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Conceptual Skills

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Conceptualizing Organizational Change

This paper focuses on conceptualising organisational change as a planned and manageable process. Different theoretical assumptions are presented in order to support the argument of change as a planned and manageable process in contemporary organisations. The paper utilises examples from two Nigerian companies, Access Bank Plc and Unilever Nigeria Plc.

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The main conclusion is that Access Bank Plc indicates that change can be a planned process, while Unilever Nigeria Plc shows the case of change as a manageable process. However, it is indicated that change may not succeed as a planned and manageable process especially in the context of Nigerian public education and the food and beverage industry. The paper also contributes to understanding change as a flexible and innovative process occurring in global companies.

Introduction

It has been suggested that organisational commitment may lead to the proper implementation of change. Managers tend to rely on employees while planning or managing organisational change, but organisational commitment may decrease as a direct response to such change (Grieves 2010). Manifesting positive employee attitudes towards change has been linked with successful change initiatives in organisations. It has been argued that change can be both a planned and manageable process (Caldwell 2006). At the same time, it may appear that change as a planned and manageable process may fail, as it will be shown in the case of Nigerian public education and the food and beverage industry. The objective of this paper is to explore the dimensions of change as a planned and manageable process, with focus on the performance of two Nigerian organisations, Access Bank Plc and Unilever Nigeria Plc.

Change as a Planned Process: Access Bank Plc, Nigeria

This section provides evidence on change as a planned process as applied in Access Bank Plc, Nigeria. There is an argument outlined in the change management literature suggesting that employee attitudes towards change might be affected by the perceptions employees demonstrate towards organisational change (Olufemi 2009). Employees play an important role in forming specific attitudes towards organisational change as a planned and manageable process (Caldwell 2006). They may either show positive or negative evaluative judgments of the change model. Change as a planned process indicates the presence of two dimensions, change readiness and change resistance. These dimensions reflect the presence of strategic planning within organisations that are ready to embrace the innovative concept of change. Change readiness has been associated with employees’ behavioural responses to change (Hughes 2010). Resistance to change may not take place in case employees strongly believe that they have the capacities to cope with such projected change. Even though resistance to change may take place, it may be perceived in a positive way considering that it would force companies to implement new and more effective strategies to address the issue of change.

Change can be a planned process, which managers aim to link with change-oriented activities. It can be argued that planned change occurs when some stakeholders manifest a desire to change, enhance their personal introspection, and modify their behavioural patterns in relevant ways (Hughes 2011). However, it would be unrealistic to state that planned change reflects the idea that everyone decides it is useful. Change as a planned process indicates the presence of solid changing forces in both the internal and external environment of organisations. Kotter’s 8-step model of change indicates that change can be a planned process involving eight proposed steps from creating the urgency for change to managing it accordingly in the organisational context (Hughes 2010). Jarrett (2003) has argued that planned change seems to increase an organisation’s effectiveness. Approaches to change as a planned process may reflect the relevance of different theories and concepts that tend to describe the stages and procedures of implementing change.

The integrative model of organisational change suggests that change can be a planned process through a strong focus on exploration, planning, action and integration (Jarrett 2003). In addition, emergent theories of change present an argument that managers who aim at developing change as a planned process show an in-depth understanding of the organisation, its culture, assets and readiness to change. Researchers have argued that change projects utilising process orientation and learning are more expected to succeed than those manifesting expert planning at all stages of organisational change in contemporary business (Nistelrooij and Sminia 2010). Change planning and management have identified change as an essential competency for the majority of organisational leaders. Planning change in the context of certainty has become a necessary aspect in organisations which openly promotes flexible communication based on change and innovation. Since some individuals may perceive change as an integral part of organisational life, it would be relevant to focus on developing effective strategies to monitor and sustain such change (Hughes 2010). Planning in relation to change refers to a consideration of the current and future needs of organisations.

