Educational institutions must be prepared to cope with and embrace change. The dynamic nature of emerging technologies which are becoming more prevalent in today’s’ learning environments demands educational institutions not only be able to deal with change, but also to embrace it. As of late, the field of change management is garnering more interest in scholarly circles which is in turn generating more solutions for change leaders to utilize to mitigate the impact of change in their organizations (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015). Yet despite the abundance of research, the availability of change- models to select from, and change-leaders who have undergone training in systematic change-management, employees at organizations undergoing change are not realizing the positive perceptions of change that a successfully implemented change initiative should illicit. Employees of an organization the recently underwent a complete organizational re-structure were interviewed, and it was found that due in-part to the individual leadership approaches of the change-leader,s and despite the leaders’ deliberate efforts to follow a change model, employees had an overall negative perception of the change and the implementation of the change that they underwent.
Prior to the organization launching it’s change initiative, the would-be change-leaders underwent change-management training which was widely known and talked about throughout the organization. This training was mandated by the VP Academic to help pre-emptively ease anxieties employees were having about the impending changes (in the employee’s opinions) (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019). While it’s not known what specific change-model the change leaders underwent training in, it could be presumed that the was in a model akin to, or derived from Kotter’s Leading Change Method (as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015), based on the various employees engagement initiatives that occurred following the leader’s training (E.g. brainstorming sessions, employee surveys, town-halls etc.) (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019). These types of initiatives are consistent with systematic change-methodologies that insist upon collaboration and consensus, such as the CHANGE, Wheel, or Six-step models (Helfer, 2020) which are all derived from Kotter’s Eight step model ( Biech, 2007), (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015). The use of these models should illicit a more positive perception of the change implementation due to the employee engagement occurring; however, in this particular organization, that was not the case.
Upon discussing the change implementation, and the resultant state of the organization, two employees that were interviewed expressed marked dissatisfaction with both the process and the change (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019). After they expressed these views, they were asked why they thought the change-management training wasn’t effective. Both employees expressed that they perceived the employee engagement efforts to be a façade or ‘a box to be checked’ (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019), and that their input was not being genuinely valued nor considered. Ultimately, the employees perceived all of the engagement activities to be a poor use of time. In their opinions, all decisions were being, or would be made at a higher level, and their input was of little consequence. This, combined with the overall perception of poor communication about the actual changes occurring and what they perceived as a now inequitable distribution of workloads a result of the organizational re-structure, had left both employees feeling disengaged, and de-motivated in the workplace (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019).
There could be many other factors that contributed to negative perceptions of the change, and the scope of these employee interviews was not to identify them all. However, both employees pointed out that it was ironic that the leaders underwent change management training, yet executed the implementation so poorly (communicator omitted, personal communication, February 22, 2019). This leads one to question the efficacy of the training. Perhaps change management training ought to be more experiential and provide opportunity for transformation in the trainees. Perhaps change-leaders who had experienced positive change implementation themselves, as opposed to being directed to participate in mandatory training by their superiors, might be more apt to go beyond ‘checking boxes’, and instead genuinely seek the collaboration and consensus that the change-models they chose to employ required. Transactional leadership approaches such as mandating training, will do little to motivate someone to go beyond what is necessary and required (Kahn, 2015), which is what may have occurred in this particular organization. Realizing the positive effects of change-models, requires leaders who understand the value of the model, and their genuine desire to share that value with their employees.
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/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.
Helfer, L. (2020, February 10). Reflection on Leadership Styles [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0111/reflection-on-leadership-styles/
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.3294