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ORGANISATIONAL COACHING       

ORGANIZATIONAL COACHING

 

If many books have been written addressing organizational change, very few mention organizational coaching. None provide frameworks and perspectives that can assist coaches working in multinational companies or on cross-border challenges. Most approaches rely on either the Organisation Development (O.D.) paradigm (Lewin 1947; McGregor 1971) or the Corporate Culture Change methods (Schein 1985). Models were either ‘commitment based’, trying to convince employees and middle management by showing positive images of the future, or ‘compliance based’, changing behaviours by imperatives. These models only go so far in providing guidance and clarity for coaches immersed in the complexity of global business.

Coaching for executives and high potential managers developed in the USA and in Europe during the 1980s. Team coaching for executive boards or for project leading teams started to be a reality at the beginning of the 1990s. Logically, organizational coaching should have emerged early in the millennium. In fact, its development has been slowed down by the existence of several strong ‘compliance based’ methodologies like, for instance, business process reengineering (BPR) (Stewart 1993) and performance management. These methodologies assume a top-down approach with an ‘external expert’ or ‘guru’ role for highly paid consultants. They give token attention to inclusive, action-learning approaches which position organizational players at all levels and locations with shared responsibilities for change. It is in this latter kind of organizational change paradigm that executive coaching is starting to have an impact and which is the focus of this chapter.

Changes in the environment

The organizational challenges face top level management and the executive coaches who they are increasingly engaging to assist them. Invariably, these challenges have strong international dimensions, often related to shifting labour markets. With the rapid development of Chindia (China-India) during the last decade, Western countries are facing a situation where one billion new workers are potentially available all over the planet at a very low salary rate. In order to cut production and administrative costs, the occidental multinational companies are moving their workloads to countries where infrastructure and personnel costs are low. More and more plants, call centres and administrative tasks are implemented in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America. Market changes are now very fast, and competition between enterprises is looking more like a kayak race in the rapids, rather than a rowing contest on the Thames. If they want to be effective, coaches need to be informed about such trends. Plus, they need to be professionally and personally equipped to deal with international and organizational ‘white water’. The concepts and examples that follow may be of assistance.

Recent approaches to organizational change

If we consider the many theories of organization, from the very beginning, with Frederick Taylor and Henri Fayol, to the most recent ones, we eventually come to representing an organization as a system interacting with its environment. Within this system, four subsystems are possible entry points when one considers triggering a change:

1. The corporate culture. Many authors have considered changing the organization by changing its culture: Edgar Schein, of course, but also Ronald Burt (1999), John Kotter and James Heskett (1992), Gareth Morgan (1989), Millward and al. (2003), Weick and Quinn (1999), Giroux and Marroquin (2005), etc. ;

2. The corporate structure, which is more or less represented by a combination of the organization flowchart and the corporate processes, both being implicit or explicit depending on the country and the activity;

3. The information technology, which is providing new opportunities not only in terms of communication between people, but also in terms of managing data, to extract from it information and perhaps knowledge. Originally, the Socio-technical System Theory (STS) (Trist and Bamford 1951) considered the tight relationship between the social and the technical systems. Recent technology development makes it possible to have organization patterns that were beyond our imagination a few years ago. Not only is the functional structure, designed by Frederick Taylor in 1911, finally possible to implement, but also, since then, a multitude of other organizational layouts have been created. Enterprises are more and more like cyborgs, half human, and half cybernetics; and

4. The decision system, which carries objectives to execution, usually from top to bottom.

This four-subsystem representation is similar to how Dr Tony Grant at the University of Sydney (Grant and Greene 2003) identifies four elements in the coaching process:

· behaviours (equivalent of the decision system above);

· emotions (corporate culture);

· situation (structure); and

· cognition (technology).

There are tight interactions between the four subsystems. Acting on one of them usually strongly impacts on the three others. Any change process that only takes account of one subsystem is doomed to fail because resistance will be overwhelming. The message is that while there are four potential entry points, it is necessary to traverse all four subsystems to facilitate sustainable change.

 

Resistance as an opportunity

According to Tannenbaum and Hanna (1985) resistance is due to the lack of ending which prevents organizational members letting the past go. Another view is that the change may create a threat to self-esteem (Jetten, O’Brien and Trindall 2002). Also, the analysis of potential gain and loss by the people has been considered by Prochaska, Redding and Evers (1997) as a good predictor of resistance. But, the research on resistance and organizational inertia is overall insufficient and urgent attention is needed from the community of researchers.

What we know for sure is that resistance to change is inevitable, but not unhealthy. In the outside expert model, those who resist are often viewed as ‘not getting it’ and either demonized or excluded from the processes. In the complex international systems which make up large contemporary corporations, such approaches make little sense. Executive coaches who are savvy in such systems use resistance as information and as energy to accelerate the transformation. Coaches expect resistance and their sole concern is how to use it. Those who initially resist are engaged within the system (although some may need to leave the organization if they will not or cannot work with the transformation).

 

 

 

 

 

Michel MORAL - Société SOMICA
7ter rue du Général de Larminat - 75015 Paris - France

 

 



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