Strategic Change Management within the Public Sector of UAE
Change management is one aspect of leadership and organizational management that has received immense academic attention both in the past and in the contemporary world (Gibson et al 2000). The ability to manage organizational change effectively translates to increased organizational effectiveness and profitability. This concept also infiltrates the public sector in national leadership. Since change is inevitable, it is critical for both national and sectoral managements to find ways of managing change strategically (Jamal and Yousuf 2004). The ways that have been used traditionally include adapting organizational and/ or national structures to the changing social, political, economic, and technological environments. Strategic change management forms the foundation for effective management in all sectors, both in civil governance and in corporate management. However, the concept of strategic change management cannot be independent of strategic decision-making. Effective change management depends on the ability to make strategic decisions regarding the changes in question, whether systematic or operational (Jones et al 2004)
In the UAE, one of the changes that have been made in the public sector in recent times is the introduction and implementation of the Forth Generation of Government Excellence System. The decision to initiate this program was made based on the inherent issues associated with operations in the public sector such as service delay. Consequently, this is a strong evidence for the application of strategic decision making which requires that critical thinking be applied in decision making for problem solution. As is expected, this decision has long-term impacts. The system change has led to various impacts on the UAE public sector of the UAE. Currently, strategic planning, which is an element of strategic change management has been widely applied in the UAE, particularly in Dubai. This is in accordance with studies aimed at advancing the theory of planned change as an essential resource in change management.
According to a study by Shirey (2013), the planned change theory can be used as a people mobilization tool in ensuring effective change management in organizations. The application of planned change theory to organizations required intensive application of strategic decision making since changes may have both positive and negative impacts, and any plans made should be after consideration of the impacts and critical evaluation of the benefits associated with the change. The decisions to change systems or operations should be based on in-depth information rather than guesswork (Dye et al 2009).Through organization of programs, such as the Fourth Generation of Government Excellence system, the concept of planned change is applied towards effectiveness in change management. This program was recently launched in the UAE by the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE. As part of a strategic change management plan, the program is aimed at upgrading the government’s work system towards innovativeness and excellence in the government service delivery.
Based on this background, the proposal was made to carry out a research on strategic change management within the UAE public sector. The study will be based on the methods that have been employed in the achievement of effectiveness in the said sector. The study focuses on a change in systems and ways of working. The 4G of government excellence system is used as an example of planned systemic change in the UAE public sector and is thus used as a case study.
The decision to carry out a study based on the topic of strategic change management within the public sector of the UAE was made based on various premises. First, there is currently limited information regarding strategic change management either in the government or within sectors of national governance. Most of the studies available focus on strategic change management in corporate organizations. Moreover, with respect to information regarding strategic change management in the national governance or its sectors, highly specific information targeting a sector such as the public sector in a specific country such as the UAE is absent. This study will therefore critical in providing information about strategic change management in the UAE, and particularly in the public sector. The study offers management skills, knowledge about the UAE public sector, evidence of strategic change management in the UAE public sector and information about the Forth Generation Government Excellence System and its potential to be effective as a planned change strategy.
Research Aims and Objectives
The proposed research will be carried out with the following main objectives in mind.
- To determine the change management strategies in use today in the uAE public sector?
- To find out how effective the strategies in use are for ensuring the effectiveness of the public sector
- To determine the potential of the 4G of government excellence system in improving the efficiency of the public sector in the UAE.
To achieve the objectives of this study, the following questions will be used for guidance.
- What are the change management strategies in use today in national governance especially in the UAE public sector?
- How effective are these strategies in ensuring the effectiveness of the Public sector in the UAE?
- What potential does the Fourth Generation of Government Excellence System have as a planned change strategy in improving the efficiency of the public sector in the UAE?
Strategic Change Management in the public sector
Traditionally, change management was focused on the executives and their deputies in organizations. BAH (2004) describes transformational change as being based on various principles. For transformation to be long term, it has to be determined by the magnitude and intensity of change involved. The principles of change management are identified as including: systematic address of the human side to change, identification that change begins at the top yet actually happens at the bottom, and the realization that reality and faith can assist in creating a vision. Other principles include creating ownership, engaging in communication, assessing culture and preparing for the unexpected. These principles as outlined by Booz Allen Hamilton form a strong foundation for effective change management. Besides identifying the essence of human resources in strategic change management, they can also be taken as guidelines towards behavior that can ensure that transformational change is successful.
Aguirre and Alpern (2014) also give some of these principles. From these two authors, the principles mentioned in addition to the ones outlined by BAH include involvement of all organizational layers and action into new ways of thinking. Using trusted nodes and being cultural ambassadors have been mentioned as being principles of change management. While slight differences exist between the principles mentioned by the two bodies of literature, the basic information given is the same. From a comparison of these two pieces of literature, it is clear that cultural management, acting from the top and ownership all form the basis for the effectiveness of any change management process. It can therefore be induced that although there is disparity as to what constitutes the principles of change management, the basic requirements are the same.
