Leading Change in Organizations for Expo2020Dubai

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In today’s business world, the most effective way to achieve a competitive advantage is to strive to produce more with less. The core of this process is primarily attributed to technology. However, this can only be realized if there is a cohesive strategy in place that envisions creativity. Otherwise, an organization’s technological advantage will go to waste. Creativity is an essential component in the evolution and delivery of various products and services. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested all businesses in the world (Hornstein, 2016). As a result, many have collapsed but a few have thrived, perhaps because of their abilities to respond proactively rather than reactively. Although everyone within an organization should have some creative capacity, the creativity of the company’s leadership helps to foster and drive success. A modern business leader has no option but to be creative.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the business world of the urgent necessity to abandon rigid structures that can stall a business’ progress when tested. The change of dates of the Expo2020Dubai organization from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, is an exemplification of circumstances that can trigger urgent changes that often require players to be willing to transform and be creative.

The Expo2020Dubai organization was no doubt going to bring millions of visitors to that country. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dates had to be changed by approximately one year. Several aspects of the event had to be altered as well because one of the most prominent COVID-19 containment measures is avoidance of gatherings (Galli, 2019). To effectively execute this, the organizers of the event had to come up with innovative and creative ways to allow it take continue but with zero transmission rate of the virus (Tang, 2019). This is proof that creativity theories transcend beyond individuals’ cognitive processes and characteristics to acknowledge the significance of creativity’s social construction.

The international fair that Dubai will be hosting next autumn is held after every five years. It provides a platform for some 190 countries around the world to showcase their latest technology and architecture. However, the Expo2020Dubai was abruptly postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 25 million attended were expected to grace the international fair before it was put to a halt (Galli, 2018). However, the Director General of the Expo2020Dubai stated that the event will resume a year later with the same target as before the pandemic.

The tourism-dependent event suffered massively last year when international travels were cut down across the world. However, the reopening of the event is going to leverage the opportunity provided by the COVID-19 vaccines (Paquibut & Naamany, 2020). In addition, the organization has involved itself in various creative activities that have shone a gleam of hope for the event (Hoek & Walton, 2020). It must be noted that the economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) shrank by 6.6% in 2020. Other than the coronavirus pandemic, the country suffered its worst recession in fifty years. Therefore, the Expo2020Dubai is expected to attract massive investments to help the country’s businesses rise back to their feet, and subsequently boost its economic recovery efforts (Pugh, 2016, p. 185). Since the country won the bid to organize the fair in 2013, billions of dollars have been sunk towards it. The economy of Dubai is expected to rise by $33 billion with 300,000 jobs created as a result of the event.

Some of the innovative projects poised to make headlines during the Expo2020Dubai include those that target vulnerable communities across the world. Living up to its theme of innovation, mobility, opportunity, and creativity, the Expo2020Dubai has indeed created several opportunities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees will be required to put on a device that will warn of a social distancing breach (Ifenthaler, 2020, p. 268). This is an innovation by Lopos, a Belgium firm that relies on lights, vibrations, and alarms to warn if attendees breach social distancing rules. There is also the Maji Bucket project innovated by Ghanaians (Weiss & T.Li, 2020). It is a low-cost and low-tech safe project encouraging the practice of and washing in rural communities.

The SitatByoot is a Jordanian-based project that primarily targets the vulnerable communities under the coronavirus lockdown. The project mainly offers vocational training to women on how to make certified garments, which are then sold through Makesy, an ecommerce platform. This way, the project helps these vulnerable women enter the labor market despite the lockdown and grow their online reach and businesses (Mariam & Ramli, 2020). The core of modern change management entails how people embrace, accept, and implement change (Kukkamalla et al., 2021). There are various approaches that change management can be executed. In its change management implementation strategy, Expo2020Dubai applied several relevant theories.


