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In spite of all the content of any change initiative, it is eventually the process through which the organization must go from one state to another that brings the most problems. Senior, B and Flemming, J. (2006). There were many factors that affected the implementation of the change process at COL. Some of the key challenges are highlighted and discussed below:
Exiting Comfort zones
Employees during the past were so used to meeting the existing targets with minimum year on year increases that were set before, that this led to a comfortable state where all efforts relied on meeting these minimum stretches. A spectacular shift in relation to the change initiative would mean that employees would have to leave their comfort zones and work tireless to achieve additionally. Also the state of mind of these employees would now have to be changed to achieve more with less. The fact that no additional resources were provided to drive the change meant that employees had to use on hand resources and drive themselves out from their daily practice and 'go that extra mile' to make the change initiative victorious. Therefore the uncertainty of whether one's skills would be enough to guarantee success during and after change is a contributing factor for resistance. This mostly seen in the companies front line sales staff and the executives.
Fear of the unknown
Employees at COL saw their job as an important source of stability in their lives, relying on their regular paycheck to support their financial needs. Fears such as loss of jobs and extra demands on their work, prevent them from embracing the change wholeheartedly.
Lack of awareness
Lack of awareness of the staff members at different levels for the primary business need for COL to change is a big challenge and an important area that management should have considered to communicate by clearly highlighting the key objectives.
However we see that those who were communicated to about the core reason for the change and the resulting benefits that would ensue once the change has been implemented and the goals met, showed more support to the initiative and participated in the various changes that occurred in the company during the period. It is however likely that a majority of those who supported that change were the top management who were directly involved in the initiative, while people at lower levels who were more alien of the need for the change were more resistant.
This is a highly personal factor and usually analyzed on an individual basis. An employee's predilection which is also known as tendancy are closely based on factors related to their life experiences that have helped to shape him or her.
Lack of trust
A contributing factor of staff resistance to change can be related to corporate culture of COL. Managers and employees who previously had misunderstandings and trust issues create an atmosphere of misunderstanding. Also it would be difficult for those who did not trust their employees to create a climate of mistrust. Therefore, employees, who did not trust the leadership at the organization, were skeptical of any proposed changes to the organization.
Loss of control
This would need to be addressed as it affects strategy development. This issue of changing managing views and objectives could primarily result from the management team trying to work towards combating the dynamic market conditions that are ever so prevalent in the industry. Thus in so trying to battle with the competitor's strategies and pricing this effects the employees who would be faced with many differing instructions and ultimately lead to confusion and delays in the change implementation or even worse objecting the change process.
Fear of failure and Low tolerance for change
It is said that fear is the biggest object for success; success is just a game when fear is overcome, In such situations Employees fear that they would not achieve the same level of success by having more demands on their work as before. Fear of failing is another harmful factor towards resistance to change. Open and two-way communication and understanding is the first step of overcoming fear. Making employees feel comfortable to express honest opinions and doubts would have created a more motivating platform for COL employees to have better insights to implement and sustain the change process.
5.1 BARRIERS OF THE CHANGE PROCESS
There are many different types of resistance companies could come across and plot through rough territory within the change process. Different types of causes for resistance to change are recognized below.
A successful change initiative requires strong leadership who works tirelessly towards the goal. Also guaranteeing that all employees of the organization are attentive of the impact change has on the organization and on them. Understanding this is the first step in order to understanding the requirement to change as well as any harmful situation and barriers that will arise.
In the article by Kee, J and Newcomer, K, mentions that nearly 66% and 75% of change efforts are unsuccessful in the public and private sectors where a change initiative was taken. The article further mentions that change efforts on average fail as a result of the shortcomings in change leadership, such as:
Insufficient advocacy for the change or failure to understand responsibilities in the change initiative
Insufficient attention to the complexity of the change itself and the potential risks introduced by the change initiative
Inadequate engagement of critical stakeholders affected by the change initiative
Inadequate understanding of the organizational culture in the leaders' own organization as well as in the organizations networked in the change effort
Inadequate understanding of the organizational capacity needed to implement and sustain the change.
There were also other barriers to COL's change process that prevented it's absolute success. They were in terms of implementation and sustaining
The key barriers are as follows:
Before the change was implemented, the employees who where going to be directly affected by the change process, had diverse feelings. While some of them were nervous and hesitant about the growth plans, many saw the opportunities that could be gained for themselves and feverd the change initiative.
