Organization Change - A blessing or a curse? (2)
The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings. --Kakuzo Okakaura
Hello Readers, last week, I shared my opinions on the way people perceive the changes that take place in organizations, especially the banking industry. Although I am a firm believer in change, I am a bit hesitant to say this, but I do not believe in a system that claims to have a supposed magic wand that can do the trick, but rather, a change that listens, putting perceptions aside and working to create teams that believe in the change. In short, organizational change is a blessing but sometimes the process is effected with a whip, making the beneficiaries think it is a curse!
Having looked at the brief history of developments in the banking industry, it is interesting to see how far banking has come and change is part of it. The geography, history, political, economic, social, legal and religious changes in the country and the world as a whole has definitely altered the banking scene, even though the principles in banking remains the same. The proliferation of banks has obviously been accompanied by numerous products and services new to banking. With this fierce but healthy competition in the banking sector, daily newspapers are adorned with catchy adverts of re-branded or new products all in an attempt to lure new customers to their products and services. Many banks in the commercial centers now work half day on Saturdays, thus making it possible for busy workers to access banking services at the weekend. Internet banking has also brought twenty four hours non-stop access to banking accounts across the globe.
Why is change so difficult?
The culture of an organization becomes a part of the people who perform the work. In changing old patterns, people must alter not only their behaviour but also their values and their views of themselves and others. Sometimes the organization’s structures, procedures, and relationships continue to reflect prior patterns of behavior, causing resistance to new ones. As a result, organizational changes sometimes result in upheavals and dissatisfaction, as well as resignations, dismissals, or transfers.
It is therefore important that, an organization must develop an adaptive orientation and management style that is geared to its new environment. There are several theories on the steps in the organizational change process. Kurt Lewin developed a change model involving three steps: unfreezing, changing and refreezing. The model represents a very simple and practical model for understanding the change process. For Lewin, the process of change entails creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving toward the new, desired level of behavior and finally, solidifying that new behavior as the norm. The model is still widely used and serves as the basis for many modern change models.
Managers in different organizations deal with situations that may be dramatically different. Some organizations exist in relatively stable environments, whereas others operate in highly dynamic settings. Each requires different orientation to the environment. The “copy and paste” syndrome does not always work. The “copy” should be modified to suit the new environment to make it work. A process flow in a global institution needs modification to suit the conditions of the Ghanaian banking environment, given the high illiterate population.
Resistance to change
Resistance to change has long been the center of attention of managerial research studies due to its immense importance in influencing the overall success and failure of an organizational change process. There is a thought that the extent, level and magnitude of resistance that an organizational change persists determine how successful and effective it will be or otherwise fail to achieve its objectives.
Other studies, however, such as those conducted by Kotter et al., provide evidence of the fact that resistance to change alone cannot be blamed for the ineffective implementation of change (Coch, and French, Grusky and Miller, Bartlett and Kayser). There are other factors such as the approach taken on by the managers with regards to change that affects the successful change management process. The approach comprises of the beliefs and attitudes that are a part of the managerial practice which may result in a failure to understand the complex procedures and other complications incumbent in the change process resulting in the ineffective implementation of the change required by the organization in context.
The effective management of change is a major challenge facing many organizations. Failure to change results in extinction. To be successful, banks try to develop a managerial style and culture that can adequately handle the challenges and opportunities they face. Sometimes a management style that was adequate under the previous conditions may become progressively less effective under changing circumstances. Without change, management cannot maintain excellence. Resistance therefore is a necessary evil that change masters have to expect and manage.
This word brings back interesting memories I have of one induction program for newly outsourced staff of a bank. One of them had gone through National Service previously in that bank, and knew the system well. Guess what? He had observed during his National Service days, that his former branch had operated in a system which created a dichotomy between outsourced and regular staff, making the outsourced staff feel inferior!
Another dichotomy is the wide gap created between “Old Staff” and “New Staff”. The old staff are the ones that were in the system before the introduction of new management, new processes and policies. The entrance of new staff is seen by some existing staff as an invasion, a nuisance and they are sometimes even perceived as spies for the new management. During such situations, some old staff go to the extent of conducting their own background checks on the new ones, as they wonder why they have come to “replace” their colleagues who have had to be laid off or, “right-sized”. One expected development of this dichotomy is that the new staff also start bonding together, sharing information, ideas and thoughts. As their relationships are cemented, they sometimes form their own negative impressions (mostly false) about the old staff. They eventually generalize that all old staff are bad, useless, ignorant, etc. The gap continues to widen. Can you imagine that in some places, even after ten years of integration, the old and new staff syndrome continues to persist!
If you are a new staff, you have to be mature about these things and take it as a normal phenomenon in human institutions. A lot depends on your attitude as well. You have to understand and empathize with the old staff, while making sure that you listen, “shine” your eyes, avoid being trapped into taking sides with people and stay focused on your goals as you “justify your inclusion”. After all, no condition is permanent. When the resisters of change realize your neutrality and seriousness, they will come closer to become your friends. Avoid creating an impression that you have the magic wand. The key is teamwork.
The “Pull Him Down” Syndrome
Let us look at the happenings in the departments and branches during organizational changes. A typical scenario is that of staff with long experience who find themselves being “Lorded” over by younger entrants or “outsiders” who have no inkling into how they have fought and built up the system with their sweat and blood! Some of them wonder….“ How can you come and usurp the big family feeling we had, and dilute the system?” Such people feel relegated to the background and sometimes peeved that their wings of power have been cut off. The only thing I can say to such people is “relax, work with the person, study what he or she has come to offer, learn and unlearn. You never know, it may only be a façade that can be lifted off in the near future, or the person really has something to offer the organization. Don’t feel threatened. Look at the bigger picture”. Sometimes we forget that if we pull someone down, we will also fall down with the person. Unless of course it is a case of “He that is down needs fear no fall”
I will pause here for now. Next week, we shall look at change agents, the managed people and how best one can benefit from change management as an opportunity to live one’s dream and not regard it as a curse. Thanks for your time.
TO BE CONTINUED
In the meantime, please read chapter four of my book – THE 21ST CENTURY BANK TELLER – A STRATEGIC PARTNER”. It deals with “Appearances Deceive – Treating Customers Fairly”. Please continue to share more branch banking experiences. You can visit the offices of Chartered Institute of Bankers, National Banking College or call 0244333051 for your copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com