This study focused on the study of the change management process within the Al-Falak Company that I worked for before I left for further studies. My work was in the capacity of a sales support representative within the Al Falak electronic equipment & supplies Company that provides Information Technology (IT) consultancy services to companies that prefer to use outsourced services sells computer accessories from different manufacturers at competitive prices. The rationale for outsourcing services includes the high cost of new software and hardware products and the cost of constant upgrades that arise because of the rapid changes that occur in the IT industry. In my capacity, I interacted frequently with customers and provided after-sales support services for two years. The management hierarchy consists of the manager, departmental heads, and operations employees responsible for the change management process.
Appreciation of Change Management Theories
Organisations are always looking for the best change management practices to apply when confronted with the need for change to ensure that the change process brings about positive changes. Anderson and Anderson (2010) argue that the ubiquitous phenomenon of change always places a critical demand on organisations to adopt management practices, models, and theories that they figure could produce positive results, with the change management process witnessed within the company being based on the unfreezing, transition, and freezing change model. Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) note that in theory and practice, change is inevitable because it covers every aspect of life either at the societal, organisational and personal levels. According to Chaharbaghi and Adcroft and Willis (2005), change occurs at different levels, and the approach used to implement change can lead to positive or negative outcomes depending on how the change management process is carried out. At the societal level, change can be made positive by applying the change management concept positively using life values, political evolution, service economy, health reforms, and system transformation. On the organisational level, it covers the issues of growth, virtualization, culture, crises, e-business, downsizing, and virtualization. On a personal level, it covers attitudes, learning, resolutions, careers, environmental awareness, and marital status.
Organisational context for change
Burns and Scapens (2000) maintain that external and internal factors affect the context in which organisations use the change management elements to help in determining organisational competitiveness for survival. In the context of the operations of the Al-Falak Company, competitive change brings about a strong positive outcome that each organization clamours for. Such positive outcomes, according to both Burns and Scapens (2000) occur at a different level, with the change on the organisational level being driven by market changes. Other changes occur at the corporate level because of the need to optimise resources by structuring the organisation to accommodate new changes. However, Gersick (1991) stresses that any change within the Al-Falak Company can be positively influenced by using logically implemented and focused goals to meet the desired outcomes. Because the results of change are outcome-based, Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) and Spender (1996) proposed that visible and identifiable indicators can be sued to justify putting in place the change process. However, Collins (2001) contends that the response and approach to change practices have very strong implications on the short-term and long-term survivability of an organisation. The positive transformation is expected to be organisation-wide, but change that aims at modifying some specific elements with the organisation can only be made internal (Darroch & McNaughton 2002).
Ghoshal (2005) supports change management ideas proposed by Hofstede (1999) who maintain that different change management theories, models, and concepts have been successfully used to model new situations. One of the theories is the open system theory. The theory has been successfully applied by comparing biological organisms with organisations that accept inputs, processes, and outputs that are necessary for the organisation to survive (Jones 2010). Removing one element in the phases of change leads to the death of the organism just as removing inputs such as employee skills and tasks, which organisations process to produce outputs for consumers to buy could cause negative outcomes. According to the open system theory, inputs occur at the points where a manager introduces change into the entire domain of the change management process (Jones 2010). However, change can be positively or negatively influenced by the use of the tools, roles, processes, and the potential for change to shift the change paradigms, parameters, and patterns in shaping the interrelated domains of change within the organisation. The effectiveness of the change process is the one that leads to positive or negative outcomes that affect the level of success and the direction taken by the change process (Waddell & Sohal 1998).
According to Jones (2010), Lewin’s theory is among the change management theories that are in the class of open system theories. The theory is a collection of other change management theories such as the group dynamics, field dynamics, and action research that are presented as the three-stage change model. When applied correctly, the model provides the framework for positive outcomes for the Al-Falak Company. Lewin’s theory talks about the quasi-stationary equilibria that are achieved by unfreezing, transitioning, and freezing change within the organisation (Jones 2010). In Lewin’s context, one introduces change by diminishing one of the opposing forces to change the equilibrium in one direction. Lewin, the father of social psychology introduced the concept of change, which has relevance in today’s organisational discipline by arguing that the first step is to accept change is to accept the need for change (unfreeze change) (Waddell & Sohal 1998).