All plans for the launch of the new business model resulting from the change initiative had been made. However the company faced a warehousing issue where it had failed to identify suitable location to store the additional units of oxygen containers for the increased drive for it's sales drive. The company did not have adequate storage space to keep the units. The issue of storage caused many difficulties as a low cost storage facility out of Colombo was subsequently used. This further caused logistic issues as the units then had to be transported to different distributor points at the time the distributors required them.
Forecasting - fear of the known
COL's demand planners were afraid to forecast the sales volumes for the expansion mainly due to two reasons. Firstly they were unsure of the basis from which to forecast from, such as whether to forecast it from previous sales figures and add up to the expected growth. Secondly, the widespread new products which added in with the change made it difficult for the team to accurately predict sales volumes and set sales targets.
Logistical issues -
There were issues in terms of synchronizing demand and supply of products to the relevant merchants and hospitals island wide. Any delivery matters ?????
Although COL initially planned and stocked for the demand well, however when it came to refilling, there were barriers because of the speed of turn around was not fine tuned to the expected level. Therefore COL faced an embarrassing situation where they over promised and under delivered. This not only led to customer disappointments but also the newly acquired business partners, the dealers, also faced with the same situation were uneasy in dealing with COL and so made heavy demands such upfront cash payments etc.
Since the launch of COL, the company had focused its primary communication in the English language within the management and singhala in the laborer divisions. This too was seen in the employee hiring process as English was important for any employee who was handling customers such as hospitals and hotels, and Singhala for retail outlets such as fisherman and party stores. However, with the change process, and to take advantage of selling to the masses, the company faced much obstacles in communicating with a larger base of customers spanning the rural areas on the north and east of the country as well as they spoke in the Tamil languages. Thus the existing staff found it extremely difficult in communicating with and building relationships with these customers.
There were huge communication barriers within the company. Communication is vital in any change process where a clear flow of communication throughout the change process enabling all relevant parties to be aware of the change, such as:
Prelaunch meeting and briefings were held and communicated to the relevant staff. However the restructuring was not synchronized accordingly where wrong people were briefed.
Inadequate internal communication to highlight the change process and each persons contribution to facilitate the change
Poor feedback mechanisms to gauge the enthusiasm levels of the employees and address confusions, grievances etc.
Lack of internal motivational drive to facilitate and embrace the change initiative
Lack of measurement metrics to point out shortfalls and identify opportunities to drive the change
The top management forced career opportunity and other possible benefits that could come about from the proposed change. However this also drives the need to gain and promote one's self desires to gain the maximum from the change initiative. The issues to be addressed here would be to guarantee that whilst the motivation levels are addresse that this does not affect COL's overall goal achievement.
Recognition and motivation
In order to drive the change process and gain commitment from the employees it is necessary to recognize and reward accomplishments and achievements. Change often being a unwieldy process requires extra motivation and praise by top management to show appreciation for the efforts done and keep them going till the end without giving up.
Lack of adequate measurement metrics
To sustain the change environment and ensure that set plans were being achieved according to set deadlines it is important to measure the progress and review the learning. It is observed that COL went for more quantitative evaluations than qualitative and paid less attention to customer service, instead focusing on sales volume and revenue growth. Due to this high amounts of complaints were received as customer service was neglected.
5.2 OVERCOMING THE BARRIERS OF THE CHANGE PROCESS
In order for COL to overcome these barriers of the change process it would require the right strategy, and this should be communicated rapidly and effectively right through the organization. According to Kotter, J and Schlesinger L. recommend using different tools for dealing with resistances and barriers.
Education and communication
The most common ways to overcome resistance to change is through sufficient education ahead of time. Thus the communication of ideas helps the employees of COL see the need and logic for change and take the correct action to facilitate the change.
Participation and involvement
Involvement of the initiators and potential resisters in some aspect of the design and implementation of the change can often prevent resistance. Through a participative change effort, the initiators listen to the people the change involves and use their advice. This would especially be important for COL when deciding on multiple strategies to combat the marketplace.
Manipulation and co-optation
In some situations, managers also resort to covert attempts to influence others. Manipulation, in this context, normally involves the very selective use of information and the aware of structuring of events. Here COL can selectively choose to divulge information to different departments maintaining discretion where necessary. Also by redefining employees job description to meet the change would help influence the employees work towards achieving the change as well as enabling the company to achieve the change objectives.
Facilitation and support
Being supportive is another way that managers can deal wit potential resistance to change. Listening to the employees and providing emotional support, Giving Employees time after a demanding period or providing training in new skills might be included in this process.
Negotiation and agreement
As for negotiation and agreement the management can give employees a higher wage rate in return for there speedy, cooperative and smooth implementation of the change, such as the rewarding for team and individual efforts of set goals set in the change process.