Lewin’s change management model

The significant and critical change made to the Expo2020Dubai organization can be explained through Lewin’s change management model. Each of the individuals responsible for the change of date was acting as a function of the group decision and behavior. On the other hand, any of the organizational decisions about the event has effects on the behavior of individuals and their capacity to change (Bakari et al., 2017, p. 160). This means that the change process for the Expo2020Dubai organization is affected by the environment. In this case, the environment is the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Lewin’s change management model, the change process begins with the description of the present day’s status quo before proposing the desired future state. At the time of planning the Expo2020Dubai, there was no COVID-19. Up to 25 million people were welcomed to attend the international fair (Bakaria et al., 2017). However, with the pandemic now informing significant details of planning, the future desired state would be to conduct an event in conditions that do not promote the spread of the virus.

Undoubtably all members of the Expo2020Dubai organization must be involved in the change process. Any knowledge created to enhance the process must be shared among the members. To effectively coordinate all these, there must be a dependable leader who can translate the dreams into reality (Burnes & Bargal, 2017). Reem Al Hashimy, the Director-General of Expo2020Dubai, has offered unrivaled leadership in the middle of the pandemic. Hashimy also serves as the UAE’s Minister of State for International Corporation. Her leadership credentials have been characterized by creativity and team spirit. She has managed to soberly lead various teams in implementing the proposed changes.

Lewin proposed a three-step model that should steer and implement the change process and some of the common challenges involved. The steps are to unfreeze, change, and refreeze (Cummings et al., 2016). The slow uptake of the coronavirus vaccines especially during the early stages of introduction is a perfect exemplification of the unfreezing stage. The vaccines were the measures being put in place to protect the spread of the pandemic during the Expo2020Dubai. However, the management of the international event realized the resistance to change. According to Lewin, this form of resistance could be attributed to self-righteousness and group dynamics (Mobtahej, 2020, p. 296). Just like preparing a meal where food must first be unfrozen, Lewin believed that a similar philosophy is followed by human change.

Before any organizational change is implemented, the status quo must be unfrozen. This can be achieved by taking appropriate actions such as determining what precisely needs to be changed, securing support from the management, and creating the need for change. The need for change for Expo2020Dubai was determined by the COVID-19 pandemic. All the parties that were involved in the process have been adequately involved in ensuring that its success (Doppelt & McDonough, 2017, p. 94). Moreover, through compelling messages, the organization has consistently communicated the change of dates and the upcoming activities.

The change implementation process begins after unfreezing the status quo. Since this is a very complex change, it requires the Expo2020Dubai organization to prepare several change options and varieties to try and see what works and what does not. The long-term effectiveness of this evaluation process is driven by information flow and leadership. Information should be shared across multiple organizational hierarchy levels (Wojciechowski et al., 2016). This way, a variety of expertise and skills would be made available, which helps to efficiently coordinate problem solving across the Expo2020Dubai organization. Lewin argued that any change process requires adequate reinforcement to meets its objectives (Govender & Rampersad, 2016, p. 44). Thus, it will be incumbent upon the Expo2020Dubai organization to communicate precisely and widely, empower and promote action among employees and involve as many people as possible.

Once the Expo2020Dubai organization has changed its commencement date to the beginning of March next year, it is important that it works hard to sustain the date. All other protocols that would have been put in place to ensure the success of the international event must also be sustained (May & Stahl, 2017). This is the refreezing process, and is the final step according to Lewin. The activities, processes, norms, and strategies that the organization has put in place to achieve its current status quo must not be resisted at this point. For instance, there is already a consensus that COVID-19 vaccination is important for the efficient progress of the event (Attah et al., 2017, p. 39). This implies that there should be aggressive campaigns to ensure that every participant in the event must show proof of vaccination. Appropriate steps must be put in place to ensure that the same is implemented as envisioned.

To successfully implement the refreezing process the Expo2020Dubai organization must ensure that it ties all the new changes to the organizational culture (Wanza & Nkuraru, 2016). This can be achieved through the identification of all the possible change barriers and change support. Expo2020Dubai will also need to develop and promote strategies that it will use to sustain various changes for the long term (Rosenbaum et al., 2018). Training, communication, and support will go a long way in ensuring that this is accomplished.

From the above illustration of Lewin’s change management theory, it is apparent that the model that offered the Expo2020Dubai with a fundamental and intuitive understanding of the process of change. However, this should be in the context of the social behaviors observed at a collective or individual level within an organization (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2016). Nonetheless, this theory has some shortcomings that limit its ability to effectively support the present-day change management processes. When it was first used in the year 1951, change management processes were not as dynamic and complex as they are today (Thomas et al., 2017). While Lewin’s model can work in some business scenarios, it might not be effectively applied to such a mega event as the Expo2020Dubai organization.