It can be argued in the context Al-Falak Company by Suddaby, Hardy and Huy (2011) that creating an environment that accommodates change such as motivating people to accept and bring about the desired change unfreezes an organisation and prepares it for change. Such a step is important because it could allow the organization to prepare the employees to prepare for change. The rules designed for changing an organisation, the richness of the tools used for change, the functional processes, the potential and motivation of people to identify the need for change and to be part of the change process could be achieved by simplifying complex change management procedures to produce positive change. Here, the appropriate use of the process elements determines the outcome, which could either be positive or negative. Lewin identifies communication as the key part of the unfreezing process that enables workers to embrace new ways of thinking and working by learning new values, behaviours, and attitudes.
In practice, Suddaby, Hardy and Huy (2011) and Tyler (2003) note that the type of change to adopt can be identified by using a clear change management plan, which shows the details for change and the approaches used to carry out the change. The plan provides details of the change implementation strategies and an appraisal of the change strategy. The activities, schedule, action plan, release strategy, training, communication plan, resistance to change, and the preparations of employees to accept change if the top management understands the change process properly can lead to positive change. Here, change is introduced at different levels to ensure a smooth change process at the policy level based on the job roles, processes, fast or slow, system change, and whether the change process is large or small.
In theory, the transition stage lasts for some time and occurs when a change has already started. Change can only be positive if the transition phase receives adequate leadership by the change management team (Morrison 2010). Success at this stage is critical in this stage and can be achieved by using leaders who focus on identifying errors within the organisation. For instance, organic leadership can lead to positive change when applied in complex situations (Burgoyne & Perren 2002).
According to Burgoyne and Perren (2002) and Gronn (2003), autocratic leadership leads to positive change for people who need real-time intervention without asking questions. The rationale is that the leadership process is not linear, but circular and requires adaptive leaders who create an environment that supports the change process (Bruner 1986). Also, good leadership is important to explain the workers the need for change and to make them inclusive in the change process (Schlomer, Bauman & Card 2010). However, based on a psychodynamic leadership that does not emphasize on merging the three personality types into one, but emphasizes on the emotional responses, insight, and physiological traits of the leader, followers can easily be encouraged to follow the leader (Boshyk 2002). Good leadership is important because it functions on core values and a shared vision embedded within the organisational culture (Tyler 2003).
Waddell and Sohal (1998) and Normann (1991) maintain that leadership is important because it enables the change agents to solve the problems encountered when implementing change such as resistance to change. The characteristics of a good leader with emotional maturity, endurance, process orientation, and high levels of cognitive development enable the leader to investigate the sources of resistance to change and how to counteract them. Most of the sources include fear of the unknown, lack of competency, failure to understand the need for change, low trust, temporary fad, exhaustion, poor communication, status quo, and changes to routines (Todnem By 2005). When employees get involved and become part of the change process, psychological reactions to change occur such as denial, anger, confusion, depression, and crisis and it takes good leadership to solve the problem (Gareis 2010). Once they have been overcome, the workers accept the change and gain new confidence in their new working environment (Chia1999).
Freezing occurs at the point when change becomes successfully implemented and the organisation has become stable. Here, the success of change depends on the models that have been used such as the steps that include using shared values, use of the right skills, staff, management style, and system structure (Anderson & Anderson 2010). Here, Kotter’s (2012) 8 Step Change Model emphasizes on increasing the urgency for change, creating a change management team, and creating new vision and mission statements. The model emphasizes on communicating change, empowering the people, focusing to meet the short-term goals, and being persistent with the change which is made permanent at the desired point (Freeman 2010).
However, the culture excellence model was used to focus on changing the organisational culture. The continuous transformation model rejects the issue of equilibrium coined by Lewin emphasizes on continuous change and complexity theories that view organisations as complex entities that keep evolving as they respond to environmental changes (Gersick1991).
