Business Studies Paper on Diagnostic Approach to Change Implementation

Introduction

Change management in the organizational setting can be a challenge if not properly planned and implemented thoughtfully. In any change process, some degree of resistance is inevitable, and the capacity of the change managers to enlighten the participants about the need for change and the process itself determines how the change prospects will be received by the would- be participants. Understanding the organizational context, challenges, problems and competencies is the starting point of effective change management. A design thinking approach to innovation is required as a prerequisite for effective change management as recommended by Arnold and Wade (2015). In this approach, all the characteristics of the organizational system in terms of competencies, challenges, problems and potential solutions are reviewed. The objectives of such a process would be to attain a holistically managed change process, with limited resistance if any. Considering the attributes of the systems approach to change management, it yields similarities with a diagnostic approach to research, aimed at identifying the nodes in the change process.

Organizational diagnosis enables the change manager to be driven by sufficient information. Through the process, aspects such as organizational challenges, problems, core competencies and resources can be understood, to foster effective planning of the change process. The process can be conducted through a variety of qualitative research approaches targeting the change participants including observations, surveys and interviews. In the particular paper, a series of interviews conducted with the change participants. The objective was to get the right data set for change initiation and management. The ensuing paper is a description of the diagnostic methodology (data collection approach used), together with the findings from the research and a conclusion on the efficiency of the research method in understanding the change process.

Research Methodology

The objectives of the research were to use a diagnostic process for examining organizational change characteristics and responses that people got from them. To achieve this objective, I used an interview methodology as an empathetic approach to change management based on the design thinking approach. In design thinking, an empathy phase is conducted to determine the perceptions of the organizational members about a perceived problem (Dam and Siang 2018; Opdennaker 2006). The idea is to get information about what the problem is from the participants themselves rather than making assumptions. I then planned the interview process as per the recommendations made by Creswell (2013). The interview technique is considered an effective approach for getting qualitative information from respondents since the researcher can effectively ask for clarifications where there is need.

In preparation for the interviews, I created a template for the structured interview approach. The template contained the interview questions, which were aimed at finding out the types of organizational changes experienced, staff reactions to the changes and the lessons learnt from them. The choice of participants for the interviews was based on a convenience sampling approach in which a specific target group is chosen. 3 participants were selected for the interview process, two of whom were in positions of management. The objective was to get an objective view from the perspective of change initiators as well as from the perspective of change respondents. Martinez-Mesa, Gonzalez- Chica, Duquia, Bonamigo and Bastos (2016) reported that purposive sampling is effective where the objective is to obtain information that is specific to a certain population. In such a case, random sampling would be ineffective since some of the selected individuals would not match the research objectives (Sargeant 2012). Ethical considerations were also made during the interview process as recommended by Resnik (2016). To ensure that all interviews were conducted within ethical practice, the participants were informed in advance of their potential participation, the objectives of the study and their role in accomplishing the research objectives.

Findings from the Interviews

I interviewed three people for the information on organizational change management. The first respondent was a retired telephone sales consultant from Qantas. The respondent reported on a change that occurred in his company organizational structure, whereby three center managers were removed and replaced with one center manager to be in charge of all the three centers. The management team roles changed significantly from sales focused operations to customer and service focused operations. The change was implemented incrementally without direct communications to the team members and to other employees. Most of the communications done were through e-mail and were only aimed at giving general information. Some of the employees were informed informally in small groups by non- Qantas representatives. Most of the information was received by word of mouth resulting in a lot of cynicism from the other employees. As a result of the changes, there were a lot of negative outcomes. The managers of each of the call centers struggled to ensure that their own call center would remain. Other issues that came up included lack of support, increased waiting time for customer calls to be answered, more complaints from customers, complaints from employees about too much happening at once, information about flight delays was not available in time to the call center hence resulting in more customer complaints and a lot of uncertainties among employees who felt betrayed by the changes.

The second interviewee had also worked at the Qantas call center. The main changes he communicated about were the system changes that came after the organizational structure changes described by the first respondent. The change was based on a mission to reorganize the roles of the call center employees to improve service delivery, to provide additional services from booking to general support, and in response to financial performance issues that came up after organizational changes. Like in the first interview, the changes were not communicated formally, instead only the members whose operations had been changed were informed. There was neither support nor training for the use of the new systems except from peers. Most of the older employees found it difficult to use the systems as they were not very conversant with computer usage. This resulted in a perception of lack of professionalism on their part. The bureaucratic processes resulted in prolonged implementation hence showing an obsolete culture and tradition.

