Leadership & Change

Why Change is needed?

The volatility in world market and intense competition in dynamic workplace indicates that change is now a normal state of business to survive and succeed in an unpredictable environment (Peccei, Giangreco and Sebastiano 2011). Organisation need to face changes in technology innovation, change in competitive strategy and internal organisational changes. Market leaders who did not change successfully are nowhere today (Birkinshaw 2013).



Referring to the statement by Mullins and Christy (2013), I agree that change is inevitable and it is depends on individual’s personality. People who remain status quo and refuse to change might be knocked out by society. Corporate Leadership Council (2009) reported that organisational performance can be improved if only the changes are effectively delivered by managers to employees. Communication act as a key when you want employees to change and it must be effectively done so that employees understand the need to change. Therefore, the future of the organisation may be influenced by the willingness of employees’ decisions on whether remains status quo or seek to change (Dobre 2013).  This is well-explained by the examples of organisations found in this blog.

Why People Resist to Change?

Organisational’ view

There is possible to fail. Pieterse, Caniels and Homan (2012) asserted that 70% of all change efforts fail, leading to disappointed expectations and losses millions of dollars in time and resources. This is because the failed organisation does not take the correct approach to see the change through such as allowing too much complacency, underestimating the power of vision, neglecting to stick to changes firmly in the culture and etc. (Foster 2010).

Individual’s view

In view of individual who is inertia, the reason behind are due to job insecurity, anxiety or loss of control (Oreg 2006). This happened when staffs are promoted that favour performance over seniority.  Conflict and sense of insecurity occurred causing disengaged counterparts among employees and eventually jeopardise organisation’s overall performance (Lucky, Minai and Rahman 2013).

Role of Manager in Managing Change

Managers play a vital role to avoid and overcome the resistant to change. Managers can inspire others to change by identifying the problems, delineation of clear goal and build consensus with employees by seeking advice from them (Zenger and Folkman 2015). All these required long time implementation, training and commitment from senior management. Employees are critically important to change initiatives because they act as change implementers and their commitment might determine the desire goal of initiatives (Fugate, Prussia and Kinicki 2012). Thus, strength of relationship between manager and employees are vital to support change programmes.

Models of Change Management

a)    John Kotter’s 8 Step Organisational Change Model

Kotter (1996) introduced an emergent approach which consists of Eight-Stage Process for Successful Organisational Transformation. The eight-steps shown in Figure 1 are required for large scale change in an organisation.

Firstly, leader needs to tell employees that it is time to change and then gather the most powerful employees to form a team. Vision is then developed together with right strategy by effective communication. Barriers are identify and removed subsequently. A win achieved and more people willing to change after seeing the result. Wave of changes is created until the vision is realised. Lastly, stick to the change by continues the new and winning behaviour despite the pull of tradition.The stages are well-explained in Table 1.kotter

Figure 1: Kotter’s Eight-step Process in Leading Change (Kotter 1996)

Steps Explanation
Step 1

Establish a sense of urgency

The organisation must have gut enough to determine the move. Leader must drive people out of comfort zones and patience is required to inspire and motivate them to greatness.
Step 2

Create a guiding coalition

No one can create a successful change without a team of effective people. Getting the right people in a right place is important to get productive decisions.
Step 3

Create a change vision

Vision is linked with feasible strategies, plans and budgets to achieve goals within the agreed time frame. Guidance is needed to support and lead the team in the correct pathway.
Step 4

Communicating the change vision

Effective communication with members to gather information and provide opportunity to ask questions. Opinion and concern are taken seriously to ensure vital messages are highly visible and understood across the entire organisation.
Step 5

Empower Action

Barriers that undermine the vision are removed to unleash the potential of people to do their best. People who are resists to change are known and honest dialogue is carried out to change their mindset and let them know they are needed for change.
Step 6

Create short-term wins

The win is visible and unambiguous and acts as an evidence to show their sacrifices are paying-off. People are optimistic with the change and feel motivated to move on.
Step 7

Consolidate improvements and producing more change

Maintain the momentum and sustain change. Analyse what went right and what needs to improve after win. New change agents and leaders are introduced for change coalition.
Step 8

Anchor to the change

Change does not stop here and win behaviour continues. Culture is build up by shared values and norm of behaviour.  New employees are reinforced with new norms and values such as incentives, rewards and promotions.

Table 1: John Kotter’s 8 Step Organisational Change Model with Explanation (Kotter 1996)

Limitations of Kotter’s Eight-step Change Process

On the downside, there are few drawbacks to Kotter’s model. Bamford and Forrester (2003) argued that the model lacks coherence and a diversity of techniques. They mentioned that there is no one model can be fit by all organisations in all situations and at all times. Burnes (1996) asserted that Kotter’s model is beneficial to large organisation but not for small enterprises.

b)   Kurt-Lewin’s 3 Steps Change Model

As shown in Figure 2, the organisational change is explained by creating and understands the motivation to change and what to change (unfreeze). Secondly, flexibility of action plan is implemented and change process required effective communication and empowering people to embrace new values, attitudes and behaviours in work. Lastly, organisation return to the state of stability and the change is anchored into the culture (Refreeze). Thus, support and training is necessary while praise and rewards on individual level are needed for more effective performance at an organisational level. However, this model does possess its limitations. The model is very rational, goal and plan oriented. It lacks moral emotions and bypass employees’ feelings (Lapsley and Hill 2009). Thus, some employees might not get adapted to the change and leave the team when changes are carried on.


Figure 2: Kurt Lewin’s 3 Steps Change Process (Lewin 1947)

Example of Organisation that Embrace Change Successfully

In 1994, CEO of Continental Airlines, Gordan Bethune (Figure 3) successfully transformed the organisation from worst carrier to fifth-largest airlines (Klein 2002).  Before the organisation became the market leader in aviation industry, Continental Airlines was forced to file for two bankruptcies prior to 1991.  The significant change was initiated by the implementation of “Go Forward Plan” that utilise steps in Kurt Lewin’s three step change model. The employees were told to understand the need for change. Employees were then empowered and involved in meetings to motivate them more engaged in the plan (Brenneman 1998). The change took five years to make the airlines back to the top placement.


Figure 3: Gordon Bethune sharing his experiences in saving Continental Airline (Bethune 1999)

Example of Organisation that Fail to Change

Research In Motion (RIM) was failed to embrace change due to unwillingness to adopt Android operating system which is getting more popular and more functionality than Blackberry’s existing operating system (Bala, Sharma and Kaur). Mr. Heins, ex-CEO of blackberry was so confident that Blackberry’s proprietary operating system would stand out as sustainable advantage and occupied a government segment of the market (Beatty 2012). Internally, the change management was not effectively implemented. Employees were not empowered to make decision or raise their opinions due to autocratic leadership style and high controllability of leaders adopted in organisation (Castaldo 2012). The suppression of leaders along with intimidating management style caused the business fail to thrive (Figure 4). By 2016, Blackberry’s market share was reduced to a rounding error, amounting to 0.0% market share (Vincent 2017).


Figure 4: Worldwide Smartphone Sales in the Fourth Quarter of 2016. (Vincent 2017)


Figure 5: The unsold units of Blackberry phones in market (Source: The Guardian 2013)

Conclusion and Recommendations for Managers 

In conclusion, change is inevitable as it is part of individual growth or sustainability of organisation due to the dynamically and challenging market in business environment. The reason in resistance to change is understandable, but it would not bring business to sustain longer. Therefore, it is responsibilities of managers to incorporate the need of change with their employees to create a sustainable business model whenever any circumstances occurred in future.

(840 words)


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