Organization wide interventions of HSBC

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List of figures and tables

 

Figure 1 force field analysis: forces for and against shift of business focus……… 7

 

Table 1 HSBC’s diversified business…………………………………………………………… 4

Table 2 Types of power……………………………………………………………………………. 18

 

Content page

List of figures and tables………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

1.     Introduction of organization structure………………………………………………………….. 4

1.1      Company profile………………………………………………………………………………. 4

1.2      Leadership style……………………………………………………………………………….. 5

1.3      Corporate culture of HSBC: Team work orientation……………………………… 5

1.4      Recent history of changes in HSBC……………………………………………………. 5

1.5      Recent problem and the force field analysis………………………………………… 6

2.     Downsizing in HSBC………………………………………………………………………………… 7

2.1      Background of the downsizing………………………………………………………….. 7

2.2      Rationalize the downsizing……………………………………………………………….. 8

2.2.1     Recover the loss during the 2008 financial crisis…………………………. 8

2.2.2     Shift of focus on the emerging markets……………………………………… 8

2.3      Source of possible resistances to the downsizing………………………………….. 9

2.3.1     Sunk costs……………………………………………………………………………… 9

2.3.2     Fear of the unknown……………………………………………………………… 10

2.4      Strategies to minimize the detrimental effects of downsizing………………. 10

2.4.1     Educate the need of redundancy…………………………………………….. 10

2.4.2     Provide support and facilitation………………………………………………. 11

2.4.3     Promise no further downsizing actions…………………………………….. 11

2.4.4     Encourage self-voluntary resignation……………………………………….. 12

3.     Organization wide interventions………………………………………………………………… 12

3.1      Appropriate communication methods……………………………………………….. 13

3.2      Organization wide interventions: Restructuring by downsizing……………. 14

3.2.1     Clarify the organization’s strategy…………………………………………… 14

3.2.2     Assess downsizing options and make relevant choices………………. 15

3.2.3     Implement the change……………………………………………………………. 15

3.2.4     Address the needs of survivors and those who leave…………………. 16

3.2.5     Follow through with growth plan……………………………………………. 17

4.     Political considerations…………………………………………………………………………….. 17

4.1      Stakeholders involved…………………………………………………………………….. 17

4.2      Some political issues……………………………………………………………………….. 18

4.2.1     Coalitions of individuals and interest groups……………………………. 18

4.2.2     Insufficient power base possessed by the external change agent…. 18

4.3      Strategies to maximize the effectiveness of the change program…………… 20

4.3.1     Enhance the communication between the change agent and the employees 20

4.3.2     Provide psychology consultancy internally……………………………….. 20

4.3.3     Focus on stabilizing or institutionalizing the changes…………………. 21

Reference……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 22

 

1.        Introduction of organization structure

 

1.1    Company profile

 

Established in year 1991, HSBC Holding PLC is one of the largest banking groups in the world, second only to Citigroup. HSBC Group owes its origins to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) first established in Hong Kong in March 1865 and in Shanghai in April of the same year by a Scottish clerk, Thomas Sutherland (Hoare & Pares 2005, p.120). Headquartered in London, HSBC’s international network comprises around 7,500 offices in 87 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa offering a comprehensive range of financial services to around 95 million customers through four customer groups and global businesses: Personal Financial Services (including consumer finance); Commercial Banking; Global Banking and Markets; and Global Private Banking (Hsbc.com 2011).

 Figure 1

 Table 1 HSBC’s diversified business

Source: Hsbc.com 2011

1.2    Leadership style

 

1.3    Corporate culture of HSBC: Team work orientation

 

In term of the group value, HSBC Group put the team’s interests ahead of that of the individuals, as mentioned in the corporate values in the official website: “Our teamwork with HSBC colleagues around the world harnesses the knowledge and resources of HSBC Group for the benefit of our customers” (Hsbcamanah.com 2011).

