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Changes Management Approach for Project Management

Info: 3896 words (16 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Project Management

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Introduction

In this assignment I will discuss and analysis a project, that took place in my organisation over the last few years, from a change management perspective. Change management can be defined as a structured approach to transitioning organisations, teams and individuals from a current state to a desired future state.  

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 I will analyse the change management approach and processes that were used during the duration of this project, paying particular attention to the triggers of change, communication methods used for the change and how the organisation managed any resistance from stakeholders.

The change I am going to explore will ultimately be a large internal strategic/cultural change but one that was triggered by an external pressure to the organisation. I will be focusing primarily on only one particular change of the many changes that happened as part of the project because it was that one that had the biggest impact on my work life.

 

Background

The organisation I work for are a semi state body that operates the electricity grid in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the all-island wholesale Single Electricity Market. At the time of the commencement we had a year or so previous just acquired the Northern Ireland national grid operator. We are also responsible for ensuring every home and business has power available to them when they need, it so the business is operating on a 24/7 basis, 365 days of the year.

This innovative project commenced in response to binding national and European targets, the organisation began a multi-year programme, “Delivering a Secure, Sustainable Electricity System”.  Ireland’s EU target is for 16% of the country’s total energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. There are three main uses of energy: electricity, heating and transport. In order to achieve the 16% target for energy, the organisation were aiming for 40% of electricity to come from renewable sources on the island of Ireland by 2020.

The aim of the programme is to meet Ireland’s 2020 electricity targets by increasing the amount of renewable energy on the Irish power system in a safe and secure manner. This new policy directive was going to change how the whole organisation operated on a daily basis and would have a ripple effect throughout the entire organisation. 

With the organisation only recently acquiring the national grid operator in Northern Ireland they decided to restructure all departments within the two companies so teams and departments would now become cross jurisdictional. As Bernard Burnes observes, “The work of Rosabeth Moss Kanter indicates that organisations should pursue three main strategies: Restructing to find synergies, Opening boundaries to form strategic alliances and Creating new ventures from within” (Burnes, P92). The company were looking to improve efficiencies by creating new synergies between the companies. 

Change Triggers

Change triggers are “the forces of change that can be divided into internal and external forces. External forces include economic factors, and new market opportunity. By contrast, the internal forces inside an organisation can lead to a change” (Griffin, 2003).

The main trigger for the change programme, as mentioned in the background section, was due to introduction of new government policy. This change beyond the organisation’s control as  it was instructed by European policy and so had to be implemented otherwise sanctions could be put in place on not only the organisation but mainly on the country. Therefore this was an external force that could not be ignored.

As such, it is imperative that companies continually adapt to the external environment, working to make changes earlier on rather than having to take a reactive approach, which can lead to a vastly different outcome.

Once the organisation was introduced to these new directives, it took a period of reflection, due to the scale of the change to the organisation evaluating all the main drivers involved in the change. These were:

Positive drivers:

  • Technology – This was an opportunity to introduce new technologies within the organisation
  • Economy – As the organisation was a regulated entity it would now be given additional capital expenditure to explore innovate projects to introduce the change
  • Social – Make aware of the need for this change inside and outside of the industry

Negative forces:

  • Staff – Fearful of new processes and technologies being introduced
  • New Organisation structure – Cross jurisdictional departments and teams causing conflict and tension 
  • Disruption – Cost and time involved for the customers to implement parallel changes  

 The Kurt Lewin forcefield analysis model should have been undertaken at time to determine all these drivers and to determine the best way to bring about change within the organisation by being aware of its environment. “To bring about any change, the balance between the forces which maintain the social self-regulation at a given level has to be upset”(Lewin 1948, 47).

 When I analyse the triggers of change and how these were handled at this stage change management process, I believe the organisation was following good practice. It allowed these factors to be identified at an early stage, and by weighing up the all the factors the organisation were able to identify a timeline for the project and potential staff resources and costing required. 