Companies illustrating that change can be a planned process focus on planning as a goal-directed activity, in which emphasis is put on organisational goals while trying to maintain change. This may result in better coordination and easy implementation of change in companies (Carnell 2007). An exploration of the Nigerian banking industry reveals a close relationship between planned organisational change and HRM interventions. New banking management practices in Nigeria require the implementation of planned change that may contribute to improved organisational commitment, performance and compliance with important regulatory standards (Olufemi 2009). The acquisition of Intercontinental Bank by Access Bank Plc, Nigeria, has resulted in the necessity of redefining organisational change as a planned process to reflect the needs of the new workforce and the objectives of the banking organisation (Paton and MacCalman 2008).

It has been suggested that successful change planning and management in organisations depends on staffing, alleviating fears, effective communication and planning, and integrating human resource systems (Hughes 2011). In the case of Access Bank Plc, planned organisational change has resulted in creating the need for the human resource department to focus on staffing (Olufemi 2009). The expansion of the bank’s recruiting base has been associated with perceptions of change as a planned process, in which the institution is focused on attracting more talented employees.

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Even though organisational change may create fear and uncertainty, managers considering change as a planned process may alleviate those fears (Hayes 2010). The acquisition initiated by the Nigerian bank shows that employees have learned to adapt to new processes and procedures within the institution (Olufemi 2009).

The case of Access Bank Plc indicates that organisational change can be a planned process due to the interventionist strategies employed by HR managers of the organisation. The creation of new job structures by the bank reflected the necessity to relate organisational change to employees’ roles and expectations (Olufemi 2009). This was done in order to accommodate employees working in both companies considering the acquisition process that took place. The existing human resource systems in the bank showed the trend of planned organisational change which further reflected employees’ commitment to the bank’s long-term objectives. Moreover, Access Bank Plc needed to adjust its HRM policies to achieve its initially determined strategic goals which represent the process of planned change within the institution (Hayes 2010). The model found in the bank presents the existence of convergence among HRM interventionist strategies that were consistent with the perceptions of change as a planned process.

Variables such as fear, planning and development as well as integrated human resources indicate a strong focus on organisational change which has been adequately planned at Access Bank Plc. The bank’s managers have ensured understanding of the planned change process which is fundamental for change implementation (Nistelrooij and Sminia 2010). The interests of various stakeholders are considered as part of such ongoing planning process. As a result of the acquisition, Access Bank Plc tried to alleviate employees’ uncertainty through setting clear corporate objectives and effective communication (Paton and McCalman 2008). Flexibility has been associated with planned organisational change in this Nigerian organisation. Taking various perceptions into consideration was important in encouraging employees’ commitment and planning change. Despite the occurrence of certain conflicts in the institution, the managers demonstrated strong leadership skills while planning and managing change. Another significant aspect of the planned change process in Access Bank Plc is the formation of a change team for better articulation of the stages expected during organisational change.

The Nigerian bank has demonstrated readiness of its employees to accept change as it has been linked with improved organisational performance (Olufemi 2009). The organisation’s managers encouraged integration between processes and implementation of new organisational methods to cope with the process of planned change. Strong corporate culture, strategy, structure and relevant organisational priorities emerged as a result of the Nigerian bank’s focus on organisational change as a planned process. The process of planned change tries to incorporate potential situations of crisis that may occur in the organisation (Caldwell 2006). Therefore, the planned approach to change incorporates unpredictable events that may result from different organisational conflicts.

The Nigerian bank ensures constant adaptations to changing organisational situations. Considering that organisational change is unpredictable is important in perceiving such process as comprising of different organisational factors and flexible learning (Hughes 2010). Lessons learned from the case of Access Bank Plc involve both practical and theoretical considerations, such as identifying sources of change resistance, involvement of employees on a regular basis and developing proper communication plans (Olufemi 2009). The idea is to help the bank’s employees perceive themselves as part of the ongoing organisational change which reflected elements of a planned process. They need to understand that organisational change may influence them to a significant extent in terms of becoming more confident and competent in accomplishing their roles and responsibilities (Nistelrooij and Sminia 2010). It has been demonstrated that all levels of management of Access Bank Plc were aligned with organisational change and thus prevented the formation of negative attitudes among employees. In conclusion, the progress of change in the Nigerian bank was significant due to the role played by HR managers and leaders who placed importance on communication to achieve the planned process of change.