 

1.4    Recent history of changes in HSBC

 

At the end of 2003, HSBC released “Managing for Growth” strategic plan which offer HSBC the blueprint for growth and development during the later five years ending in 2008. The strategy was considered as evolutionary and not revolutionary. With the strategic change, HSBC aimed to be the world’s leading financial services company, defined as being preferred, admired, and dynamic and recognized for giving customers a fair deal (Burkardt 2006, p.21). Later as exposed to the global financial crisis which had affected most banks severely and has drained liquidity from the banks and other financial institution pose a problem to HSBC’s global outreach programme to the degree that HSBC could have find it hard to keep the massive network, HSBC had adopted a strategy shift by turning its focus to emerging markets where already half of its profits come from (Mahlknecht & Hassan 2011). And in term of the product design, HSBC also focuses on offering the products and services that are tailored to the changing customer needs. For example, HSBC is creating a network of champions with the knowledge and remit to incorporate considerations for climate change within their roles all across the group. Over 800 HSBC employees have trained as Climate Champions at the half-way points of the five-year program since 2007 to enable the bank to focus on the commitment to climate change in response to the international climate change debate (Bayon, Hawn & Hamilton 2009)

1.5    Recent problem and the force field analysis

 

One of most recent problems that attract media attention is the company’s strategic change to sell out some business and lay off a large number of staffs in the developed countries and focus more on the emerging markets while needs for the cash from the said deal is not immediate because the company is already making sound profit. Below we will perform a force field analysis to find out the forces behind this change.

 

Force field analysis is a management technique developed by Kurt Lewin (Brager & Holloway, 1992), a pioneer in the field of social sciences, for diagnosing situations. It is a method used to get a whole view of all the forces for or against a plan so that a decision can be made after considering all these forces (Bhushi 2003, p.102). Below we will perform a force field analysis on the change of business focus shift from developed countries to emerging countries:

 Figure 2

Figure 1 force field analysis: forces for and against shift of business focus

 

With the force field analysis on the desired change which is to shift the business focus more on the developing and emerging markets to sustain the business growth with the cost of the cutting business involvement in the developed economies such as EU and US, we can see that the forces for the change outweigh the forces against the change for the following two reasons: firstly, forces for the change are more powerful and influential to the final decision making because these supporting forces are from the management and investors who have more bargaining power than the employees who tend to resist the changes because of the large scale layoff that the shift of business focus would suggest.

 

 

2.        Downsizing in HSBC

 

2.1    Background of the downsizing

 

According to the recent news, as Europe’s biggest bank, HSBC announced that it will lay off about 30,000 jobs (about 10 percent of the current total employees) in global overhaul which will take effect by 2013. This decision appeared to be a stroke to HSBC’s shareholders as For the first time in a couple of earnings periods, the bank exceeded expectations, netting a $11.5 billion pretax profit for the first half of 2011, up from $11.1 billion a year ago (Fortune.cnn.com 2011). While cutting cost could possibly be a piece of good news to the investors, it certainly would be bad new to the total approximately 300,000 current employees. It is widely requested that the management of HSBC should provide powerful supportive reasons and future strategic design of the company that rationalize the large downsizing at a seemingly good time that reduce the urgency of the cost cutting by large scale downsizing.

 

 

 

 

2.2    Rationalize the downsizing

 

2.2.1            Recover the loss during the 2008 financial crisis

 

One of the reasons why the HSBC still focuses on cost cutting and control is because it is reported that the bank is still dealing with the legacy of bad loans in the U.S. from the 2003 acquisition of consumer lender Household International Inc. The acquisition made HSBC the biggest subprime lender in the United States at the time, which resulted in billions of losses to HSBC leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 (Csmonitor.com 2011). While the company is still struggle to recover the loss it had made in the crisis, cutting cost which brings in immediate improvement in the profit making and revenue generation seems to be a strategic decision to restore the investor confidence.

 

2.2.2            Shift of focus on the emerging markets

 

As early as 2009, HSBC had already clearly announced its strategy to shift the business focus more on the emerging markets. One sign of such shift of focus is that the group announced in September 2009 that the group would do the relocation of group chief executive Michael Geoghegan from London to Hong Kong, signaling the bank’s effort to enhance its presence in China and other Asian emerging markets (Chinadaily.com.cn 2009). What is more, it is said that while the bank is going to downsize the overall employees head counts, there are actually different transactions in different markets. In the emerging markets, media reports show that HSBC Bank wants to hire as many as 15,000 people in emerging markets such as Asia and Latin America over the next three years as part of the bank’s plan to overhaul its global operations in a bid to cut costs and boost profits (bbc.co.uk 2011); and in some of the developed economies, cost cutting and selling out business seems to be another extreme, for example, HSBC, through its indirect, wholly owned subsidiaries, HSBC Finance Corporation, HSBC USA Inc., HSBC Technology and Services (USA) Inc. and other wholly owned affiliates, has agreed to sell its card and retail services business in the United States (the ‘Business’) to Capital One Financial Corporation.