McKinsey 7-s model

The 7-S model applies to a wide variety of setups that involve different parts within an organization. The Expo2020Dubai organization has various elements that must work together in a seamless synergy (Asnan, et al., 2015). The 7-S model elements can either be hard or soft. The hard elements include strategy, structure, and systems while the soft elements are shared values, skills, style, and staff (Too et al., 2017). It is easy to identify the hard elements in the Expo2020Dubai organization. In many times, they can be directly influenced by the management. Conversely, the soft elements might seem harder to identify since they are mostly intangible. They are largely influenced by the Expo2020Dubai organizational culture (Zbysław, 2020). This, however, does not mean that they are of less significance as compared to the hard elements (Hayes, 2018). So far, the Expo2020Dubai organization’s strategy is to carry out an international fair that will attract the initially planned 25 million people. It has put everything in place to ensure the realization of this.

The structure shows how the Expo2020Dubai organization is organized. At the core of its management is a steering committee. Each country that is scheduled to take place in the event has a representative in the organization. Any communication to respective countries is done through its representative (Ahmed, 2017). Meanwhile, system refers to the daily activities that happen within an organization. Indeed, for the Expo2020Dubai organization to reach this far, there have been different systems that have been put in place. All the participating countries must have shared values (Barrow & Toney-Butler, 2017). Initially, there were reports that the European Union was going to snub the event because of claims of hard labor and low compensation of the employees working on different phases of the project (Salvarli & Kayiskan, 2018). Some western nations also accused the UAE of stifling people’s freedom of expression. Although the organizers of the fair denied all these, the claims and counterclaims serve to demonstrate that there are no shared values among the stakeholders participating in the Expo2020Dubai.

The style of leadership under Director-General Hashimy also played a key role in steering the organization forward. The position that Hashimy holds in the UAE’s government puts her in a pivotal position to effectively manage the project. However, it must be noted that 70% of the participants will come from outside the UAE (Faturrohman et al., 2018). This implies that the leadership of the organization must be as inclusive and diverse as possible. This explains why such prominent personalities as Dimitry S. Kerkentzes, Pyung-oh Kwon, Eriq Linguier, and Dr. Malick Diop have been incorporated into the management team. Kerkentzes is the Secretary-General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). Kwon is the President of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). At the Expo2020Dubai organization, he serves as Republic of Korea’s Commissioner-General. Linguier serves in the same position for his country, France. Other Commissioner Generals are Malick Diop, Dody Edward, and Justin McGowan for Senegal, Indonesia, and Australia respectively. This leadership style ensures that the organization’s decision-making organ has representation from across the globe.

Staff refers to the employees involved in the execution of the organization’s mission and vision. They are the face of the organization and are charged with the responsibility of being innovative and creative in implementing its design strategies (Paquibut, 2017). To accomplish this, however, the staff needs to have competent skills in different fields. Incidentally, all these elements are guided by the organization’s shared values.

With the 7-S model, Expo2020Dubai can realign and improve its performance. It will also manage to maintain performance and alignment as the change process takes place. Indeed, there will be several instances of restructuring, organizational mergers, the introduction of new systems, or even leadership change (Moonsri, 2020). The 7-S model will come in handy in assisting with the analysis of the current situation and the envisioned future situation. As it does this, it will be able to identify inconsistencies and gaps that exist between the two (Rahman & Anuar, 2018). The data that Expo2020Dubai had last year before the pandemic will be instrumental in forecasting how things will turn out next year.

The adkar change management model

Change is not something that can be avoided in today’s business environment. Businesses that are ready to embrace or adapt to the changing situations and maintain improved performances carve an edge over their rivals. It is not enough to just decide the aspects of the business that require change and how the change process should be executed (Karambelkar & Bhattacharya, 2017). The element of the people is one of the most complex segments of change management. The ADKAR model aims to guide organizations through this type of change process. The Expo2020Dubai Director-General will attest that one of her most frustrating moments was during instances where she had to lead people through various change processes (Al-Alawi et al., 2019). Even though people are living in the midst of a pandemic that demands them to change their ways of doing things, some who are accustomed to slipping back into old ways. The people-aspect in the change movement is what the ADKAR model is trying to rescue.