Failure of Change as a Planned Process: Nigerian Public Sector

This section describes the failure of change as a planned process in the Nigerian public sector. In a study conducted by Abdulraheem et al. (2013), it has been found that government reform agenda in Nigeria failed to achieve proper results in improving the quality of education in the country despite adopting the model of change as a planned process. In-depth interviews were conducted as the results showed that cultural differences are a significant indicator of adherence to organisational values (Abdulraheem et al. 2013). It has been suggested that despite the easy formulation of theories and models of change as planned, such aspects of change were difficult to implement in practice. Employees’ resistance to change was indicated across the Nigerian public sector. Cultural differences in terms of change prevented the successful implementation of change.

Different education programmes have been introduced in the context of the Nigerian public sector, but they failed to achieve the objectives of meaningful change in education they initially presented. Abdulraheem et al. (2013) pointed out that change as a planned process was counterproductive to some educational programmes. The divergence of organisational values in Nigeria reflected the unsuccessful adoption of change as a planned process in public education. Despite change efforts, the level of educational development was failed to be comprehended properly.

Change as a Manageable Process: Unilever Nigeria Plc

This section covers the implications of change as a manageable process in the case of Unilever Nigeria Plc. The business environment in general has created a fast pace of change in the workplaceVarious acquisitions, advanced technological tools, reformation, cutbacks and economic recession are all aspects that contribute to a quite unstable business climate (Hayes 2010). The capability to adjust to the demands of the evolving workplace is considered an essential element for individuals and organisational existence. Organisational change is constantly present at Unilever and individuals are shown ato manage, control and guide it. Such change refers not only to accepting human factors, but also to an ability to organise and manage change factors efficiently, considering that change may be predictable (Grieves 2010). Organisational change taking place in the Nigerian organisation is at a transitory stage in a direction of stabilising its future position in the industry. The process of organisational change at Unilever can be managed as the procedure of planning, controlling and executing change in organisations in such a way is to reduce employee confrontation/resistance and cost to the organisation. In turn increasing the usefulness of the change effort becomes a priority to managers. Change is both predictable and attractive for the Nigerian company embracing the idea of innovation (Carnell 2007).

The current business environment indicates signs of rapid competitiveness which results from the application of change initiatives that target the development of companies in a relevant direction Aspects of globalised markets and swiftly evolving technology influence businesses to adopt change in order to strengthen their performance in the market (Hughes 2010). For instance, such changes may reflect the introduction of a new software programme, or refocusing a marketing strategy. Companies, it has been suggestsed, must accept the force of change simply because their business environments require constant changes to take place (Jarrett 2003). Different external and internal organisational factors guide companies to consider the importance of change. Internal demands for change are derived from senior management and lower-level employees who drive the urgency for implementing change. External demands reflect changes in the PESTLE business environment (Burnes 2005).

In practice, the management of change as presented in the case study of Unilever Nigeria Plc reflects common aspects of change observed in other Nigerian manufacturing organisations. . Observing the level of accepting organisational change among employees of Unilever Nigeria Plc may allow managers to structure the process of change in a manner to reflect employees’ different perceptions and expectations of change (Anthonia et al. 2013). This example also focuses on drawing lessons that can be functional and useful to other companies operating in the business environment of Nigeria. Approving and implementing organisational change indicate Unilever employees’ eagerness and willingness, support and assurance to the organisation which is important during the phase of major shifts in the structure of the organisation (Jarrett 2003). It has been suggested that senior managers are usually not in a rush in introducing change. They adhere to the belief that such procedure must be slow, balanced and systematic, particularly in large manufacturing companies like Unilever Nigeria Plc. Results from the survey conducted among employees of the Nigerian organisation revealed that the mean acceptance of change for all participants was reasonable. It has been indicated that characteristics of work settings do not represent any barriers to adopting change by Unilever employees.

