Would an organization be able to survive without adapting to the ever-changing business environment as we know it today? For example, technological advancements triggered change across corporate training departments urging them to digitalize learning offerings. To guide successful change, Biech (2007) suggests a number of change models to be followed but it seems like those responsible for the change do not necessarily follow a particular model, or they do, but partially or not according to the model’s prescribed sequence. To better understand how change is managed in learning organizations, two leaders were consulted. As an outcome of the two interviews (Scenario A and B), the author of this blog post developed a comparative inforgraphic (see link) to show and compare how digital learning change was executed at the leaders’ respective organizations.
For Scenario A, although not comprehensively and sequentially applied, Lewin’s change management model “Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze” (Lewin, 1947 as cited in Biech, 2007) seems to have been used. Specifically, following the company’s expansion, the leader was faced with increased costs for delivering face-to-face product awareness and sales courses to a Canada-wide group of six hundred sales representatives. To resolve the problem, (a) the acquisition of a Learning Management System (LMS); and (b) a change of course delivery model from instructor-led to online was identified as a solution. During LMS implementation, frontline management was observed compartmentalized and having their own sales targets to achieve with a lot of pressure exercised on them. On one hand, senior leadership’s mandate was ‘complete this module…by this time’, and on the other hand, the change leader was pressured to support the increased sales objectives. After LMS implementation, corrective actions were put in place due to internal senior employee pushback with completing the eLearning modules, technological challenges at remote locations, desktop hardware issues, and underestimated eLearning module durations. In conclusion, referring to Lewin’s model, the current state of sales teams travelling to Toronto for training was unfrozen. The changes were made and implemented, and then it was refrozen following LMS and digital learning implementation.
For Scenario B, the scope of the change was significantly different than that of case A. The leader works for a global learning provider wanting to penetrate the digital learning market and start offering eLearning courses (in addition to the successful instructor-led portfolio) to its corporate and individual learner audience. As with Scenario A, after discussing with the leader, complete utilization of a specific change model among those cited by Biech (2007) was not identified. However, it seems that most of the steps followed could be found in Kotter’s change model (Kotter, 1995, as cited in Biech, 2007). As the leader explained during the interview, globalization, reduction of corporate training budgets of the leader’s clients, need for learning mobility, and technological learning innovations underpinning training revenue growth were the key arguments presented to senior leadership providing the “green light” to proceed with the change. However, a key aspect that worked against the initiative for change although resolved, was the need to seek external LMS providers that were able to host and deploy the leader’s newly developed online courseware. The leader aligned internal and external partners (LMS provider) to facilitate the change. Concerns mainly presented by Finance and Corporate Risk Management departments (due to the novelty of this online business model for the leader’s company) needed to be addressed. As a result, the leader initially implemented two out of the twenty online modules hoping to harvest quick wins and allow funding for new courseware development should any surplus was generated. In the end, the thorough market scan initially performed was supported by means of successful market response and substantial revenues.
In conclusion, both leaders placed emphasis on the barriers they had to overcome resulting in delay or alteration of their initial change plans. Both change leaders noted the need for more careful planning of the change activities and better aligning internal teams to support the change. Nevertheless, although a particular model was not consciously followed by either of the two leaders, after analyzing the leaders’ change steps it was observed that their change activities were in fact along the lines of more than one model. As well, it is concluded that although the number of change management models can be overwhelming at first, using a framework to deploy changes may provide confidence to the change leader that the changes can be reliably deployed and that the sought improvements can be achieved.
Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA. ASTD Press.