use of Outside Experts, Building a Network of Contacts, and by Controlling Information.


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When thinking about the environment of a sports organization, you have to realize that it's what influences the structure and processes of that organization.  More specifically, there are two types of environments in an organization, first, the General Environment, which includes the economic, demographic, political, technological, ecological, legal, and sociocultural sectors.  Second, there is the Task Environment, which according to Slack & Parent, is made up of those aspects of its general environment that can influence its ability to achieve its goals.  Those aspects typically include Customers/Members/Fans, Competitors, Athletes' groups/Staff, Regulatory Agencies, and Suppliers.  According to Slack & Parent, Duncan (1972) saw that the uncertainty of an organizations environment was influenced by two factors, the extent to which the environment was simple/complex, and the extent to which it was stable/dynamic.  Environmental Complexity is a large number of diverse elements interacting with or influencing the sport organization.  A simple organization has a small number of those elements.  The extent to which a sport organization's environment is stable/dynamic refers to the amount of change in those elements constituting it environment.  An organization having stability if 1, its demands on the organization are relatively consistent and dependable, and 2, these demands constantly come from very similar clients.  Dynamic environments on the other hand are characterized by rapid change, caused by any number of factors.
To control these uncertainties, organizations can either respond to the demands of their external environment, or they can attempt to change the nature of the external environment.