   However, the negative forces I believe were not handled as prudently. “To be stable, a cultural change has to penetrate all aspects of a nation’s life. The change must, in short, be a change in the ‘cultural atmosphere,’ not merely a change of a single item” (Lewin, 1943b, 46). I will discuss these negative forces in more detail later on and how these impacts has had a more damaging affect to the culture of the organisation.

Communication

The communication of a change is one of the most important keys to success for change management. The 4th stage of his organisational transformation 8 step model is “communicating the vision” (John Kotter, 1996). Kotter suggests that the leadership within a organisation during the change should estimate how much the communication of the vision is needed and multiply it by ten.

The organisation decided the best way to deal with this was by implementing a new ‘external affairs’ department in the organisation. There had minimal Public relations done in the organisation previously and to illustrate this the team rose from one employee to approximately 20 employee’s within a couple of years and is still growing to this day. With this change the organisation was to create communicate the new vision. This vision was now ‘to be a world leader in smart grids’. Brian Niehoff and associates backed up the theory that by using various media this helped organisations to share their vision and this was a significant factor in developing organisational commitment to change ( Niehof, BEnz C & Grover 1990).

As the organisation now had enhanceds the mission statement as a result of the change in vision, it forced the organisation to have a complete review of the mission statement and align it back to the business to see what immediate changes could be made to start the process of change across the organisation.  One of the outcomes of this analysis was to align the roles and responsibilities of the staff in the two companies.

These 3 fundamentals of communication is the basis of how I believe the organisation needed to communicate the plan to achieve a smooth transition to the new business model:

  • Why – Show staff within the two organisations why this change was necessary to reach our new vision
  • What – What this meant for all staff in future and what was this going to look like.
  • How – Help people to understand how these changes will affect them personally.

Looking at the fundamentals I mentioned above I can see many reasons the change wasn’t communicated successfully. There was not an understanding from the staff of why this change of structure was justified, if they felt it was justified it would have been more probable that they wold have accepted it. Even though the organisation were able to communicate what we are striving to become, they were not able to show staff: “What’s in it for me?” “People need time to understand the changes and they also need to feel highly connected to the organization throughout the transition period.” (Patrick Delaney)

Various form of primary and secondary channels of communication were opened to communicate the change i.e. town hall meetings, power hours, e-bulletins and surveys. These diverse forms of communication would appeal to the diverse sets of staff working in the organisation with the aim to achieve the brief of the change.

Change Models

In retrospectively analysing the change the organisation made, I can see how McKinsey 7-s model applies considerably to this change.  The organisation needed to improve its operational policies to affect a major change within in the industry and the organisation. They determined to best way to achieve this initially was to align departments and teams across the two strategic companies it owned. 

The model can be broke down into The three ‘hard’ Ss (strategy, structure and systems) and 4 ‘soft’ Ss (staff, style, shared values and skills). I think this is significant in my case study as I believe where the issues arose in the change process was with the ‘soft’ Ss.  The company being predominately engineering based, is creative and problem solving in its nature so would ultimately find ways to succeed overall in the implementation of the strategy, structure and system from a management perspective.

The composition of the organisation changed and team managers were primarily situated in the Republic of Ireland. Also the style of the companies were different, one was very fast moving and technologically advanced, were the other was slower to change with older but ‘reliable’ systems. This created resentment directed not only at executive level but also between staff as the other jurisdiction felt the other one were the only people benefitting from the change. It also a highlighted some of the differences in values the companies had, and there would need be a lot of barriers broken down to have a full set of shared values between the companies. 

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How to manage resistance to change

Excessive uncertainty or simply not knowing what is happening will also cause people to resist change. How can an organisation expect staff to get behind a change initiative if they are unsure of the benefits or reasons a familiar procedure is to be changed?

In many innovative-driven organisations, managers and employees are being trained in the skills to oversee change (Tschirky, 2011).  The company determined the best way to achieve the change as we were now cross jurisdictional and couldn’t be in both places at the one time was to appoint a change agent.