Acceptance of change by Unilever employees indicates the enthusiasm and confidence of the involved parties to hold and operate in a flexible business environment dominated by stakeholders’ assurance to influence and execute the changes (Anthonia et al. 2013). As highlighted by different scholars (Caldwell 2006; Jarrett 2003), the process of change can be both planned and managed especially if all stakeholders accept the desired outcomes by such organisational change. Researchers have argued that change should be established, executed and managed in such a way that draws the dedication from the affected parties like employees to accomplish the desired goals (Burnes 2004; Carnell 2007; Hayes 2010). The idea is that change is obligatory and predictable for organisations, as in the case of Unilever. It has been argued that to productively promote innovation in Unilever Nigeria Plc, it is not possible for senior management to have the ability and expertise needed for recognising the necessity to manage change. Managers needed to widen their understanding of the major factors that may encourage or obstruct employees’ support for change initiatives in the organisation (Hughes 2010). This is significant because employees are considered the main stakeholders as well as the executers of change in the organisation. In the case of Unilever, it has been indicated that older employees and management staff were less receptive to the concept of change in comparison to younger employees working in the organisation.

From the perspective of Unilever Nigeria Plc, employees were expected to hold and manage the execution of innovation through recognising the importance of innovative organisational culture. Unilever is a manufacturing company, in which the success of innovations is closely associated with support and encouragement from both senior management and non-managerial personnel (Anthonia et al. 2013). Additionally, innovations in Unilever Nigeria require strategic policies representing the company’s vision, goals, priorities and ways of action. In order to contribute to successful management of change within the organisation, senior managers combined effort and interpersonal reliance of all employees from all organisational departments and levels comprising the organisation’s hierarchical structure (Olufemi 2009). Unilever Nigerian Plc indicates an objective to deliver sufficient dividend on stakeholder investments. Yet the company is not resistant to most problems faced by other Nigerian companies. Similarly to most organisations operating in Nigeria, Unilever faced different internal challenges that weakened its competence to accomplish its mission thus pursuing to reinvent itself and manage the change process.

Unilever Nigeria Plc has achieved solutions through innovations in order to implement change which has been recognised as a manageable process. The organisation is dedicated to innovation in various dimensions of its business, such as products, change policies, marketing initiatives and change mechanism strategies. It has been demonstrated that Unilever should reconsider the way in which it carries out its business activities in the economic Nigerian environment (Anthonia et al. 2013). The Nigerian organisation provides a practical example of how companies embrace the idea of change and manage it accordingly, with the idea to guarantee that the change process is executed effectively (Hayes 2010). Employees’ support, motivation, encouragement and commitment to change is fundamental. For example, results from surveying employees at Unilever revealed that most employees accept innovations, as non-managerial staff was more ready to accept change.

Unilever Nigeria Plc tries to achieve the goals outlined in its vision of being a leading manufacturing organisation in Nigeria. However, the changes (or innovations) used to direct the company in that direction must be suitable to all stakeholders as well as properly executed (Burnes 2005). However, the successful execution of change and implementing other alteration measures in Unilever Nigeria Plc represents the relevance of two functional categories of human resources, that is management and non-management employees. Employees’ commitment to accomplish the various stages of change is a necessary requirement for the transformation of the company into an innovative enterprise because it would reflect strong indications of a company’s dynamic tempo of development (Hughes 2011). It has been found, through administering surveys to a sample of 720 senior/management staff and junior/non-managerial staff, that employees of Unilever Nigeria Plc demonstrated a positive attitude towards change. This indicates a high level of recognition of change on the behalf of stakeholders (Anthonia et al. 2013). The findings recommended that senior management of Unilever Nigeria Plc indicated effective practices of uniting employees in order to sustain and manage the change process.

The findings further implied that since employees at the company are likely to assess change completely, they are not opposed to it and thus any resistance is not expected to take place. In other words, employees would accept change and oppose it only if it increases legal concerns that may emerge in the workplace (Hughes 2011). This is consistent with the views shared in the organisational change management literature in the sense that negative attitudes of change may be an indicator for growing anxiety among employees. These findings are consistent with claims presented in existing literature, which shows that individuals may resist change or innovations because of uncertainty, misunderstanding, peer pressure, personal conflict and inaccurate perceptions of the change process (Anthonia et al. 2013; Hughes 2011; Paton and McCalman 2008). In particular, participative management, quality control management and trust in management emerged as important determinants of accepting the validity of the organisational change process by turning it into manageable and acceptable among employees of Unilever Nigeria Plc (Anthonia et al. 2013).