According to the ADKAR model, change in practice has five phases: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. It would be incumbent upon the Expo2020Dubai organization management to realize that any change implementation process requires the full knowledge of its employees. In many cases, they will be required to step out of their comfort zones (Pawl & Anderson, 2019). However, this will only be possible if they are made to understand why a particular change is necessary for the organization. For instance, employees who do not wear masks, fail to observe social distancing, and avoid taking the COVID-19 jab could be a sign of frustration with the change process.

However, understanding that some things need to change and possessing the willingness to execute the necessary actions for change are two different things. Employees who must be dragged to implement change processes do not have the desire to do so (Haas et al., 2020). It will be important for the Expo2020Dubai organization to make its employees understand that all the change processes are for their own good. Those who are not fast in embracing change should not be summarily dismissed by persuaded to look at the change processes with some rationality.

A change cannot, however, be implemented if the individuals charged with the responsibility do not know what should be done. Any innovation and technology that will be brought into play to ensure the successful implementation of the upcoming international fair must be led by employees who have expertise in the field. Hence, employees need to know what should be done to effectively implement the change processes (Ali et al., 2021). Thus, it will be incumbent upon the Expo2020Dubai organization to identify the knowledge gaps ahead of time during the change preparation process. Knowledge gaps among employees can be solved through training.

The ADKAR change management model also stipulates that knowing something is not a guarantee that one has the ability to do it. Ability comes with hands-on training and confidence among employees. In the Expo2020Dubai, Uber will test its flying cars, for instance (Jaarona et al., 2020). Those who will be charged with the responsibility of doing so will be required to have been trained on how to do it (Bhattacharyya, 2020). They will also have the confidence to demonstrate this innovation and technology. Reinforcement is an ongoing process that should take place throughout the lifecycle of a project. The management of the Expo2020Dubai organization will be required to constantly monitor the progress of various activities and provide feedback for the necessary reinforcement. From the above illustration, it is evident that the ADKAR model contributes to every phase of change.

Kubler-Ross change curve

The announcement of the need for change in an organization is followed by a series of actions and reactions before it is finally accepted by all the stakeholders. Just like the five steps of grieving, a change announcement will most likely trigger shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although the shock stage is often short-lived, it can result in productivity loss or temporary slowdown (Malone, 2018). Shock is caused by the fear of the unknown, fear of doing something the wrong way, and lack of information. Shock is usually succeeded by denial where employees feel that they would rather remain in the status quo. They try to convince themselves that the change will not really happen, and if it does, it would not affect them. As a result, they tend to carry on as if everything is normal. This explains the initial laxity shown by employees of the Expo2020Dubai organization when they were told to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 containment protocols (Williams & Braddock, 2019). Communication is crucial at this point for it serves to communicate the objectives and effects of the proposed changes.

Anger and depression often precede the shocking and denial stage. Employees tend to find a scapegoat where they can focus their blame on or anything that they can still lean on in denial. Feelings of suspicion, frustration, and skepticism characterize this stage. As the anger starts to wear out, they are genuinely hit by reality, which lowers down their morale as anxiety and self-doubt creep in (George, 2016). It would not be unusual to observe isolation, remoteness, and apathy among employees at this stage. All these serve to lower their performances and productivity levels. The dark emotions are, however, followed by a more enthusiastic and optimistic mood. The employees begin to accept the reality that change is inevitable and make strategic efforts to hold it (Wong et al., 2019). They begin to embrace new thoughts that the change will bring more exciting opportunities and relieve them from strenuous exercises. As they integrate the change, they turn their focus on the future and welcome the feelings of hope, trust, and acceptance.

Each employee reacts to change individually, and some might not experience all the stages. On the other hand, some employees might spend more time in one stage and shorter in others. Some can even jump the stages and get back to the skipped ones later. This implies that there is no standard sequence for dealing with the situation (Sulistiyani & Susanto, 2019). The management of the Expo2020Dubai organization must, therefore, be aware of these dynamics and respond to employees’ reactions to change accordingly.

