This essay explores the extent of change in an organisation considering the context of Amazon. The need for initiating change in the company has been discussed along with the human dimension of change management, leaders' strategic role, and the emotional impact of organisational change. The impacts of organisational dynamics, power and culture have been explored.
Amazon is an international e-commerce organisation founded by Jeff Bezos, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, US (Kerber and Buono, 2005).
As per Kerber and Buono (2005), organisational change management refers to a program or a plan used by an institution that can cause disruption in day-to-day operations and processes but is necessary for initiating change. Organisations can avoid becoming stagnant by implementing organisational change while minimising disruption. The types of Organisational change determine the extent of change in an organisation (Kerber and Buono, 2005). A business firm can follow organisation-wide change to implement a large-scale transformation affecting the whole firm. Restructuring leadership, introducing a new technology or application, or adding a new policy can change the operations system of the whole organisation. This type of change can help a company transform its identity, which is necessary for survival in this digital era.
Transformational change aims to change a business firm's organisational strategy (Doppelt and McDonogh, 2017). Companies need to change their strategy as per the external and internal changes in the environment, or the changes in planning, cultural trends, technological progress or social climate. As per research performed by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, digital businesses in the current era are focused on integrating digital technologies like cloud computing, analytics, and transformational strategies (Hamilton, 2020).
All employees can experience personnel change in an organisation as it affects employee retention and engagement. The company's hyper-growth or layoffs experienced by the company compels a company to consider personnel change (Hayes, 2018). Personnel change and mass hiring can be a sign of growth that can make the firm susceptible to disorganisation and cultural changes.
An organisation sometimes has to consider unplanned change as a necessary step following unprecedented change. For example, the hurricanes in 2017 compelled thousands of residents to evacuate the place and seek shelter elsewhere. This emergency affected the local companies, creating chaos, confusion, and disruption (Hayes, 2018). Poor company performance increases the need for performing the remedial change. Employee training programs and changes in financial management are some of the measures that can be undertaken.
During the initiation stage of the pandemic, Amazon and the CEO and founder Jeff Bezos have pioneered novel ways of mass-managing employees and business by utilising a maze of systems. Amazon used different methods to offer leniency during this period of crisis. However, Amazon's people management system was faltering heavily in ways that the customers could not see. Amazon's model for managing people heavily relies on apps, metrics and chatbots (Kantor et al., 2021). This system made the employees act as their caseworkers (Kantor et al., 2021). Despite these anomalies, Jeff Bezos Transformational Leadership style has managed to keep Amazon afloat during the pandemic. However, Amazon stirred controversy when it started stalled benefits and inadvertent firing (Kantor et al., 2021). Kantor et al. (2021) also argue that Amazon did not disclose the number of cases when Coronavirus infection soared. The company continued to track every minute of the employees' working hours, accompanied by a failed unionisation drive led by demotivated employees at a warehouse in Alabama (Kantor et al., 2021).
Managing Change in an organisation is a critical part of today's business world. Traditional change management approaches are not enough concerning sustainable behavioural changes, characterised by formulaic and procedural changes. People react to changes rationally or cognitively, but social and emotional aspects need to be considered in this respect. Hence, considering behavioural science and neuroscience is necessary. As per behavioural economics theories, positive drivers of change can motivate the employees positively, for which employee recognition and integration of behavioural change modelled by others are a prerequisite. Leadership strategies and qualities, being a part of the human dimension of change management, can influence the behaviour of the workers. Leaders need to manage change to ensure efficiency, sustainability and fulfil the expectations of the stakeholders, staff and partners. A leader can utilise Kotter's 8 step model to manage change and perform their strategic leadership roles. Jeff Bezos has been leading change in the company because of his leadership style, which focuses on a customer-oriented environment (Gradinaru et al., 2020). Jeff Bezos has created a sense of urgency by providing an almost aggressive leadership style characterised by agility. He needs to convince at least 75 % of the leaders and managers that change in leadership styles are necessary for improving the overall brand reputation of the firm. However, Bezos need to understand the difficulty of driving people (leaders) from their comfort zones. The formation of a powerful guiding coalition was done by Bezos, where he had formed small teams to focus on individual concerns and a way to identify problems individually (Gradinaru et al., 2020). Bezos has created a vision to motivate the employees, which is reflected in the motto "Work Hard. Have Fun Make History", and Bezos can motivate his employees without getting attached to them (Gradinaru et al., 2020, p. 98). Bezos could also create a compelling yet simple vision for the employees who can act as a perception and motivation nudge to influence them to work and decrease dissatisfaction. This can also be used to satisfy the changes desired by the employees like transparency, job security and motivation.
