Is change management more about change of management?

Employee empowerment starts with being an exemplary leader. An exemplary leader let’s go of the control that came with his/her position in the management: the power to decide; and relinquishing the power to decide into the very hands of one’s “subordinates” is called delegating, whereas no delegating in most cases, in our day and age, leads to change of management.

Smothering the decision-making power by closely guarding it, will reveal the insecurities of the manager, who has all to gain by becoming a good leader, but how many managers really do believe in that? How many potential leaders lose their potential by wanting to “do things right, rather than doing the right thing”, in the unforgettable words of Drucker (2001).

So we have seen that change management, employee empowerment, organisational communication, branding and reputation, leadership and much, much more are a lot more interdependent than it would seem on the surface. What’s more, one just has to add the electronic communication facet to it all, and today’s manager’s seat feels much more like a fighter pilot’s seat in the middle of war, in enemy territory than much else!

Childers (2015) cited the well known adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, in her article before going on to concede to the simple fact that realising the truth of that statement is “not a happy thought for a board of directors or an association looking to change (…) management firm.”  The author then goes on to szggest three aspects of change management that are fundamental, she says, to the change being potentially, and decisively positive. The three points are:

– Begin at the beginning;

– Work the details;

– Red flags and Deal breakers. (Ibid)

That said, those are aspects that one must bear in mind whilst looking to change the management. But what should one do to avoid things from slipping down to such depths and from having to take such drastic actions at a substantial expense to all parties involved, without the guarantee that the devil you don’t yet know is better or worse than the one you are so eager to get rid of!

Take a look at this article about Namibian Railways and you will find that this novel idea of employee empowerment seems to start on the wrong foot. The unions seem to be protecting the employees’ (and their own interests) by ensuring that they remain employed by the organisation, whereas the employer is trying to turn them into independent/free lancing service providers who will not be on their payroll and allow them to invest the funds elsewhere.

Shirking responsibility or ensuring ones own subsistence is by far not the way to exemplify oneself as a leader. Without leadership, change management will also be faced with resistance and if views are diametrically opposed, negotiations become that much more difficult. Is a mediator required? The question is: are all concerned parties prepared to selflessly mediate in the best interest of the people they employ and represent? If the answer is yes, at the very risk of the management having to hand over the reins of power to their employees of today, or the representing unions being made extinct due to the adoption of their members of the entrepreneurial solution put forward by TransNamib, then the need for mediation will itself become extinct.

In this article, Dwyer (2015), submits six preconditions which will contribute to the success of a change (programme/ process).  He enumerates them as follows:

– The management and the workforce must accept that change is required and that it should be correctly managed, communicated and all the stakeholding parties must be involved by empathic persuasion rather than coercion.

– Being aware that the change they will undergo is going to affect them. The author points out “Never forget the greatest motivational tool is to be able to respond to the question, “What’s in it for ME?”  For most individuals, motivation is about achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and personal growth.” and encourages, “the change message address the motivational opportunities.”

– The change message must be announced from the very early stages of the decision being taken and then be repeated very often for all of it’s parts to sink-in.

– Honesty and project management techniques are two of the pillars that the success of any change depends on.

– The change leadership must not only have all the qualities to satisfy the above, but must also be motivated themselves to make sure that they carry out to the end what they set out to do initially and to make sure that all that was promised during the course of the change be duly given.

And when it comes to “Employee Empowerment Zones” as Rauner, the Governor of the American State of Illinois put it, he is not really far from what TransNamib was suggesting for their workforce.  No matter how one goes about it, where it goets suggested, and what name one gives it, the most fundamental objective of such proposals remains to “save money” – from going to the workforce, and redirecting it into the pockets of the handful of decision-making stakeholders.

In all cases of change, there is resistance. In some cases, say in a country like Luxembourg, it will be easier to implement at the national level by breaking it down into local subsections and making the change look like a privilege. I know what you are thinking: I remember my parents doing that with my siblings and me! If you are a parent, you know that you did have to resort to it at some point…with more or less success. In a city like London, or in Illinois or even in Namibia, it might seem a tad more difficult to say the least.

