Organisational change in SMEs: change innovators or laggards?

Wiesner, Retha and Poole, Nicci (2011) Organisational change in SMEs: change innovators or laggards? In: QIK 2011: Aligning Innovation in Developed and Emerging Economies, 15-18 Feb 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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In the international arena, the development and strengthening of SMEs is a priority area for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation due to the significant potential that SMEs hold for future economic growth. A substantial amount of change management research exists internationally and in Australia in relation to the causes, processes and outcomes of organisational change in large organisations. However this does not reflect the change scenarios in SMEs. Furthermore, the academic and professional discipline of organisational change in Australia, while well-researched in some areas, remains embryonic when translated to SMEs in a dynamic environment. Very few large scale national surveys have been conducted in Australia. This study is filling the theoretical gap in relation to the theory and practice relating to the nature, extent and characteristics of organisational change in Australian Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs).
The objective of this paper is to analyse the nature and extent of organisational change in Australian SMEs. Our research, through a representative large sample survey (n=1230), provides an insight into the contemporary nature and usage of organisational change and provides a picture of contemporary change management in Australian SMEs.
The study employed the use of quantitative data which were collected through a national mail survey of 1230 Australian SMEs. The focus of this study is on three interventions for achieving organisational change, including a range of structural; strategic and human process change practices.
The results indicate that SMEs are neither change innovators nor laggards, since change practices are only moderately represented in Australian SMEs. Taken together with low participation of employees in the decision to employ these changes; low levels of union membership; a low presence of specialist HR managers in SMEs; and the fact that the majority of SMEs that do have written strategic plans do not use it to develop operational plans and drive day to day operations; a 'change innovation' scenario in Australian SMEs is unlikely.
We argue that the pursuit of organisational change should not simply serve as drive for competitive advantage (often resulting in a deterioration of employment conditions), but, rather, it should accommodate the needs of employees, who should also directly benefit from these change initiatives. The advantages of involving employees in change initiatives are numerous. The agenda in Australian SMEs therefore needs to be shifted away from managers/company-driven change (with rhetoric of employee involvement) to genuine and greater employee participation in change initiatives.
Questions concerning the substance of change raise a number of practical concerns over how to successfully manage organisational change. Two elements of particular importance centre on understanding what the change programme is about and also, ensuring that employees who have to adopt to new working practices (the changing context) are adequately trained in the use of techniques and/or procedures.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: No evidence of copyright restrictions preventing deposit. This paper is part of a larger project on employee management and organisational change in SMEs led by Dr. Retha Wiesner at USQ.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Management and Marketing
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2012 04:44
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2014 04:01
Uncontrolled Keywords: organisational change; SMEs; small business
Fields of Research : 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150311 Organisational Behaviour
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150314 Small Business Management
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150307 Innovation and Technology Management
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970115 Expanding Knowledge in Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services

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