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Prof Talks Business, Change

Sara Rynes-Weller, professor of management and organizations at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, spoke about organizational change Sunday at UI’s 30th Annual Presidential Lecture.

“The concept of organizational change and change in general is something everyone is going through,” she said. “Everyone has strong emotions about some particular kind of change.”

In many cases, she said, dealing with change from a business perspective is especially critical given the scope of employees and services in an organization. She called attention to the status of the U.S. Postal Service, which recently laid off employees and reduced the availability of delivery services on account of “disruptive innovation”—gradual developments such as email and digital retail that grew in popularity over the decade as postal officials paid little heed.

“Businesses were snoozing; the postal service was snoozing,” she said. “No one thought that instant messaging or texting would be making a lot of money right away; it wasn’t a threat to the postal service.”

Strong management—specifically keeping employees calm during a financial or public-opinion crisis—can help lead companies out of situations brought on by not paying attention to marketwide change, she added.

She highlighted Lou Gerstner’s actions moving IBM away from bankruptcy in the early 1990s by hiring a new financial manager and speaking directly with employees regarding their concerns over the company’s falling status.

“He had to talk to a lot of people about IBM’s future,” she said.

UI freshman Joe Henderson, who plans to study finance, said he was glad to hear Rynes-Weller discuss how managers can lead while still being personable.

“She debunked the myth of the manager stereotype that says managers have to be cold, impersonal bosses,” Henderson said. “Effective managers can work well with everyone around them.”

Terry Boles, UI management and organization professor, offered a similar outlook on Rynes-Weller’s delivery.

“What touched me was her compassionate way of approaching business,” she said. “She had a very forward look at the human aspect of business. Obviously, businesses need to make money but can still be compassionate for their employees and clients.”

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