 

2.3    Source of possible resistances to the downsizing

 

The resistance to the downsizing could be from the employees, management and the investors. When resistances to changes happen, there could be severe risk and negative results brought by the resistances. Such risks could lead two types of undesired results. The first type of bad result is a worsen relationship between the employees and the management of the company because in the employee perspective the company tries to get changes done that is unwanted; the second consequence is the worsen job performance as people are too much focusing on resisting the unwanted changes. The source of resistances to changes will be discussed as following:

 

2.3.1            Sunk costs

 

An impressive insight into the resistance to change is offered by Filley, House and Kerr (1976) who depicted the phenomenon of “sunk costs” to explain a source of opposition to change. According to them, many people or at least enough of people in a position to make a difference have made a significant investment in ether shaping the current situation or learning how to function within it. In other words, changes would very much probably indicate that these efforts in term of investment of time, energy, skills and experiences are no longer relevant and useful (Parada & Homan 2010, p.10). In the case of HSBC, under the anticipated redundancy of about 10 percent of the existing employees, many employees and managers would have incurred great and various “sunk costs” that they had already invested in the company making them resisting to the downsizing.

 

2.3.2            Fear of the unknown

 

It is natural for people to fear the unknown. The problem with many changes is that their outcome is not always foreseeable (Rue & Byars 2003). When resistance to change could be of two major types: individual and organizational, fear of the unknown would be a major source of resistance to changes in an individual level due to the individual fear of losing jobs, anticipated changes of jobs and working environments and social relationships would make the individuals resist the changes that bring about the uncertainties (Sengupta & Bhattacharya 2006, p.3). What is more, much of the fear is actually very personal and could vary, if one single employee is very much depending on the salary to feed his or her families the announcement of downsizing results in more fear to this employee because of the strong reliance of the job (benefits tie with the job such as salary).

 

2.4    Strategies to minimize the detrimental effects of downsizing

 

2.4.1            Educate the need of redundancy

 

Communications that aim at educate why the redundancy is needed and how it will affect the stakeholders is key to minimize the detrimental effects of the change. The most impacted stakeholders, the employees would want to know why the downsizing is necessary and how it will affect them in both positive and negative ways. It is said that be open and honest with employees by providing them with advanced and true information will help them to overcome the fear of the unknown (Lussier 2009, p.205). And to the investors, they also should receive a reasonable explanation for such significant strategic change. To the investors and shareholders, the company not only needs to educate the need of redundancy and also needs to explain the change of the future business focus and what they could expect in term of profit and market share changes.

2.4.2            Provide support and facilitation

 

We could offer a range of supportive measures such as recommendation on other job opportunities and training, and what’s more empathetic and considerate listening could also help reduce the employees’ fear and anxiety towards the change downsizing. While many employees would not want to leave the company, but there could be some who want to leave the company but are not sure enough because they simply do not want to experience the uncertainties and risks when they leave the current familiar situation. For those who have been planning to leave the company, the company should provide support and facilitation to encourage volunteer resignation that reduces the pressure of redundancy.

 

2.4.3            Promise no further downsizing actions

 

As mentioned above fear comes from uncertainty to what will be coming through, one possible method that the management of HSBC could do is to reduce such uncertainty by making promise that beside the current plan of downsizing no further similar large scale of downsizing would be done in the coming three or five years to make the employees rest assured. Such promises would hopefully reduce the sense of uncertainty to the employees though the plan to cut off 10% employees is yet to come into effect by 2013. Another strategy in term of giving out promise is to narrow up the applicable coverage where the downsizing would happen. For example, the company could announce that the downsizing would happen only in the US and EU sector while the other business markets would not be affected, though this would create unrest in the two said markets it will reduce the overall psychological impact to the employees and it also help to better manage the employees expectations.