The Theories and Concepts of Change on Al-Falak Company
Given the theories and change management concepts discussed above, Al-Falak Company was in a state of the urgent need for change (Kirton & Greene 2010). The expected change was based on the positive outcomes desired for the company. The change manager and the stakeholders rolled out a change management plan to positively change the operations of the organisation (Orlikowski & Hoffman, 1997). The change management plan was carried out based on:
- Identifying the need for change
- The communication plan
- Assigning roles and responsibilities
- Outlining the mission and vision statements
- Determining the type and scope of change
- Constituting a change management team
- Implementing the change
- Making change permanent
Identifying the need for change
The management of Al-Falak Company and the stakeholders established the following factors that necessitated the need for change.
- Diminishing market size and profits
- Employees lacking new skills that match new trends in business processes
- Threat from new entrants
Areas to change
Suggested areas to train the current workers include:
- New IT infrastructure and technology
- New leadership skills and roles
- New marketing skills and strategies
The communication plan
The change manager designed a communication plan that consisted of:
- Identifying stakeholder needs
- Developing objectives and key messages
- Defining information items
- Defining a communication plan
- Providing feedback channels
- Revising communication plans and materials
- Approving objectives
- Implementing the plan
- And managing stakeholders
- Presenting information and progress reports regularly
Assigning roles and responsibilities
- Change manager-Leadership role
- Hierarchy level managers-Leading teams and teaching workers to learn new change requirements
- Workers-Learning and implementing change
- Stakeholders-Accept and support the new change
Mission and vision statements
To serve the private and public entities with the state of the art information technologies and surpass their expectations.
To be the leading global IT products and services provider.
Type and scope of change
The stakeholders, change management teams and the change manager recommended the scope covering the leadership and culture based on the Lewin model.
Change management team
The change management team consisted of the manager, hierarchy managers, departmental heads, one worker from each department, and stakeholders.
The change implementation phase was the most difficult one because of the following reasons.
- Resistance to change
- Inadequate resources
- Uncertainties of the new look organisational structure
However, consistent with Lewin’s change management theory, which affirms that change is omnipresent, the change management team embarked on the change process by first communicating the need to change the different aspects of the organisation to the workers such as the organisational culture. The outcomes could be positively affected by clearly communicating, preparing the training budget, hiring trainers in IT, marketing, and holding leadership sessions that lasted for one week (Mintzberg 1990).
Also, positive outcomes were based on the leadership paying attention to people issues such as trust, communication, motivation, the setting of different priorities and goals, and by balancing the internal politics and power to make sure the desired changes were met (Paton & McCalman 2008).
Making the change permanent
One approach used to make the change process permanent within the Al Falak electronic equipment & supplies Company was to ensure that the leadership put strategies in places such as continuous monitoring and feedback to identify problems with the new changes to make real-time changes to ensure that change was positive and permanent. A critical review of the approach showed that the process could lead to positive or negative outcomes depending on the competency of the leadership (Joiner Jr 2010).
The impact of intra and inter organisations dynamics
One of the positive outcomes was based on the intra organisational dynamics because it was crucial in the management of change by providing the theories that explain the relationship among the people who take the responsibility of introducing and managing change within the Al Falak electronic equipment & supplies Company. The concept supports knowledge acquisition from different sources and the teams involved in the change process, enables effective information distribution and team members to interpret the information and apply it correctly. Also, the intra part of the organisational dynamics enables managers of change to appreciate the complex relationship among the people and how culture, operations management, leadership, employee selection processes, workplace motivation, and family balance contribute to the success of a change management process.
In the process of writing the paper and reflecting on the change management process implemented at Al-Falak Company based on the unfreezing, transitioning, and freezing change management model, I learnt how change management theories, leadership, culture and the Lewis model could be applied to provide carefully balanced outcomes. Here, the constituents of the model to manage the change process include unfreezing, transition, and freezing the change process. I learnt that because managing the change process was complex, it was important to apply the change management theories, concepts and models to effectively manage change within an organisation. Typically, the application of a specific model was important because the organisation was able to audit the outcomes of the change process effectively.