Here’s an example of resistance in change mamagement: Greenwich Time report that “even Town Hall cannot fight Town Hall” as it exposes the difficulties the paper-driven administration is having as it tries to carve a more technological, less paper-driven and decidedly what seems to be like a disgruntling process.

Now there were two approaches in implementing such change: you either force it down the throat of those who will have to undergo change and face the music when their time comes, or you take the project management approach and let the various processes take their course, whilst explaining why the change is good and answering the questions with patience and self-control. Thus, you also dilute the disgruntlement over a longer period by letting new habits replace old ones and dissolving the rumble caused by change resisters into the grind of “positive communication”. What is positive communication, you might ask? That will be answered a little further below.

Whilst industrial giants like Airbus and HP are busy putting themselves through a change at the management level, “Prowers Medical Center tackled a variety of items related to patient care and expansion” (Frost, 2015), it also underwent a huge change programme in 2014, but the CEO of the organisation put employee empowerment, being inspired from the book The Florence Prescription by Joe Tye as “the number one” achievement. The author of the book visited the hospital during the course of the change, and shared his knowledge as to the purpose of the hospital, each employee’s role and how they could take it’s ownership.

From this example to empowerment, it takes only a small jump, I thnk. With that in mind, Kurane (2015), suggests a mneumonic technique to remember the 5 ways he prescibes for empowering employees – or anyone for that matter. In my opinion, empowering is like peeling an orange: there is an ideal place, and it depends on what you want to achieve. For a bare minimum effort, or as a newbie, you will start anywhere and get the fruit out; the more experienced practitioner of the art will challenge himself – or herself, and share the collected/ analysed data. The author’s five-point empowerment mantra is, “Purpose, Ownership, Wins, Entrust and Recognition” (Ibid). Look at it carefully, and you will quickly find POWER in the formula.

Purpose: The purpose of change is usually clear to those who are in it’s favour, but it is invariably missed by those who resist it. Rather than confronting them with the reasons that brought about change, it is easier to get their buy-in by advocating it’s benefits. In doing most things, the involved parties can be persuaded and inspired to join if they know “what’s in it for them” rather than what they can bring to the effort. They know best what they can bring; they also know that unless they get something in ecvhange of their efforts, the extent of their participation will, at most,  be minimalistic. Buy in of all parties can be achieved by proper, positive communication. Positive communication, at any level, I have found, requires:

– active listening,

– positive language,

– concise language,

– specific message,

– empathetic attitude,

– taking of responsibility,, and

– being helpful.

In sum, change, when brought about, must be properly managed with communicational processes that do not reflect the same attitude that caused it to come about.  As governments have to govern well at the risk of seeing their adversaries being voted into power, managements have to manage well at the risk of being confronted with change. Communication is as important to avoid change as it is during or even after change take place; internal communication can be compared to the spine that holds the segments of an orange together, whereas the peel can be seen as the external communication of an organisation.

Reference:

Childers.A.,(2015),”Hiring New Management”, The Cooperator – The Co-op & Condo Monthly, Yale Robbins, Inc, New York, USA, available at http://cooperator.com/articles/2878/1/Hiring-New-Management/Page1.html accessed on 30.1.2015

Drucker.P.,(2001),”The Essential Drucker”,PerfectBound, Harper-Collims Publications, USA available at https://familiapinto.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/drucker-peter-f1-the-essential-drucker.pdf accessed on 30.1.2015

Dwyer,K,(2015),”6 steps to managing change in your business”,Mortgage Broker News.ca – Key Media Pty Ltd, available at http://www.mortgagebrokernews.ca/news/6-steps-to-managing-change-in-your-business-187576.aspx accessed on 30.1.2015

Frost,C.,(2015),”PMC moves forward”, Lamar Ledger, Colorado, USA available at http://www.lamarledger.com/ci_27277447/pmc-moves-forward accessed on 4.2.2015

Kurane, D.,(2015),”Five ways to empower your employees”,Standard Group, India available at http://zeenews.india.com/news/education/five-ways-to-empower-your-employees_1533859.html