 

 

 

2.4.4            Encourage self-voluntary resignation

 

HSBC could resort to attrition (voluntary redundancy) as a means to reduce their workforce before the implementation of the downsizing. The initiative of encouraging self-voluntary resignation is to reduce the number of staffs who would be forced into involuntary layoff while at the same time keep the total cut of labor force unchanged, the promoted self-voluntary resignation would be expected to minimize the detrimental effects of the downsizing.

 

3.        Organization wide interventions

 

Interventions are structured activities used individually or in combination by the members of a client system to improve their social or task performance (Mehta 2009, p.137). And among this definition, structured activities refer to such particular procedures as experiential exercises, questionnaires, attitude surveys, interviews, relevant group discussions, and even lunchtime meeting between the change agent and a member of the client organizations. Though organization wide interventions invariably come at a high cost to the clients in term of taking up the precious time of the employees and other company resources due to the wide coverage of the interventions, still we recommend organization wide interventions to be adopted along with the significant change: downsizing. There are two major reasons: firstly, there could be a number of risk factors when the downsizing is not well planned and implemented with an organization wide intervention to ensure that client company would accept the downsizing and smooth the difficulties, such risk factors include the undesired results as listed below in point form (Kettley 1995);

 

  1. 1.        failure to convince the workforce that job reductions were necessary
  2. 2.        apparent lack of clarity or unfairness in deciding on individual redundancies
  3. 3.        lack of care over redundant staff
  4. 4.        lack of alternative career development options if promotion becomes unlikely
  5. 5.        changes which leave survivors unclear of what is expected of them, or how they will acquire the new skills they may need
  6. 6.        managers who are unwilling or unable to provide adequate time and support to individuals

 

 

Secondly, beside the various risk factors that may appear if the downsizing does not come along with well plan organization wide interventions while its impacts are organization wide, there could be relatively low cost ways to implement such interventions without discounting the effects and usefulness of the interventions. These relatively low cost ways of organization wide interventions include electronic questionnaires, paperless attitude surveys, random interviews, corporate group SMS notice and feedback collection via email.

 

3.1    Appropriate communication methods

 

In term of how the final decision of the downsizing should be communicated to the individuals or certain groups, there are usually several options: notice to individual by face to face interview, notice to individual by letter, send by email and public announcement. As in the case of HSBC, double notice by both letter and public announcement (only the number would be announced without naming the particular individuals) would be the most appropriate form of informing the downsizing decision to the involved parties and individual affected staffs. There are two key reasons for such choice:

 

Firstly, Normal paper based letter to individuals which could be similar to the every month salary bank transfer notice will represent a formal notice made by the company and at the same time keep some privacy for the staffs to be laid off. The letter could be delivered by the direct managers of the affected staffs though one on one interview. Face to face interview will well communicate the management’s decision and make sure that the affected employees understand the needs for the redundancy; Secondly, public announcement that specifies the number of the affected employees and the period during which the letter of notice would be sent out will be helpful for the reference of all the employees to understand the whole redundancy process.

 

3.2    Organization wide interventions: Restructuring by downsizing

 

Downsizing in the area of organization development and change refers to interventions targeted at reducing the size of the organization which is typically accomplished by decreasing the number of the employees through layoffs. Successful downsizing interventions usually have the following process made up of several steps in the application stages: 1. Clarify the organization’s strategy; 2. Assess downsizing options and make relevant choices; 3. Implement the change; 4. Address the needs of survivors and those who leave; 5. Follow through with growth plan (Cummings & Worley 2009, p.331). Based on the situation of HSBC, we recommend the following intervention process in the five said steps:

 

3.2.1            Clarify the organization’s strategy

 

At the very beginning, it is critical for us the relate our strategic considerations with the downsizing decision which rationalizes the downsizing and only when the decision is supported by the company’s strategic needs it would be understood by the investors, management and even the employees (inclusive of those who will be fired). Three strategic considerations are involved in the decision making to reduce the size of the employees which totals approximately 10 percent of the current total global workforce. The first strategic consideration is the above mentioned shift of business focus from the developed countries to the fast growing emerging economies such as china, India and Mexico; the second strategic consideration is the increase the employee performance by promoting efficiency in the workplace. With the technological development and increased knowledge mastered by the individual employees, the bank is anticipating that the employees could be more capable and efficient; the third strategic consideration along with the desire to enhance the operation efficiency would be the cost reduction and control which has close relationship with the bank’s competitiveness in the industry. The bank should communicate theses three strategic considerations to the stakeholders particularly the employees before the announcement of the final decision;