One outstanding theory I am a strong proponent of is the open systems theory. An organisation, just like an organism, must take inputs, process them to give outputs. The three guiding elements demonstrated in the operations of Al-Falak Company because the organisation’s previous processes were not producing the desired outputs. Employees were involved as one leadership strategy for Al-Falak Company in the interactive mechanisms of introducing change to convert the old system to the new system by changing how people, processes, and inputs work to produce outputs. At this point, leadership and organisational culture were important to address the problem of resistance to change. Resistance was due to upsetting the equilibrium of the organisation, which involves the people’s beliefs, values, and attitudes and leadership could change people’s perspectives. Culture change was important because it led the manager to change the perspectives of the old leadership in addressing the change of the unseen, lack of competency, poor communication, changes to routines, benefits and rewards, and lack of trust to make the change process positive.
The core elements that come into play here include the leadership and organisational culture. The other spectrum includes corporate change, which focuses on culture changes, globalisation, and the core competencies of the change agents. If the change agents, who are the leader and the tool, which is the organisational culture, do not have the right skills to carry out and manage the change process, the outcomes could not be as expected. On the other hand, leadership was used to ensure effective utilisation and allocation of resources to accommodate technology, diversification, outsourcing, and values. On the other hand, leadership is important because it enables people to use the structure focused change, which includes process organisation, governance, shared services, and networking to bring about change. By combining the core area of change, it is possible to make change process less complex or a highly complex depending on the sector to be changed. Here, leadership, culture, and change management models and theories provide the required change.
A critical analysis of the theories of change showed that Lewin’s theory is widely accepted in modern organisations that explain the change process. The theory is important in the change process because it explains that an organisation is a complex organism whose parts interact in small ways to produce big effects. The agent here is the leadership and the tool is the culture, without which change could not have a direction. Here, similar conditions or inputs can produce dissimilar outputs, systems are unstable, deterministic, change is irreversible, and that a system is only understood holistically. Most of the elements mentioned are simply defined in one of the three distinct phases of Lewin’s theory of change. Recursion, feedback, performance, and auto-catalysis signify the processes that occur in different the phases of the management change process, despite being viewed in a new and different perspective.
Change management cannot be simply wished to work if it is not planned for. Careful planning is one of the pillars of a successful change management strategy because a good plan defines the objectives, mission, and vision statements, the scope of the expected change, and reason for the change. A good change management program must define the type of change required by explaining the current state and the expected future state. Change does not involve the organisational processes only but includes the people who play the most important roles and risk assessment to understand what will happen when the change is not implemented, and how the perceptions of the stakeholders affect the change process.
A successful manager must know the leadership theories and skills to be able to lead and guide people to accept new changes and work as a team towards implementing the changes. Leadership must be consistent with the environment and it is not one leadership approach that effectively applies in each management change process. For instance, a transactional leader does not negotiate with those under his leadership but is interested in the work done, which does not make such leadership suitable for an organisation changing. On the other hand, transformational leadership is a good candidate for an organisation changing because the leaders have the skills and knowledge to identify the needed change, create the vision and mission statements to guide the change process and to inspire the change. However, not a single leadership style is right for a leader to inspire change and lead the change process because each leadership style has some weaknesses. To make a good change management leader, one has to apply different leadership skills and styles to solve different problems and challenges a transforming organisation undergoes through. Some of the issues to deal with include resistance to change. One needs polished leadership and management skills to inspire change to avoid the problems that arise in the change process.
In conclusion, leadership, culture, and change management theories played a crucial role in enlightening people acting as change agents in leadership positions to deal with problems encountered when introducing change into the organisation. A successful change management leader must understand the cross-functional roles, the four dimensions of leadership and culture, which include employee commitment, storytelling, culture diagnostics, behaviour change, and power and structure change at Al-Falak Company.
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