Organizational transformation, effects on performance: a quasi-experimental field study

Date

1997-05

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Publisher

Texas Tech University

Abstract

This is a longitudinal research study of organizational transformation and its effects on organizational performance at ABC Company using a quasi-experimental design m a naturalistic field-setting. ABC is a multi-billion dollar, multi-international consumer products company whose corporate office and U.S. facilities are primarily in the Mid-Western part of the U.S.A. To maintain profitability and competitiveness in the fixture, organizational transformation efforts were initiated in all of the U.S. based manufacturing worksites of ABC Company. These change efforts focused on transforming the worksites from fairly traditional organizations to High Performance Learning Organizations (HPLO). Sites A and L, which are the focus of this research study, were the last two worksites of the division to design and implement a major organizational transformation.

The HPLO design draws on Open Systems Theory which takes a holistic and integrated view of organizations and argues that the "interdependence" and "fit" among the organizational design features or action-levers are crucial for improved organizational effectiveness. Based on these HPLO design principles, a reduced organizational assessment model is developed and examined in this field study.

The study utilizes a rare combination of several types of quantitative and qualitative data sources. The quantitative data consists of financial performance indicators, behavioral performance measures and employees' beliefs and perceptions about their quality of work life. The financial performance indicators include time-series data on labor productivity, product quality and capacity utilization. Behavioral performance measures include time-series data on employee turnover and employee safety. Most of the performance time series data is for 54 continuous months and involves time periods "before," "during" and "after" the change effort. The quality of work life indicators, are drawn from two matched employee surveys administered about thirteen months apart. The qualitative data consists of detailed design documents, access to key informants (internal and external) and employee interviews conducted at one of the worksites.

The time-series data are graphed and analyzed utilizing a time-series regression procedure. The employee's quality of worklife measures are analyzed utilizing a matched pairwise t-test method.

Twenty-one hypotheses, focusing on 'within" site organizational performance improvements over time (before, during and after) as well as differences "across" the two worksites, are tested. Except for improvements in product quality, twenty of the hypotheses were not supported. One of the major reasons for the lack of support of the hypotheses was high performance levels of both worksites prior to the change efforts. Seemingly, there was little room for improvement. These results are discussed and analyzed m great depth considering all the different types of data (both quantitative and qualitative) and possible reasons for these mixed results are suggested.

The rich data set, the quasi-experimental research design, the naturalistic field setting, and the utilization of "experimental" and "comparison" sites makes this unique study an important contribution to the very limited empirical literature on organizational transformation, organizational design and organizational change. However, a within company" study of this kind raises the issue of generalizability of the results across other organizations. Future research potential arising from this study are identified and discussed.

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