Initiating Change from Within
There is an old saying that goes, “the only thing permanent in life is change”, this holds true for almost everything in life. Even our bodies attest to that fact. We are not the same physiologically, mentally and psychologically as we were, say, ten years ago. Change is inherent in the world that we live in. If change is something that is inherent in nature, it seems that resisting change is something that comes with it naturally. All our lives we try to resist change, our life is somewhat a constant struggle against change.
Resisting change is something that many people tend to do in many situations. We sometimes can get so comfortable with what we have as of the moment and as human beings will struggle to hang on to it at all costs. It is but normal for anyone to hang on to circumstances that we are comfortable with and resist lest we lose the things we have worked so hard for. As people we are inherently hypocritical and will only espouse the change that will benefit us (Cummings, 2008). It is quite ironic though that even though change is something of a constant in life we tend to fight it as soon as we see it.
But what is change anyway? Change actually implies a marked transformation in situation, a relationship or an organization (Wamwangi, 2003). In effect it is actually something new or different from what we are used to. Even though as I have said we do not like change there are instances wherein we are thrust into situations that require us to be the ones who effect change. This is usually the case when we are thrust into leadership roles. But the fact that you are not a leader does not discount you from effecting change. We are all as capable of effecting change as the next person.
As ironic as it may seem, change for some reason does not happen the way we want it to, it may happen but not in the way expect it to be. In order to come up with desired changes we can use strategies to come up with results. In the book “Handbook of Organization Development”, (2008) there were four strategies enumerated and they are; empirical rational strategy, power coercive, normative re-educative and advancing change theory (Cummings, 2008). In an ideal world we can just choose one and all will be fine, but in reality there are times when we need to apply one over the other or apply a combination (Nickols 2010).
Prior to articulate Luca ’ s experience as change leader, a reflection on his personal experience and psychological state turns to be important. 1 3. 1 The organizational context in which the change strategy evolved Luca joined in 2008 a major insurance group as the Financial Director. He was given the task of setting many projects in order and working with difficult people. As a financial director he was tasked with heading a very big division, one that had a very diverse composition. It was not just a racially diverse group. That was not the problem.
His problem was old: the different personalities and attitudes that made up his division. This was compounded by the fact that since he was back in a company he had to report to someone higher up the chain than him. He was now again reporting to a boss, as such his every move is scrutinized and needs to be justified. He needed to provide results. 2 3. 2 The challenges One of the most challenging tasks that he was given was that of reorganizing and restructuring his division and re-engineer the financial processes for the group.
He needed to make his division more streamlined as well as working processes so that the company could have worked more effectively and efficiently. His division was very top heavy and there were many redundant positions. And the task was not easy due to the negative climate that permeated his division. Most the people there were very negative and had abrasive attitudes. The people in his division did not respond to leadership properly and were very resistant to change. When he made his new program known he was met with resistance. 3 3. 3 The approach adopted for leading and managing change
At first, Luca tried to talk and reason with his staff but to no avail. He then tried to break down their resistance with sanctions but that was worse. His subordinates were afraid that he was out for their jobs and that he just wanted to implement a witch hunt. Since he was the boss the people put up a facade of cooperation and did not overtly subvert him. They were planning his ruin behind his back and made the situation worse. His subordinates were plotting to have him sacked by not cooperating and making him fail. It was either him or them. Luca’s job became harder and harder.
He was feeling depressed and stressed out. It was like the old days again, but now he was better. He had felt how it is be ridiculed and be a better man. He had many experiences that would last him a lifetime of lessons. He wanted to leave at first because of the pressure. But he realized the reason he left in the first place, he was afraid, tired and did not know himself. He wanted people to change and accept him but eventually he realized that all he needed was to confront himself and be the change that he wanted to happen. It was hard confronting his fears, biases and aspirations.
The change that happened had a great effect on him and his work. This is a testament to the fact that the values that leaders bring to work have a profound effect on their subordinates (Wirtenberg et al, 2007). He asked himself the question of whether he was implementing the change because he wanted to impress his bosses or because he wanted to help the company. What results did he want to create? The answer was clear to him. He took the job because he wanted to help the company and not just to make himself look good in the company. He was better equipped now because of his experience as private practitioner.
He learned to see on a macro level. His goals were now more altruistic and transcended his own personal goals. He worked hard to get the message across to his group. Eventually he was able to win them over and even they were bent on pursuing a single goal to make the division more streamlined. Luca was able to prove that setting up a good example is always a good practice in order to encourage employees do the same (Petrova, Goldstein, Cialdini, 2004). The people that had redundant roles were offered to take up positions that the division lacked and even asked to be transferred to other divisions that needed them.
Once they saw he was not just trying to impress his bosses, they took on his attitude towards work and slowly made the division the best in the company. The journey towards transcendence and success took a long time for him but Luca now is as happy and successful as he ever wanted to be because of that.
An evaluation of Luca’s ability to lead change The key question to answer is whether or not Luca was equipped to provide leadership and managing change while restructuring the Financial division. Luca shifted his focus “from a self-interest to the collective interest’’ of his company (Quinn and Sonenshein, 2008, p. 5). He lifted himself becoming more focused on achieving the common goals of the organization and other focused. His lift has the potential to influence his subordinates in the organization and build consensus around change. He changed his behaviour and more importantly he overcame the barriers in his psychological state: the fear of the unknown, the immunity to change. He was initially focused on pleasing his bosses, driven by results and was not kind to his subordinates. When he stopped being focused on himself, he was no longer worried about people taking advantage of him, planning his death ehind his shoulders.
Without his self-focused worries, he could empathise with his subordinates’ needs more clearly and understand their resistance to change. He understood that restructuring the Financial division and processes was creating anxiety and fear amongst its subordinates. He could then sense that they needed to be reinsured and challenged to think about their role in the company differently. Essentially Luca had a clear purpose and after testing a few strategy – from imposing change by sanctioning behaviours to storytelling and involvement – he found the approach to accomplish his purpose.
He was extremely focused on the purpose rather than the problems. Luca was also well equipped in his leadership role due to the strong expertise in the financial field. Expertise has become one of the most powerful source of influence in the modern world of work (Robbins and Judge, 2007). He wanted his subordinates to respect him for his deep financial expertise and understood that he also had to respect them. Each of them had his expertise on his job. He was relating to others to caring and listening. Luca has a solid financial background and has gained practical, hands-on experience throughout his career.
Luca has shifted to an externally-open mental state and fully appreciates the potential of sharing his knowledge. He experienced, in school, how dependant most of his co-students were on others when homework had to be done and decided to help students by explaining the work to them rather than letting them to copy. In business today he still prefer to assist staff by explaining exactly what is needed to be done, that doing it on their behalf. Luca has completely changed the way of working at IOM. This has been an exceptional success which needs to be celebrated. It demonstrates that people can change, can improve.
Luca has already projected himself into the next goal and quickly shared congratulating words with his staff. I believe that Luca by not stopping and reflecting on the great success he and his team have achieved is missing a great opportunity to inspire his team even to greater success. 2. Actions Luca should focus on for further growth and development Luca has reached an executive position in his career. He now sits in the Executive Board of his company. He is required to contribute to the strategic planning process and this entails making tough decisions which can impact on the future of the company and people working with him.
One way to understand whether or not strategies worked is to get feedback on it. Luca still perceive feedback as a threat rather than a tool for continuous improvement. Even during the syndicate dynamics, Luca takes feedback too personally, as a judgement on his ability, and does not fully appreciate the constructive criticism of it.