Communication is as essential as creating a compelling vision. Any employee will not shed anything out of their pocket if they feel unsatisfied while working in a company. Bezos writes annuals newsletters to his employees, communicating his ideas need to develop work ethics. In one of his letters, he stated that failure and invention are connected and taking risks and conducting experiments is a part of innovation (Alqassimi, 2019, p.31). He also conducts formal quarterly management meetings related to the transformation, which increases the engagement of the leaders and managers. Moreover, educating the managers about the factors that affect employee motivation positively can help communicate the vision and inflict positive change and modelled behaviour. The leaders who consciously attempt to become a living symbol of the new corporate culture become a live example of motivation nudge. Bezos is one of the few who have lived up to this expectation with this transformational leadership style. However, this is often not easy as Amazon has been performing business in a certain way before the emergence of COVID-19. However, the sudden emergence of the pandemic has altered the way business is done. The sudden Work-from-home culture, the panic of contracting the disease and the complications during and after contracting COVID-19 cannot be understood and managed by an ambitious leader in such little time.
Communication is related to both deeds and words. Though Amazon had announced unpaid leaves for unlimited time off, the company decisions taken in the past year has created a fear of being fired on the part of employees on leaves (Kantor et al., 2021).
Successful transformations involve a considerable number of employees as the process progresses. Jeff Bezos has continued to encourage employees to innovate, and he did this by empowering his employees with the "Type 2 decisions" (p.31). This pushes power down and provided scope for innovation as engaged employees are 44% more productive (Alqassimi, 2019, p.31). Amazon needs to encourage its leaders to try out new approaches and ideas as a guiding coalition can make others take necessary and desired action simply by communicating suggestions. Bezos, in this regard, has always valued his employees and is known as a global leader because of his understandings of the human dimensions, which is also a part of the change leadership behaviour that goes beyond employee mechanisation. Amazon had developed the “Alexa Assistant” similar to the google assistance system that would appeal to the marginalised communities and make life more comfortable (Alqassimi, 2019, p.32). On the other hand, Bezos has followed a principle that allows his company to deliver more significant outcomes during the crisis period. This strategy compels the managers to force employees to produce short-term wins. Change can only stick when it enters the bloodstream of the organisation. For this, new behaviours and shared values need to be rooted in the company culture.
Managing workers’ expectations during and after the change, having open communication, being transparent, helping others to see possibilities, reducing unnecessary stress and keeping workers productive are some of the responsibilities and behaviours exercised by change leaders.
Change management can be episodic, continuous or disruptive. Change in key personnel or technology can be an example. Disruptive change can be caused by ongoing trends like the emergence of Big Data or business analytical tools. From its inception, Amazon has initiated a continuous change considering leadership roles as a participative process. The steady growth of Amazon has been possible because of its continuous reinvestment by exploiting several technological and external developments like digital media and cloud services. They have followed their internal force that supports innovation like for instance, they have invented new types of logistics which support fast and efficient delivery. This continuous change supports the long term oriented practices by the organisation (Sveningsson & Sorgarde, 2020, p.3)
Organisational dynamics is characterised by the way employees function together to complete a task successfully. Organisational dynamics is related to leadership strategies, proper resource allocation, and employee performance (Bangert and Doktor, 2020). The power of the leaders to influence workers in an organisation is known as organisational power. On the other hand, organisational culture defines the desired behaviour approved by the organisation itself (Lubis and Hanum, 2020). It is related to shared values and beliefs communicated by leaders. These three notions can affect organisational change significantly if the leadership strategy can be changed.
As Amazon support continuous innovation and change, it can benefit from the Nudge theory to control change by changing organisational dynamics, culture and power. Nudge theory centres on the core belief that any small action can influence people's choices or behaviour. The nudge theory focuses on increasing people's engagement by knowing what factors influence people to make choices or decisions (Kosters and Van der Heijden, 2015). This can make the company shift its focus from metrics to the human dimension of business, thereby altering organisational dynamics, distribution of power and the existing organisational culture (Alapo, 2018). Any change in employee behaviour followed by strict directions and instructions are discouraged, and choices are provided as motivating factors behind the changed behaviour of employees (Rutter, 2015). For example, Bezos encouraged his employees to offer high-quality work, which is evident from the aggressive and fast-changing environment of Amazon, although making overtime mandatory which can decrease organisational performance and tire people more easily.
Amazon can implement nudge theory as a method of changing strategic leadership behaviours. The company is focusing on retaining its employees and regaining its brand values and reputation. In this scenario, perception nudges can be created to influence individual perception. This is important in this context as individuals have different perceptions about change, and understanding workers' perception of desired change is crucial to increase motivation. Amazon can alter the employees' perception of job security (thereby altering the company values from outcome-based to performance-based) by offering paid leaves to those infected with COVID-19. This can increase the sense of security identified in Maslow's hierarchy. Creating motivation nudges can help the organisation model the employees' behaviour as showing individual examples can help set examples of best behaviours that fit the notion of change. Understanding the best behaviour desired by the company can enhance the company culture as it would allow the alignment of company values, norms and resources (Kosters and Van der Heijden, 2015).
This essay has appraised, evaluated and justified the importance of change management in the context of Amazon. It has established the relationship between organisational transformation, organisational dynamics, culture, power and related human dimension of change. Change management is necessary for Amazon because it can control employee retention and enhance the damaged company reputation. Organisational dynamics, culture, power are connected with leadership approaches. Hence, Bezos needs to change the leadership strategies exercised in the company. Change can terrify the employees and create an "emotional fog" for them. Hence, considering the human dimension is an essential factor here.