Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015, p. 254) make a strong caveat that no one change theory is a “silver bullet”. They caution against the urge to assign one change theory or approach as a universal mechanism to manage all change in all organizations. Organizations, situations, and people are all unique elements that influence how change occurs. These variables affect the choice of change approach.
That said, there is much to be learned by collecting stories of successful change. Case studies allow the opportunity to search for parallels and commonalities in the change process. I consulted two colleagues about change within their organizations: Tehreem Shah, Senior Program Manager at an international office electronics company; and Nick Davis, Director of Engagement and Inclusion at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Nick Davis talked me through the organizational change of moving the CBC to a digital-first company from a radio and television broadcaster. As Davis noted, “As the world changed, CBC had to change as well”. Davis outlined the distinct and purposeful steps taken to prepare the employees for change. First off, management had to be convinced that this was the right direction to move the corporation. After they were convinced of the necessity of the change, the managers were positioned as “beacons of change”. They were tasked with stressing the importance of embracing the digital world, and why the CBC should be there as our national broadcaster. Then, they began the process of moving resources from traditional media to the digital space.
The challenges were considerable. The entire news-gathering organization had to be restructured to create new digital units. Additional employees were hired, but existing employees were tasked with learning new skills; some were asked to take on additional workload. There were training challenges, and a massive culture shift that affected older workers in particular. The change was successful. In 2018/2019, CBC Digital reached over twenty million people with 163-million digital interactions each month (CBC, 2019).
Davis’ description of this change approach aligns with many of the elements of the Jick and Kanter Method. In particular, the vision for the change was strong and well-branded: digital first. That vision anchored the change, and allowed the actions to be measured against it. There was a separation from the past, and a creation of a sense of urgency: the CBC’s future as a news organization was at stake. The change team supported strong leadership roles by making managers agents of change. The new digital units became enabling teams, helping older reticent employees get on board. The final phase, institutionalization, was manifest in the new more powerful digital departments, and their presence within the organization.
Shah describes a change within her company that shares some of these change approaches. The company’s senior professionals had become disillusioned with the training initiatives of the organization. A change was needed.
The change management began with a needs-based assessment. Shah created an online survey to canvas the senior professional in order to identify areas in which they desired training. With this concrete data, she approached the group, and offered focussed needs-based, learner-centred training. The initiative was branded with the tagline: “Do the best athletes need coaches?” All the marketing messaging and communications were reinforced by senior leadership to bolster the credibility of the project. In a fundamental corporate shift, learners were driving the training content, not human resources or the training departments. The change campaign was successful; senior professionals became more engaged with the training.
Shah’s change method parallels Davis’ in a number of ways. There was a vision of change: “Do the best athletes need coaches?”. By canvassing the learners and making the shift to learner-centred training, there was a tangible separation from the past. Again, the change team was strongly supported by senior management. The final phase, institutionalization was the new learner-driven and needs-based philosophy of the training departments.
Many of these elements can be seen in other change management methods as well. One could apply Lewin’s simple steps of unfreeze, act & move, and refreeze. There are also parallels with Luecke’s seven steps of change management, in particular the first two steps of mobilizing energy and commitment by jointly identifying problems; and developing a shared vision. In , there is a strong alignment with Theory O, which strives to create a robust, capable and dynamic workforce.
Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262. https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD [Books24x7 database]
CBC/Radio-Canada. (2019). Annual Report. 2018-2019 Retrieved from https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/impact-and-accountability/finances/annual-reports/ar-2018-2019