Kotter’s theory

Kotter’s theory opines eight steps through which take place within an organization. Change begins with the creation of a sense of urgency. It is apparent that the changed dates of March 2022 are fast approaching, and the Expo2020Dubai organization needs to act with speed. This is followed by coalition building, which must be powerful and up to the task. From the previous illustrations, it is evident that the organizers of the Expo2020Dubai have put in a strong team drawn from different parts of the globe. The management then develops a strategy and a vision (Galli, 2019). The vision for the Expo2020Dubai is” Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” This vision has been effectively communicated across through powerfully convincing messages.

As the change process takes place, there are prone to be different kinds of barriers to be encountered. It will be significant for Expo2020Dubai to ensure all its organizational structure and processes are aligned with its general organizational vision to remove the barriers. The early change processes should be accompanied by the creation of short terms wins to identify the efficacy of the program (Gilani et al., 2018). Indeed, the Expo2020Dubai has had numerous occasions where it has piloted its program to subject it to further scrutiny. All gains that have accrued from these shows have been consolidated for continuous improvement. The last step is to anchor change with the organizational culture. Every opportunity that the international fair will offer will be used to infuse the UAE culture into its planning.


The Expo2020Dubai is a World Expo, which Dubai will play host to in March next year after it was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region. The event will take place in the Dubai South District in an area covering 4.38 square kilometers, and will run for six months. Considered as the “world’s greatest show,” the Expo2020Dubai will be a beehive of activities offering very lucrative business opportunities. It will bring together tens of thousands of investors, customers, and potential partners. The primary objective of the event is to “bring international leaders and innovators for the making of a new world,” and is themed around sustainability, opportunity, and mobility. 191 countries will be represented in more than 200 pavilions that will grace the event.

The Expo has received close to 400 projects from 80 different countries in such areas as education and skills development, protecting livelihoods, health and wellbeing, digitalization, and water, sanitation, and hygiene. This implies that the event will be a great opportunity for various players within the tech industry to market their products to a global audience. However, despite all the glamour about the Expo2020Dubai, it must be noted that the event is taking place in the middle of a pandemic, which has ravaged the economy of the world. Therefore, the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a serious concern in the event. Indeed, many projects that were expected to run were called off because of the fear of the spread of the virus among the attendees.

Efforts are being made to ensure that the event will go on as scheduled. Some of these efforts include the use of technology to detect social distancing breaches and step-up of vaccination efforts. The employees, investors, and other stakeholders of the Expo2020Dubai organization will be required to lead the efforts of ensuring that the event lives up to its expectation and that all the necessary changes are made accordingly. These will be achieved through change management processes. Naturally, change management processes are not smooth exercises that would be automatically embraced by all the targeted populations. There is a tendency to resist change across all organizations and the Expo2020Dubai would not be an exception.

Various scholars have advanced various steps to be followed during the change management processes within organizations. These attempts attempt to pacify any forms of resistance by stakeholders, especially the employees. From the Lewin’s change management model through to Kotter’s theory, the employees and the management of the Expo2020Dubai have a plethora of approaches that can be customized to fit into their particular change management.

The Expo2020Dubai is scheduled to provide limitless opportunities for the participants to showcase their amazing innovations and creativities. The Al Wasl Plaza is one of the physical manifestations of the Expo’s main theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” Preparations for the opening up of the ceremony have been characterized by change management processes especially considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, some 40,000 workers were involved in various construction processes. These numbers have, however, been drastically reduced to contain the spread of the virus. Consequently, one of the greatest challenges that the Expo2020Dubai faced was lack of sufficient manpower to implement its strategic objectives. Nonetheless, there have multiple creative measures that have been employed to ensure that the project proceeded as planned after the one-year postponement. Various stakeholders drawn from participating countries have come together to put up excellent governance structures to steer the event. Using the theoretical models discussed above, the stakeholders have employed various strategies to craft their change models.

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BusinessEssay. "Leading Change in Organizations for Expo2020Dubai." February 7, 2023. https://business-essay.com/leading-change-in-organizations-for-expo2020dubai/.