Training in a Volatile Environment

April, 2015

Change is pervasive and constant in today’s business environment (Gómez-Mejía, Balkin, & Cardy, 2012). The acceleration and intensification of change forces has led observers to offer labels that aid in understanding change. Daft (2013) posited that change occurs in four realms: technology, product/service, strategy/structure, and culture. Scholars have also sought to categorize change by its duration and severity. This has led to distinctions between routine and non-routine change (Mason & Simmering, 2006) and references to episodic, continuous, and disruptive change (Daft, 2013). Additionally, consultants Sanaghan and Jurow (2011) have proposed that some problems, though challenging, can be solved by technical solutions, while others constitute adaptive dilemmas that call for radical innovation. Finally, Mason and Simmering (2006) described four types of change: structural, cost, process, and cultural. Regardless of the taxonomies that may be applied, change is a reality for today’s manager, both as a feature of the environment and as a conscious organizational adaptation to opportunities and threats.

Presumably, large organizations differ from small ones in their experience of change. By virtue of their size and complexity, large organizations can tend to be unresponsive to evolving environmental conditions. They must fight this tendency, and as Daft (2013) has stated, “find ways to act like small, flexible organizations” (p. 430). According to Rogers (2013), nearly two-thirds of companies represented in a 2009 survey attested to “experiencing multiple major changes to their organisation at any one time” (p. 4). Large organizations typically have multiple product lines, divisions, and/or geographic loci. All of these factors add complexity and introduce occasions for organizational change. In a small organization, a limited range of actors might implement change in a fairly straightforward manner. This is not feasible, however, for a large, complex entity, even if it does not have a profit motive. According to Lawler and Sillitoe (2010), “Change management in a large, bureaucratic organisation like a university with its multiplicity of committees and fiefdom-like faculties and schools will be implemented by academic and general staff managers, not just by the executive group” (p. 45).

Since at least the 1940s, when Kurt Lewin published a seminal article in Human Relations, business theorists and practitioners have wrestled with the notion of managing change. The dimensions of this debate are mostly outside of the scope of this paper. For the purpose of this analysis, it suffices to note that (a) change naturally induces resistance among managers and staff; (b) resistance can take any of several forms (anger, confusion, cognitive dissonance, etc.); (c) managing change is intimately connected with organizational learning; (d) and training and development are among the resources available to those who seek to manage change processes (Mason & Simmering, 2006; Lawler & Sillitoe, 2010).

When identifying training requirements in a volatile environment, managers must always remember to link training to the organization’s strategy and goals (Gómez-Mejía et al., 2012). Furthermore, training should emphasize how changes address customer needs and desires, as this may reduce employee resistance (Daft, 2013). According to Rogers (2013), professionals who specialize in learning and development can play an important role in coordinating a firm’s training effort, particularly if they obtain access to business plans. A proactive training manager can assess the organization’s readiness for change; examine desired project outcomes and identify learning needed to support them; and address learning needs pertaining to both attitude and behavior.

Some training interventions fall in the realm of hard skills. Obviously, the introduction of a new system, work process, or target market will entail the transfer of appropriate technical knowledge and skill. In addition, a company that aims to respond more nimbly to changing market conditions may implement a program of cross-functional training (Gómez-Mejía et al., 2012). However, developing an organization that is capable of continuous adaptation often requires the cultivation of soft skills. Therefore, a training manager seeks “to effectively support managers and employees in key areas such as communication, strategic thinking, change resilience, project management and coaching” (Rogers, 2013, p. 5).

It is important to recognize that training does not stand in isolation from other efforts to prepare the organization to respond to current and future conditions (Daft, 2013). Two-way communication between managers and employees is critical to effective change management. Furthermore, the organization may need to be restructured so as to free its workers to practice creativity and innovation without unnecessary hindrances. Nevertheless, when there is an evident need to adapt, training can “help people understand and cope with their role in the change process” (Daft, 2013, p. 459).

It is fitting for a Christian manager to ask if the Bible sheds any light on the question of how a large organization can train its constituents to meeting emerging needs. Austin and Smith (2005) analyzed the Jerusalem church’s response to the needs of widows in its congregation, as narrated in the early chapters of Acts, showing that the church demonstrated a market orientation in this instance. It is equally plausible to postulate that the leadership of the church, recognizing the validity of the widows’ claims, instituted organizational change. While training is not overtly mentioned as an element of this process, communication and restructuring certainly are (Acts 6:1-6). It is not unreasonable to suggest that training—if only in rudimentary form—may have occurred. Simple evidence is available, then, to conclude that the Christian manager should respond to needs for organizational change, whether through training or other appropriate means.


Austin, J. R., & Smith, C. (2005). Toward a biblical market orientation: Initiating a scriptural analysis of a business philosophy. The Journal of Biblical Integration in Business, 35–56. Retrieved from

Daft, R. L. (2013). Understanding the theory & design of organizations (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Gómez-Mejía, L. R., Balkin, D. B., & Cardy, R. L. (2012). Managing human resources (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Lawler, A., & Sillitoe, J. (2010). Perspectives on instituting change management in large organisations. Australian Universities’ Review, 52(2), 43–48. Retrieved from

Mason, W. H., & Simmering, M. J. (2006). Managing change. In M. M. Helms (Ed.), Encyclopedia of management (5th ed., pp. 519–522). Detroit: Cengage Learning. Retrieved from|CX3446300177&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&authCount=1

Rogers, S. S. (2013). Change management: Your roadmap to training success. Training & Development, 40(3), 4–6. Retrieved from

Sanaghan, P., & Jurow, S. (2011). Who will step into your shoes? Business Officer, 44(10), 16–24. Retrieved from

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