The change initiated by senior management of Unilever Nigeria Plc was supported by employees, indicating that the organisation has adequately communicated the necessity to embrace and manage change (Anthonia et al. 2013). The major objective of the case study was to describe the organisational management of change at Unilever Nigeria Plc, which provided evidence that the change process can be manageable. The outcome that can be illustrated from this case study is that the corporate strategic model implied above does not seem to fit in with the assumptions of change demonstrated by senior managers (Hughes 2010). This may result in damaging the execution of necessary change at the organisation. This can apply to all manufacturing companies in Nigeria, as the majority of Nigerian organisations face interrelated challenges across different industry sectors.

Failure of Change as a Manageable Process: The Food and Beverage Industry in Nigeria

This section demonstrates findings that change has failed as a manageable process in some companies operating in the food and beverage industry in Nigeria. Olarewaju and Folarin (2012) aimed at exploring the impact of economic and political environment changes on organisational performance. Respondents from three companies operating in this industry filled questionnaires, as the results indicated that change failed as a manageable process. It has been suggested that managers should demonstrate greater concerns regarding organisational change and performance in terms of employing regular scanning of programmes introduced in organisations.

It has been concluded that the influence of the external business environment, which involves persistent change, on organisational performance in the food and beverage industry in Nigeria was inadequate (Olarewaju and Folarin 2012). Understanding change as a manageable process was not effective across this industry because some food and beverage companies did not succeed in maintaining their performance measurement system properly. Forces shaping competition in the industry were irrelevant, pointing out that change initiatives were inadequate in this business context.

Conclusion

This paper presented arguments that change can be a planned and manageable process in contemporary organisations. The focus was on discussing the implications of change in the context of Nigerian companies, respectively Access Bank Plc and Unilever Nigeria Plc. It has been concluded that Access Bank Plc demonstrates a change structured process that is planned, whereas Unilever Nigeria Plc illustrates a manageable change process (Caldwell 2006). In addition, details of the failure of change as a planned and manageable process were included with regards to Nigerian public education and the food and beverage industry. The paper also illustrated the argument that change is linked with innovative organisational culture, which indicates a strong focus on the expected innovative performance of companies (Burnes 2004). The implications of conceptualising change as a planned and manageable process may help individuals and practitioners in the field recognise important characteristics and stages of organisational change.

References

Abdulraheem, I., Mordi, C., Ojo, Y. and Ajonbadi, H. (2013) ‘Outcomes of Planned Organisational Change in the Nigerian Public Sector: Insights from the Nigerian Higher Education Institutions’, Economic Insights-Trends and Challenges, Vol. 2(1) pp26-37

Anthonia, A., Adewale, O. and Joachim, A. (2013) ‘Organisational Change and Human Resource Management Interventions: An Investigation of the Nigerian Banking Industry’, Serbian Journal of Management, Vol. 8(2) pp139-153

Burnes, B. (2004) Managing Change, London, Prentice Hall

Burnes, B. (2005) ‘Complexity Theories and Organizational Change’, International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 7(2) pp73-90

Caldwell, R. (2006) Agency and Change, London, Routledge

Carnell, C. (2007) Managing Change in Organisations, London, Prentice Hall

Grieves, J. (2010) Organisational Change: Themes and Issues, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Hayes, J. (2010) The Theory and Practice of Change Management, London, Palgrave

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Hughes, M. (2011) ‘Do 70 Per cent of All Organizational Change Initiatives Really Fail?’, Journal of Change Management, Vol. 11(4) pp451-464

Jarrett, M. (2003) ‘The Seven Myths of Change Management’, Business Strategy Review, Vol. 14(4) pp22-29

Olarewaju, A. A. and Folarin, E. A. (2012) ‘Impacts of External Business Environment on Organisational Performance in the Food and Beverage Industry in Nigeria’, British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, Vol. 6(2) pp194-201

Olufemi, A. J. (2009) ‘Managing Organisational Change in Nigeria Manufacturing Enterprises: Lessons from the Unilever Nigeria Plc’, International Business Management, Vol. 3(2) pp15-21

Paton, R. A. and McCalman, J. (2008) Change Management: A Guide to Effective Implementation, London, Sage

Van Nistelrooij, A. and Sminia, H. (2010) ‘Organization Development: What’s Actually Happening?’, Journal of Change Management, Vol. 10(4) pp 407-420

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