According to Nickols (2010), four major strategies for change management exist and are in use today. However, the choice of the change management strategy depends on various factors. These factors include population, the degree of expected change, the level of resistance to change, the period available for change, the expertise required to accomplish the change, the stakes involved in taking the change and the dependency level expected during the transformation. Each of these factors is essential and the point of view presented by Nickols is undeniably a strong argument. The factors presented are based on the argument that there are different strategies that can be chosen from. The four strategies include empirical- rational strategy, environmental adaptive strategy, power coercive and normative re-educative strategies. From the information given in this piece of literature, the different types of change management strategies can only be effective when applied after confirmation of their suitability based on the factors mentioned. This conclusion is reached at after confirmation that these factors indeed play an important role in determining the extent of success of transformational change activities.
In a presentation by Makharita (2005), the change management in Dubai in the earlier days is described. In a study carried out by the author of the presentation, Dubai was selected as the model emirate since it is believed to be a suitable representation of all other emirates since it has sufficient cultural diversity. From the presentation, the path of change in the Dubai public sector began from a sector that was characterized by an immense cultural diversity. Due to the cultural differences in the public sector, loyalty in operations was connected to job stability and to income levels. Moreover, ownership of both the sector and the specific organizations in the sector was limited. In addition, despite the high investor attraction capabilities due to the economic and political stability the emirate enjoyed, response to changes was reactive and very slow. The influence of resistance on change management was immense. It is from this background that the Dubai began implementing change management strategies for the growth of the public sector and improved response to environmental changes. From this work, the assertion by the author that Dubai public sector experienced slow growth due to various factors brings to light the principles outlined for strategic change management and the factors to be considered in choosing a change management strategy.
Among the principles of change management, the application of culture and the involvement of workers have been clearly brought to light. As it was in Dubai, the slow and reactive change response could have been due to the cultural diversity, which was not used to the advantage of the public sector. Similarly, without sector ownership, it was impossible for change management to be effective. These principles have been described by Cerniauskien as being critical in strategic change management in the public institutions Cerniauskien (2014).
Moreover, the application of the principles of strategic change management are said to be dependent on the degree of diversification in the sector, among other factors such as time and the vision (Kerry et al 2003). In carrying out strategic management of any sector, critical factors include the involvement of the top management tiers, placement of focus on the long-term objectives and constant decision-making (Waterhouse et al 2000). As in any other element of strategic management, change management also relies on these factors. It is the position of the researcher that strategic change management has a lot to do with constant decision-making and the involvement of the top management tiers since the environment is dynamic, especially in the public sector.
Al-Ameri (2013) claims that the origin of change in many sectors, such as the public sector is technological inventions, restructuring and globalization. According to Al-Ameri, the UAE as other countries that have been hit by the bug of globalization and technological changes, has experienced impacts of change in various aspects of human lifestyle and business. Due to these changes, work experience among employees in the public sector has also changed over the years. The public sector employees are however said to be resistant to technology driven changes for various reasons. Some of the reasons mentioned include power loss, work overload, and lack of appropriate schemes for employee rewards (Laumer 2011). Despite these factors, technological change has been said to improve the quality of work as well as the probability of error elimination (Al- Ameri 2013). From these points, it can be affirmed that strategic change management in the public sector must involve plans for managing the resistances experienced in the light of technological changes.
One of the areas that have experienced immense change because of technological advancements is the procurement sector. This sector has evolved from the traditional mode of operation, which was dependent on physical operations towards the operation of e-procurement (Archer 2005). Besides this sector, the government, in the management of the public sector has increasingly adopted e-Government as a strategy for the accomplishment of change management objectives (Ho 2002). In rapidly developed countries such as the UAE, the response to technological change towards the adoption of e-procurement strategies has been with enthusiasm (Al-Moalla and Li 2010). From the point of view of this proposal, the response has been more active in procurement than in all other departments in the public sector. It is therefore necessary that strategies, which include e-planning for the accomplishment of effective change management should put in place.
Fourth Generation of Government Excellence System
The 4G of government excellence system is a program that was recently launched in the UAE with the objective of improving the efficiency performance of the government. With a focus on results, the program aims to indulge in innovation and improved standards for the improvement of the government’s performance. The program focuses on three main areas, which include innovation, vision achievement and empowerment in order to ensure that high satisfaction levels are achieved in the public sector. In the launch of the program, the UAE vice president asserted that excellence needs to be considered as a challenge. Besides focusing on results, the program also ensures that government bodies that apply it receive a benefit, and that both privacy and differences are considered in every nature of work. From this point of view, it can be said that such a program can be implemented in order to improve change management in the public sector (Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program 2015).
