Change Management

ByMary Otiotio

Change Management

Preparing Leaders for Change Management


Inadequate investment in leadership development can hinder the acquisition of change management skills among leaders.

Most organisations that invest in leadership development tend to run sporadic programmes which have little impact and are not usually contextualised to fit with the strategy and specific needs of the business. Despite the vast investment in change management programmes by organisations (Harvard Business Review and McKinsey), there is still a high failure rate of 50-70%. These statistics are startling and have remained constant. Even those that succeed do not always achieve their intended objective. The problem is not the lack of change management methodologies but rather, it is the leadership and management of the process that seems to present a challenge. Leadership development and change management are intertwined, all efforts should be made to equip leaders with change management skills. Change management requires a concerted and coordinated effort of all levers of change, i.e., the content of what to change, decision making roles, culture, resources required, and the work setting.  In fact, both the soft and hard aspects of the change and the overall implications have to be understood both at senior and grassroots levels.

The whole essence of change management requires adaptation and learning to create new ways of doing things. The rapid rate of change in the environment requires a proactive rather than reactive approach to change. There are different perspectives of what constitutes organisational change, but the external environment seems to be the main driving force for change. From an external perspective, change can be triggered by economic, political and legislative, globalisation of markets, demographic and technological factors. While external pressure drives change, change can also be triggered from within the organisation particularly when there is a new vision or mission which dictates the overall strategy of the organisation. The core activities within the organisation, for example, the administrative structure, culture or processes can also trigger internal change.   Internal changes can sometimes arise as a result of changes in organisational values, beliefs and expectations, and demands from stakeholders. The effect of these changes can impact on organisations such that they develop the willingness to adapt and renew their vision and strategies to take advantage of the opportunities available.  One of the essential requirements and core competence of a leader is the ability to prepare for change. Leaders who are ready for change automatically embrace change, have a good knowledge of the change process and the likely impact on others. Some will take the initiative to engage people in the change process in an attempt to minimise or eliminate fear.  The ability to respond and adapt to the changing needs of the environment determines how competitive or successful an organisation can be. This calls for a contingency approach and involves consciously evaluating aspects of the environment most likely to impact on the organisation.

So far, we can see the relevance of change in organisations.  The question is, why is change management not considered as an intrinsic feature of leadership development? The need to be equipped with change management skill is perhaps summed up by Kanter (1997) who stated that:

Managers who can embed change capabilities in everyday operations and who empower their people to serve as agents of change are ‘less likely to be blindsided by surprises or to face resistance from the workforce’ (p3).

We can conclude that there is indeed a relationship between management/leadership and change – that change management is an essential feature of a leader or manager’s job. It is no longer sufficient for managers or leaders to be seen as change agents, it is equally important for them to gain requisite skills to fulfil the demands of this role. Besides, it is a core organisational competence.  The significance of change management in organisations cannot be overlooked.  All effort should be made to integrate both leadership and change management processes.  It takes a good leader to develop a vision, identify the prospects of the organisation and devise the mechanism to fulfil that vision while responding to the changing needs of the environment. This, however, demands knowledge of managing change from the top and promoting change as a key feature of organisational life.  Promoting change to subordinates will offer a new perspective on organisational change. It can also provide an opportunity to engage and empower individuals who are keen to improve performance in their area of influence. Potential leaders who are resilient and passionate to drive positive change in the organisation should be encouraged and supported by senior leaders.  Such holistic approach helps create a positive mindset provided the scope of a change initiative, anticipated outcomes and benefits and possible time frame are articulated.

About the author

Mary Otiotio administrator