 

3.2.2            Assess downsizing options and make relevant choices

 

There are three downsizing methods which include workforce reduction, organization redesign, and systemic change strategies (Cameron, 1994) and could be used individually or by combination as the downsizing strategy. In the case of HSBC, both workforce reduction and organization redesign should be used to downsize the bank. Some specifications of the two options are discussed as following. In term of workforce reduction, it should be targeting at the specific markets according to the strategies made. It could take the forms of attritions, early retirement incentives and direct layoffs. In term of the adoption of the organization redesign, the major direction would be to restructure the group so that it could gear up for the fast growth in the emerging markets where the banks has been focusing on.

 

3.2.3            Implement the change

 

In term of the implementation of the selected downsizing options, several strategies should be used to ensure the changes are implemented properly. Firstly, when the decisions are announced by the management and letters are sent to the individual staffs, strong control policy should be implemented top down and media control could also used to reduce the rumors; secondly, the rule of fairness and strategy orientation should be followed within the implementation stage and different activities should be held in accordance with the design of the future big picture of the bank; thirdly, the process and results of the downsizing should be communicated timely using a variety of ways to the stakeholders and the external media to keep them informed about what are going on within the company and what the company desires to achieve by taking certain strategic changes.

 

In a more detailed plan, the company needs to set a time limit for the implementation of the downsizing, for example, the notice letter as said above should be delivered to the individual staffs within two working days with the public announcement made in an earlier time. By allowing a very short period of time, the company should be able to perform the change without causing too much panic emotions in the employees and meeting too much resistance that could be strengthened as time passes.

 

3.2.4            Address the needs of survivors and those who leave

 

To the survivors who stay and survive the redundancy, they could need clear instruction and physiological care from the management of the company, usually the existing or new direct supervisors. The survivors would need management’s clear instruction on the responsibilities that they should be assigned. Within the reduced labor force, it is logical that every individual staff would shoulder extra job and responsibilities along with the redundancy of the affected staffs. The management should decide assignment of the additional jobs and responsibilities to the remaining staffs, again fairness should be followed. On the other hand, the survivors would need management’s physiological care because of increased work overload and some sad and other negative emotions when good friends could have been fired. Such considerate care should be maintained along with the rebuilding of the company internal social network.

To those who leave the company due to the decision of the company, it is also important to meet their needs to help them continue the career life even they are forced to leave the company. Such assistance could include training, recommendation to help them get the new jobs and financial subsidiary if it is strongly needed. To smooth the departure of the fired employees, the company would have less criticism and remains a company with good business ethics performance and corporate social responsibility and also those who leave the company would not create bad comments to the company as a bad employer.

 

3.2.5            Follow through with growth plan

 

Within the last stage of the downsizing plan, the company should quickly carry out an organization renewal and growth process. Slow and passive actions in this stage could lead to ineffective downsizing efforts. The resumption of the growth plan would appease the downsizing and create hope and incentive for the remained staffs.

 

4.        Political considerations

 

As decisions about the current and future shape of the company and the role of the different people in different positions, many interest groups would seek to increase their political involvement and influence within the company political environment (Carroll & Buchholtz 2009, p.484). Below we will discuss some political issues involving the specific interest groups (stakeholders).

 

4.1    Stakeholders involved

 

To begin, we need to identify all stakeholders connected with the program. In implementation of the change program, a stakeholder is someone who can block the implementation of program of change or who will be significantly affected by the recommendations; stakeholders could both be individuals or groups of individuals (Justice & Jamieson 2006, p.53). Below we will perform a stakeholder analysis to list out the key stakeholders that are involved in the implementation of the change program with whom some political issues could happen. The key stakeholders include: Shareholders, Management team, Employees and The change agent. These parties are key stakeholders because of their important contributions to or being greatly affected by the downsizing decision making and following up implementation of the changes.