A change agent, or agent of change, someone who promotes and enables change to happen within any group or organization – the idea is to identify and mobilise key and trusted staff within the organisation to help with the introduction of change. There main responsibilities in these roles are:

–        Minimise resistance to change

–        Achieve buy-in and commitment by staff

–        Demonstrate commitment to change

–        Improve understanding of the change and focus staff on a common vision for change

–        Support and communicate expected changes to co-workers and subordinates

–        Provide feedback to leadership on staff rumors and pressures

The organisation adopted a couple of change agent models:

  1. Management
  2. Team

As our team now had only one manager who would be based full time in one jurisdiction, he would be the agent for jurisdiction that the change was going to affect the most. And the most senior person in the other jurisdiction became the other change agent for the team. This was how the models were applied to our team but this didn’t happen consistently across the organisation.

Was this model successful…For our individual team it was, our manager was able to bridge the gap between the organisations levels and cascade information promptly to the staff required to ease any anxieties. He was also a senior trusted person within the organisation that was going to be affected most, so our team would have trusted the communication he was sending from executive levels. 

In addition, having a senior team member as a change agent also created a trust ally for the change, as the more experienced member of the team was able to identify the changes required within our teams without prejudice or fear of the change.  “An essential task of the change agent is to establish the level of readiness for change” (Burnes,

2014, 319). The change agent was also going to be able to hear rumours within the group and talk them down as needed. This change network provided a vehicle to ensure that all levels within the organization were appropriately informed and supported through the change.

While I can agree this this process worked well in our team however when I look across the organisation I cannot see the same cohesion. Why did they not achieve this throughout the organisation…there was a lack of senior representatives, be it at executive or management level, to address the staff issues and anxieties.  There was also the widespread opinion, that staff in one jurisdiction had more rewards within their remuneration package and that the new structure would not enhance or marginalise these gaps in conditions. But also there was  some staff with strong political views within the organisation which not matter how much ‘reward’ you use to try and entice these people, with they would never accept this culture change because of these views.

The work of John Kotter and Leonard Schlesinger, suggest the company used a number of correct approaches to ensure there was less resistance within the company to change. (Kotter et al. 1979). There was lots of education and good communication, participation and involvement in certain cases and additional support to assist staff in doing their jobs.

I believe they applied or didn’t apply some of approaches outlined in John Kotter and Leonard Schlesinger work above that were detrimental to the long term success of the change. There was no negotiation in terms of any reward packages and this made the majority of staff throughout the company feel like they were being coerced into the change rather it being in their best interested and remembering the companies new vision. (Kotter et al. 1979).

 

Conclusion

In analysing the overall change management process, I have to remember the initial change was instigated in response to a political and environmental need. It was a massive shift in the practices/culture that was in place before the change but when I analyse this from a strategic viewpoint I can only have one opinion of the change process and that is one of overwhelming success. The evidence being, we are now measuring renewable energy volumes of 60% of our total generation as a country on a regular basis, which is well above the targets that were set.

From a cultural perspective however the change wasn’t as successful, even though the new structure and systems are in place today and are a part of our everyday life in the business. The consequences of the implementation have damaged the morale and relationships across the jurisdictions that the culture and atmosphere is stark contrast to the one that existed and was held in such I regard by all staff before the change.

What have I learned… change is not always bad and is an unavoidable part of life in an organisation…however, the key is to follow a proven change management model to implement any change in an organisation…it doesn’t matter how big or small. We need to took take time to understand and analysis our drivers and triggers of change because if we underestimate or ignore these the organisations will never be able to fulfil its full potential.

Organisations and people who plan resistance to change are in the best position for a smooth and successful transition. I believe wholescale changes are more likely to fail when it is instigated too rapidly as staff need to be trained, new cultures engrained, and new processes and procedures planned and implemented. Roll out change slowly at first. New ways of working must continue successfully for some time before culture truly changes.

Bibliography

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  3. Griffin, E. (2003). A first look at communication theory (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Kotter and Schlesinger, 1979. The Six (6) Change Approaches of Kotter and Schlesinger is a model to prevent, decrease or minimize resistance to change in organizations.
  1. Lewin, K 1948. Resolving Social Conflicts, p.47
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        Stark, P. 8 Tips to Help Managers and Employees Deal With Organizational Change [Internet] Available from http://www.peterstark.com/managers-employees-organizational-change/

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