Managing Organizational Transformation In Times of Crisis: Rebuilding a Reference Framework for Changing Companies

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Managing Restructuring Processes and Globalization: Rebuilding a Reference Framework Amidst Global Crisis
The economic crisis has become part of our daily discussions, whether at home, in the office, on media... More than the diverse economic forecasts, its psychical and emotional effects on all of us - and especially the active population - are formidable. The crisis we are experiencing causes active individuals to ask themselves many questions and to fear for their future. This will have consequences in terms of distrust, feelings of insecurity, and even outright fear. These diverse types of emotions negatively impact our professional lives and can even cause a paralysis.
 
 
This economic crisis has highlighted the misbehavior of some economic actors. We have for example to be able to observe that some people would concentrate excessive powers, display excessive ambitions or place their own personal interest before anything else. The management of such people has become toxic and the results of the ensuing crisis testify to how much such people have been able to pervert the market and its mechanisms. We have been able to witness the loss of work as a cultural value. Indeed, a few years ago, it was work that was regarded as the main creator of added value, whereas now it all comes down to money creating even more money. The crisis is thus due in good parts to inappropriate human behaviors. A few men and women are at the root of the crisis and a multitude has to pay for it, both professionally and emotionally. It is this human behavior we will focus on in this article.
 
Another key element that impacts the lives of the working population is the mutation of organizational structures. Indeed, there has been a true organizational revolution in the past twenty years, as many companies have gone from a hierarchical to a workflows-oriented organization. What these companies were actually trying to do was to rationalize and optimize their activity workflows. To do so, they have been through diverse reengineering processes that have hit the headlines, both in Switzerland and abroad. What has been less publicized is the impact that the use of business process reengineering has had on the organization of the workplace. Indeed, though a workflows-oriented organization presents indisputable advantages over a traditional hierarchical organization, it requires a formidable behavioral and cultural change that tends to be overlooked. 
 
Individuals thus have to dramatically change the way they work, think and manage their workplace. Employees are getting more and more exposed; they have to make their own decisions and take more responsibility. Moreover, they can be directly affected by their company's financial results. The communication skills that used to be required only for managers up from a certain level have gradually gained on importance for all employees. The same applies to leadership, a requirement that was once specific to top decision-makers and which is now  extend to all managers, and even to many grassroots employees! This organizational transformation certainly represents a most significant stress factor that will surely be felt in the next 15 years at least.
 
In addition to all of this, man's existential reference framework is falling apart. The very nature of man causes him to be rooted in space and time. As we all know, the economy has gone global, thus pushing back the limits of our working environment. Employees can thus be directly affected by what is going on in China, Vietnam, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, without even being in a management position! They are thus directly confronted to a huge economic space in which they are directly exposed. They did not choose to be in this situation, yet they have to cope with it. Moreover, as their professional space dramatically expands, their private life can get compressed. The current means of communication - whether it be mobile phones or new technologies in general - are more and more invading our private lives, whether during week-ends or vacations. The truth is that we find it hard not to receive a quick response to an e-mail we have sent without prior notice. We tend to forget that the destinary may be on vacation or experiencing a major event in their private lives.
 
The consequence of this dislocation of the reference environment and of this mass arrival of highly effective communication tools is that time, the second part of our existential reference framework, is impacted too. It is reduced to the minimum. We work more and more in real time and need to provide immediate results. Moreover, we too expect an immediate response to our requests. The question is to know whether anyone still takes any time to think and develop a long term strategy!
 
We can thus observe that all workers have been through major upheavals in the past few years: the dislocation of the surrounding market, an organizational transformation that has flattened structures and caused individuals to be continually exposed, and the explosion of man's existential reference framework. These three axes have a deep and immediate psychological and emotional impact on each individual. It is thus necessary to ask ourselves the question: What is going to happen to our employees? How can they keep working, living, moving on? How can they retain some motivation and enthusiasm?
 
Between the business sharks who are quite indifferent to their environment and the individuals who will get depressed or even commit suicide, the greater part of the active population will eventually manage to find their place and build on it. Thus, only by mobilizing the active population shall we be able to overcome the current crisis. The present malfunctions indeed originate in human behaviors. As a consequence, one of the solutions in order to soothe the effects of the crisis is to act with the human factor on the human factor. In this context, managers represent a key-population in order to find a way out. By relying too much - if not completely - on financial management, the company loses its primary purpose, which is to deliver goods and/or services to a group of people (i.e. customers). It is thus from its inception a human matter, in which managers in particular, represent a strong reference.
 
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