Four Major Forces Creating Change in Organizations Today – Skills That Leaders Need

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Globalization, technological changes, knowledge management and cross boundaries collaboration are four factors that are major forces creating change in organizations today.

These changes affect decision-making as organizations are forced to recognize that they need leaders who are innovative, creative visionaries who understand the various environments that their organizations are operating in, and are able to differentiate between these different environments.

These environments include: the external or operating environment; the competitive environment (that part of the external environment in which firms that are competing for the same market exist) and the macroenvironment in which influences such as the economy, government regulations, societal values, demographics and technology come to bear upon an organization.

Faced with such complexities leaders need to be equipped with appropriate skill-sets such as flexibility, good communication, and critical thinking and negotiation abilities. They must also be supported with the necessary resources in order to make good decisions that will benefit their organizations.


A convergence of international activities such as the increase in overseas production of goods and services; increasing consumer demands in emerging markets worldwide; declining barriers to international trade aided by rapidly changing technology, have created a globalized economy in which inter-dependency among countries has emerged as the norm today. Therefore the hiring practices of companies who are seeking the best talent have changed because the best talent might no longer be resident in the home country.

Companies have had to calibrate their hiring, training and management practices to meet this challenge. In a world where “Americans too often come across as intrusive, manipulative, and garrulous” (David, 2007, p.291), US organizations have to be respectful of the culture, customs, political, and legal differences of the countries that they are operating in.

Some of these customs affect protocol such as the exchange of gifts, the observance of holidays, and labor laws. Even accounting standards vary internationally. Therefore organizations must be sensitive to these differences when formulating operational and human resource (HR) policies for implementation abroad for, in this global environment, it is hardly likely that companies can apply the domestic policies that work at home, abroad.

Technological Change:

Technology is like a two-edged sword that can make our lives easier or worse. The Internet has revolutionized the way in which information is exchanged, communication facilitated and commerce conducted. Technology is rapidly changing and effective management demands more knowledge in these areas in order for companies to manage their resources and develop, maintain or keep their competitive edge.

While technology has enabled firms to save time and money by conducting business such as negotiations, trade, and commerce in real time, it can also facilitate the dissemination of sensitive information about a company’s practices, trade secrets and new product development in a matter of seconds.

Hackers can breach a company’s security via the internet and put companies at risk. Organizations have responded by having whole new types of departments such as Information Technology (IT) departments, headed by managers with titles such as Chief Information Officer (CIO), to manage both the opportunities and the risks associated with technological changes.

Additionally, technology has ushered in an array of high-tech devices that aid and facilitates companies in gathering and managing information, maintaining contact with their employees globally, making and communicating decisions instantaneously. This can be both a boon and a source of stress for managers and leaders who must learn to manage their choice and use of these devices. In a global economy technology can aid in knowledge management

Knowledge Management

Driving forces such as shifts in buyer demographics and preferences; technology, product and market innovation; changes in society, consumer attitudes and lifestyle all demand new ideas. This has created a need for knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers comprise a company’s intellectual capital and are made up of creative people with novel ideas and problem-solving skills. Managing its knowledge assets can give a company a competitive edge as it effectively utilizes the expertise, skills, intellect, and relationships of members of the organization.

For example, a company’s strategic management efforts can be greatly enhanced when knowledge that is resident in its international talent pool is tapped at its source, since a manager who is “closer to the ground” and part of the local culture might be better able to sense environmental changes than one who is not.

Keeping knowledge workers motivated and incentivized by both intrinsic and extrinsic means will cause organizations to re-think and change their benefits and compensation methods and, perhaps, even redefine the traditional view of the employer-employee relationship into something new, such as a company-contractor model, for example.

Cross-boundaries Collaboration

An important part of knowledge management is effectively managing organization-wide collaboration. Use of appropriate technology and applications such as a virtual private networks; VoIP, e-mail, social networking websites such as Face Book, and even company-sponsored blogs can facilitate communication between an organization and its stakeholders, and help in different types of internal and external collaborative processes. An example of a tool that can be used in cross-boundaries collaboration might be an easily accessible online database that provides a central source of information to employees, customers, or suppliers.

Managing in the 21st Century

In the 21st Century change is the norm rather than the exception and leaders must be able to embrace it. They need to be able to develop:

  1. A vision, and be able to communicate it to their organizations
  2. An orientation to serving
  3. An entrepreneurial mind-set
  4. A commitment to continuous innovation
  5. A global mindset
  6. Ease and confidence with technology
  7. Know-how in systems thinking (a broad view of the inter-relationship of an organization’s parts, rather than a narrow view that is focused on one part or event.)
  8. A sense of ethics and appreciation of spirituality in the workplace
  9. A commitment to continuous learning, personal and professional development

In order to respond effectively to the four major forces creating change in today’s global economy leaders must be willing to embrace change; they must be curious and appreciative of the richness and diversity of other cultures. The must be trust-worthy and flexible; and they must have very strong time management, communication, conflict-management, problem-solving and people-skills in order to effectively manage these drivers of change.


David, Fred R. (2009). Strategic Management, Concepts and Cases, 11th ed. (p. 291). New Jersey: Pearson Prentiss Hall.

Ruth M. Tappin

© 2009

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