The third person who also worked at Qantas as a telephone consultant reported cyclic changes in work processes from customer oriented to sales oriented and back to customer oriented approaches. The changes were driven by the desire to improve customer experience and thus to foster profitability. According to the respondent, the changes were communicated officially through small employee groups. The communications were however not done early prior to the implementation process. On the contrary, it seems like the communications were done hand in hand with the change implementation process. This was however not considered to be a problem given the magnitude of changes experienced. In this, there was limited involvement of organizational members. The respondent also reported on the other two changes mentioned above. The first was on software changes for the organization, whereby the involved parties were trained and got sufficient support from the team leaders. In the third change however, the respondent reported that the change to let only one of the call centers stay was not communicated officially. Rather, he heard about it in the news on his way to work and reached to find only his call center open. The ensuing disorganizations and challenges were expected.

Discussion on the Interview Findings

The findings show common themes in regards to organizational change management. The first issue is the subject of communication. Organizational change requires an understanding on the need for change first prior to initiation of the process (Agarwal and Helfat 2009). The Design thinking approach to innovation and change management focuses on the empathy stage as the premise of organizational change. The approach is based on the argument that those targeted by the solution have a better understanding of what the problem is. For instance, in the case of Qantas, the change should have been initiated after consulting the call center departments, to understand the operational challenges that they met. This would also help through the ideation phase of the design thinking process, where they would recommend the practices they though could help improve profitability while also maintaining or improving customer service quality. According to Zafar and Naveed (2018), understanding the role of different players in an organizational change process can also help to attain greater good.

Another theme that came up in the interviews is that of change communication. After understanding the need for change, communicating this need and the proposed solutions to the involved parties is one of the strategies for effective change management (Choi 2011). Without understanding the need for change or the implementation process, resistance to change should be considered inevitable and suitable approaches to managing resistance applied. Pieterse, Caniels and Homan (2012) reported that effective organizational change management begins with common identification with the organizational objectives. Getting employees to support a change they do not believe they need can be a source of strife in organizational management. Change processes should be communicated early and efficiently to enable the potential participants to understand the change process and thus move with it. On communicating change, various impacts of communication on organizational change management were discussed including perception of leadership, motivation, social contact and identification of improvement barriers.

The first two interviews provided perfect examples of how resistance to organizational change can arise inadvertently. For instance, in the first case, the need for change, lack of change support and lack of communications were identified as some of the barriers to organizational change implementation as mentioned by Brown (2012). These findings correspond to the findings from various studies conducted on organizational change processes. Christensen (2014) reported that effective organizational change management should be planned and geared towards attaining a certain outcome. Without effective communication or support, resistance may be perceived even if it does not exist (By 2005). From the third respondent’s interview, it can be observed that some of the older individuals who could not cope with software changes were not trained hence lacked the efficiency to use the system. While in the case of Qantas this group did not resort to resisting the change, such instances can result in a lot of resistance from the system users. Rick (2011), Jones and Van de Ven (2016) described some of the reasons why resistance to organizational change occurs. Such reasons include lack of awareness of the need for change, poor communication, lack of consultation, change of routines, low trust, and lack of competence and fear of the unknown among others. These factors are clearly observable in the case of Qantas and had they been addressed prior to the change implementation process, may be the employees would have grown better in terms of efficiency and use of new business practices.

While addressing organizational change, it is recommended that individuals taking charge of the change process should implement practices based on proven change management approaches. Kurt Lewin’s change theory states that change takes place in three distinct phases which include de-freezing, change process and re-freezing (Stragalas 2010). The de-freezing phase helps the change recipients to unlearn what they had known before and realize the need for a new process. The change process entails accepting the proposed change and participating in its implementation while the re-freezing phase entails restructuring the organization to work within the limits of proposed and implemented changes (By 2005). Being able to follow this framework appropriately can result in greater performance in terms of change management.

Conclusion

Managing organizational changes can be a significant challenge in any context. The change implementation process itself is characterized by uncertainties and challenges that can only be addressed through understanding the needs of others and working towards aligning their goals with the overall business objectives. The purpose of the present paper can thus be said to have been achieved based on the findings from the interviewees. Most of the change processes occur successfully if implemented stage wise, under full communication and with horizontal and vertical support at the organizational level.

 

 

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