4.2    Some political issues

 

4.2.1            Coalitions of individuals and interest groups

 

Coalitions of various individuals and interest groups could be formed before and during the downsizing. Group divided by different races and geographic location, religions or other classification dimensions could have different objectives and resources and they usually tend to protect those in the same group sharing the group interest and over. The internal political coalitions during the downsizing period could be detrimental to the company’s successful downsizing efforts for the following reasons: firstly, it could be unfair to those who are not in a group or coalition or their coalitions are not big and powerful enough which results in disadvantageous position compared to the members of the collations; secondly, conflicts between the coalitions or between the coalitions and the company could lead to large scale and serious political issues such as demonstrations and strikes which sacks the interest of the company eventually; thirdly, the formation of the coalitions create uncertainties and risk factors to the implementation of the downsizing strategies as they could become resistance to the changes.

 

 

 

 

4.2.2            Insufficient power base possessed by the external change agent

 

 Figure 2

Table 2 Types of power

Source: Gibson, Ivancevich & Donnelly, 2008

 

Though rarely discussed openly, political issues are in many cases the root reasons why people will resist the changes or changes will not be strictly implemented. It is natural and politically correct that people strive for power which is an influential driver of people’s behavior yet everyone appears to be putting the organization group interests more important than their individual power needs. Everyone needs to have sufficient power to ensure their work and decision is respected by others. It could be a political issue if the external change agent does not have sufficient power to support his or her change actions.

 

First let’s look at different types of power that one could obtain in a working environment. Usually there are eight different types of power that have been identified which could be divided into two major categories (refer to table above). The first category is international power which includes legitimate, reward, coercive, expert and referent power and is closely connected to or inherent in the individuals. And another category which is the positional or situational power includes resource power, decision-making power and information power.

 

As a change agent, legitimate power, coercive power, reward power could be sufficient, but still some other power could be missed such as referent power, resource power and information power. For example, in term of information power there could be limitations on the external change agent’s access to the specific knowledge of the bank and also the decision making power could be reduced by the management’s disagreements. What’s more when conflicts happen, the change agent alone without a support team could become helpless while waiting for the decisions from the top management.

 

4.3    Strategies to maximize the effectiveness of the change program

 

4.3.1            Enhance the communication between the change agent and the employees

 

As said above, the change agent to facilitate the downsizing strategy while authorized with position power could lack interpersonal power as an external consultant. To reduce the detrimental effects of this disadvantage and overcome the resistance from the employees, HSBC should enhance the communication between the change agent and the employees. Such communication activities could be in formal or informal situations. Also the company should introduce the role and responsibility to the company in an appropriate time and also makes the profile of the change consultant available for the internal access.

 

4.3.2            Provide psychology consultancy internally

 

Because people could resist the change simply because they are fear of the uncertainties rather the definite bad consequences, it is critical to provide internal psychology consultancy to the employees who become too anxious and worrying the company’s strategy of redundancy. To achieve this, special psychologists (could be short term based) could be hired to extend the specialized knowledge to those who need them most. What’s more, internally the company should also encourage people who suffer from such fear of change to turn to the appropriate parties (including the psychology consultants) for further assistance.

 

4.3.3            Focus on stabilizing or institutionalizing the changes

 

The final stage of the change process which is “refreezing” in Lewin’s three phases planned organizational change, involves stabilizing or institutionalizing these changes by establishing systems and creating conditions for the long term continuity (Schermerhorn 2009). Strategies such as the mentioned implementation of the renewal and growth process, frequent reminding of the new company culture (such as the new focus of efficiency in work place) should be maintained to help freeze the changes in a long term perspective. What is more, further monitoring effort should be invested to check the effectiveness of the new changes and report should be submitted to the higher management to keep the management updated about the current and future trends of the changes.

Reference

 

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Burkardt, N. 2006, Critical Analysis and Evaluation of Strategies Adopted by World Class Financial Institutions. Norderstedt Germany: GRIN Verlag. p.21

 

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Carroll, A. B. & Buchholtz, A. K. 2009, Business and Society: Ethics and Stakeholder Management. Mason: South-Western Cengage Learning. p.484

 

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Lussier, R. N. 2009, Management Fundamentals: Concepts, Applications, Skill Development. 4th edition, Mason: South-Western Cengage Learning. p.205

 

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Sengupta, N. & Bhattacharya, M. S. 2006, Managing Change In Organizations. Eastern Economy Edition, New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited. p.3

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