Analysis of Topeka System’s Process of Bringing about Change

The Topeka system provides important lessons for instituting and sustaining change in an organization. First the process identifies the need for having an articulate vision to guide the organization towards the desired future. Without a dream of the desired future being effectively communicated then employees would not get to know what is expected of them. Secondly it advances the importance and ways through which such a vision is made a tenet throughout the organization rather than remaining a preserve of its developers. For instance Cohen’s explanation of the required leadership for organizational change takes into account the need for nurturing leaderships even at lower levels of the organization. The importance of interpersonal relationships in furthering organizational transformation is for instance demonstrated in Topeka system’s emphasis of team units as the functional units of driving such transformation. Such empowerment of teams has been noted to be important in mediating team learning (Burke, Stagl, Klein, Goodwin, Salas & Halpin, 2006)

A second aspect that makes the Topeka system of leading change recommendable is its emphasis on inspirational leadership. Its advocacy of rewarding employees is for instance one factor that could change employee behavior towards better performance. Rewards such as stock ownership programs could change employees’ perception of their association with the organization hence inspiring positive performance. Further the role of feedback from customers in instituting internal change in the organization has been pointed out (Cohen, 2004). By ensuring consumer feedback is availed to all employees irrespective of their interaction with the customer any changes required in the organization could have more weight based on a non-partisan opinion. Further the model advanced in Topeka system of leadership establishes the need for providing challenging assignments to develop leadership attributes in individual team members. Zaccaro and Horn (2003) for instance note that “challenging work assignments” provides the required push for budding leaders to develop fresh understanding of environments of increasing complexities that are likely to feature in their future assignments (p. 776). Topeka system makes use of this need by making it mandatory for team members to rotate assignments (“Topeka pride,” n.d).

The few disadvantages of this leadership approaches however lie in making direct social interactions its cornerstone. For instance Zaccaro and Horn (2003) note that executive-level leaders might not be able to physically interact with each of the followers they are supposed to influence. Interpersonal approach of leadership thus might not give such leaders a realistic solution to institute required organizational transformation. Further in the modern world business formations where aspects technology such as the Internet has replaced most of the social human interactions in business organizations, pegging organization change on interpersonal associations might not be an effective way to bring about change. In such cases aspects of leadership that emphasis instituting change at an individual level are advisable. Overall, however, the Topeka system of instituting and sustaining change in an organization provides a model worth exploring for many modern day organization. Go to part 4

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