The major objective of the 4G of government excellence system is to raise awareness of the principles of excellence among all government sectors, especially in leadership to ensure that a stimulating and supportive work environment is created using various channels and methods. This objective is intended to be achieved through modes such as the media, libraries, seminars, newsletters and trainings. The program also includes specialized sub programs aimed at offering trainings to professionals to enable dissemination of information through them. Areas of training will be operations, management and planning, as well as knowledge management. Considering the objectives of the program and the methodologies that have been laid down to help achieve these objectives, it can be said that this is a potentially effective change management strategy (Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program 2015).
A qualitative approach to research will be used in the proposed study. The qualitative approach is suitable for this study due to various reasons. First, it is suitable when there is need to gather in-depth information regarding a particular subject (Opdenakker 2006). Since the objective of the study is dependent on the collection and interpretation of specific data. Secondly, the qualitative approach is also takes into consideration the real world occurrences (Wengraf 2001). Since this study takes into consideration the 4G of government excellence system, the qualitative approach is a suitable approach towards this study.
Moreover, its application is systematic as well as flexible hence can be applicable to a subject with a wide scope, such as the strategic change management in the public sector (Vargas- Hernandez 2011). It also aids in the acquisition of descriptive information such as that required in the proposed study. The qualitative research approach is also suitable in cases where there is need for a conclusion to be drawn from the data collected (Opdennaker 2006). Due to this reason, this approach will be used in combination with an exploratory design, which is aimed at answering particular questions regarding a phenomenon of study. The exploratory design is suitable for use in a qualitative approach since it is based on a theoretical rather than empirical outcome hence is a match for the qualitative study (Hancock et al 2009).
In carrying out this study, a semi-structured interview design will be used in the data collection process. This design was determined to be suitable for the present study since it provides a platform in which the researcher can take consideration of both the verbal responses and the body language projected by the respondents (Clarke 2006). The questions for the semi-structured interview will be either open ended or with multiple choices for answers. The interviews will be carried out during times separate from the normal work times of the potential respondents. This will have to be planned early enough and the participants informed early enough. Each interview will take approximately 25 – 35 minutes and will be aimed at capturing all the information that the respondents can give concerning predetermined questions. One advantage associated with the semi-structured interviews, and which formed the basis of the decision to use this method is that it is possible to gain more information by asking more questions as the interview progresses as well as seeking clarification where it is needed (Whiting 2008). However, the major limitation of this strategy is that it is subject to the researcher bias (Clarke 2006). This is particularly so since records have to be made of the body language of the respondents. Audio records will also be made.
Apart from the semi-structured interviews, a review of relevant literature will also be applied in data collection. This will be used as the foundation of the study to determine the type of questions that the respondents need to be asked. The rationale for beginning with the literature review is that it will help determine the information gap that is existent in the strategic change management field with respect to the public sector in the UAE.
The data from both the semi-structured interview will first be coded to avoid misrepresentation of opinions. Following the coding, the data will be analyzed by recursive abstraction. In this process, the data from the various records is summarized repeatedly until a conclusive statement has been reached. This is essential for theoretical data where’ empirical results are not required.
When carrying out the study, various ethical considerations will be made particularly with respect to the collection of primary data. The identity of the respondents will be kept confidential through coding. Moreover, the potential respondents will not be coerced into participation. They will also be informed of the contribution of the study to literature and the importance of their participation.
The study will be carried out in a span of three years, from 2016 – 2018. The following table shows the activities that will be carried out and the durations in which they will be carried out during the study. The first activity is set to begin in January 2016.
|Study Design||3 months (January – March 2016)|
|Collection of relevant literature||2 months (April – May 2016)|
|Review of the literature||4 months (June – September 2016)|
|Planning for the structured interviews||6 months (October 2016 – March 2017)|
|Carrying out the structured Interviews||6 months (April 2017 – September 2017)|
|Data Interpretation and Analysis||3 months (October – December 2017)|
|Report making||4 months (January – April 2018)|
Al-Ameri, M 2013, ‘Assessing resistance to technological change for improved job performance in the UAE (Public sectors)’. Dissertation. University of Salford.
Al-Moalla, A and Li, D 2010, ‘Organizational issues with electronic government procurement: a case study of the UAE’. EJISDC, 41, 3, 1-18.
Aguirre, D and Alpern, M 2014, ‘10 Principles of leading change management’. Retrieved from http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00255?pg=all
Archer, N 2005, ‘An Overview of the Change Management Process in eGovernment’, International Journal of Electronic Business, 3, 1, 68-87.
Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. 2004, ‘Ten guiding principles of change management’, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.
Cerkiauskien, N 2014, ‘Strategic management of public sector institutions’, Vilnius.
Clarke A 2006, ‘Qualitative interviewing: encountering ethical issues and challenges’. Nurse Researcher. 13, 4, 19-29.
Dye, R, Sibony, O and Truong, V 2009, Flaws in strategic decision making: McKinsey Global Survey Results. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/strategy/flaws_in_strategic_decision_making_mckinsey_global_survey_results
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Hancock, B, Ockleford, E and Windridge, K 2009, ‘An introduction to qualitative research’, National Institute for Research Health Research.