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Strategic Telework Management Perspectives

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Jorge Yinat

Much discussion and analysis on best organizational change practices employed in viable telework programs draw parallels to Kurt Lewin’s theory of planned change and Edgar Schein’s theory of change by learning relationship to the management of change. Leader-follower in F.E. Fiedler’s links contingency theory influence on leadership and leader-management exchange (LMX) special relationships between teleworkers and managers, which have an impact on strategic change management of telework implementation.

Organizational change is about the management processes used to guarantee advantages in competition through the implementation of efficient operations, and higher quality products and services. Consequently, organizational leaders use effective human resource management techniques to facilitate the leader-follower relationships that help organizations achieve their strategic goals of adding value for stakeholders.

Scholars, researchers and business leaders believe in methods to initiate and facilitate organizational change. Industrial psychologists investigate leader-follower relationships to demonstrate cause – effect correlational elements that influence organizational change. Theorists develop constructs to account for relationships that are critical to the understandings of transformational leadership characteristics. Theorists Lewin, Schein and Fiedler have all one thing in common—their approaches stimulate research on organizational change management strategy, which apply to the adoption of telework solutions to promote efficiencies, performance, productivity and job satisfaction.

yinat aprilAs in change management practices, the management of telework programs must account for how an organization learns from previous events and activities to improve their operations. The learning premise of this assertion relates to how an organization, through the practice leader-follower exchange, can reflect collectively and individually on their lessons learned. Collective learning from past and current experiences projects the ability of an organization to initiate its own transformation. The acceptance of learning processes determines how well an organization adapts to change thence innovative telework solutions.

Modern practices in telework organizational change parallel recent literature. Harvard professor John P. Kotter discusses the initiation of change because of a sense of urgency. Coincidently, telework appears to address a sense of urgency in the workplace. Dr. Kotter coined the eight-step method to change in his book, Leading Change, while studying how to successfully implement large-scale change in organizations. Kotter’s eight-steps to organizational change are similar to the creation of telework, which addresses the evolving information age. Here are some similarities:

  1. Create a sense of urgency. The telework movement has created an urgent need for employees and employers to maximize their efforts to increase their return on investments.
  2. Build and maintain a coalition. No doubt that the leader-follower exchange (LMX) promotes the adoption of efficient telework programs.
  3. Formulate a strategic vision. Organizations act on their strategic vision on the use of technological advances.
  4. Communicate the vision. Telework is about the efficient transmission of the vision, mission and end state.
  5. Accelerate movement toward the vision. Clearly, competitive advantages to provide better products and more efficient services through telework,
  6. Celebrate visible short-term wins. Perceived win-win situations in telework benefit the organization as well as employees,
  7. Keep learning from experience. The process of learning is typically enhanced by the use of telework innovative ideas, and
  8. Institutionalize strategic change. Embrace the inevitable, telework programs.

Granted, Kotter’s approach to change management has commensurate merit because change is fast, furious, constant and inevitable. So is telework. The exploration of change acceleration techniques may find alternative methodologies in dealing with strategic telework management.

Additionally, Kotter illustrated his dual complimentary system to change by outlining five principles for complex organizations to rapidly adopt change, which are further applicable to the fast moving telework environment;

  1. Many change agents not just the usual few. Pull more people into sharing the strategic vision for the future.
  2. A want–to and get–to not just a have–to mindset. People are energized wanting to accomplish a common goal with refreshed feelings of empowerment.
  3. Head and heart, not just head. Leaders must appeal to people with logic but to their emotions too.
  4. Much more leadership, not just more management. Leaders provide vision, opportunity, agility, inspired action and celebration.
  5. Two systems, one organization. The organizational culture should include both sides; the network and the hierarchy must be inseparable.

Consequently, Kotter concludes with the need for more leaders with a clear strategy on leadership development to benefit from leaders capable of action upon change. Strategic telework management is an inherent function of leadership. Leaders drive themselves out of their comfort zones and continue to assume challenges, think out of the box, innovate and provide employees with the proper environment to produce.

Research on leader – follower relationship theory correlates directly to meaningful and effective thoughts on how to initiate organizational change. It seems that the initiation of change considers factors like common vision, leadership competencies, education strategies, metrics and rewards to affect maximum results.

The leader-follower relationship is driven primarily by a top-down approach on organizational change. Research points out those leader-follower relationships have shifted over time. As a result, forms of leadership control are a factor and source of employee-motivation theories, experiential learning and organizational development. As a result, measurable factors are observed in leader empowering behavior techniques. These factors include the promotion of competitive advantages, employee motivation, improved productivity, cost cutting strategies and customer and employee satisfaction.

Leaders typically question the value added to an investment of time and effort into a strategic plan, which may seem to produce low returns on investment. However, complex, modern organizations require unplanned change in real time. Therefore, the need for visionaries in strategic directions is in high demand, especially in the evolving information era of advanced communication devices.

No doubt, leader-follower relationships are influenced by a holistic, higher set of organizational values that drives organizational change management. Transformational, charismatic leaders can initiate substantial change in private and public organizations.

In summary, the era of global hyper competition and organizational change is now a constant state. How organizations champion change is dependent on its capacity to quickly apply lessons learned, institute proactive leadership and embrace the inevitable. Organizational development depends on the ability to promote value creation and competitive advantages. For these reasons, these concepts are not exclusively applicable to for-profit organizations as a result of various economical and fiscal factors. Organizational leaders would benefit from further empirical research to develop support for existing changes in telework program management.


Author
: Jorge Yinat is an organization and management doctoral learner in dissertation research at Capella University’s School of Business and Technology. He can be reached at [email protected].

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