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Successful change in an organization requires the outcome to align with the principles of the company, consideration of those involved, strong leaders, a technical backdrop, and an approach with small incremental steps. Al-hadad et al. (2015) states that most failed changes in an organization result from a contradiction between the company’s values and the approach to or type of change it has adopted (p. 235). Sometimes a change is required that’s out of alignment with the principles of the company. Lewin’s method of change can help in this context as it begins by unfreezing the current state of the organization allowing the change to occur and then refreezing at the end (p. 248). Lewin’s method can be seen as detrimental in aligning the company’s principles with the desired change. Lewin’s method requires allocated leaders of change to understand what problem the change is aiming to solve and then help implement the change. In order to consider those involved in the change the organization must recognise that people go through a change process. According to Biech (2007) this process includes denial, resistance, adaptation, and involvement (p. 5). For example, when the parents at my daughter’s school, Inmaculada, were suddenly expected to sit on a computer for 4 hours a day, download, print, complete, and upload assignments, denial became apparent. Firstly, it was claimed on the Whatsapp group that the virus was not dangerous and could not survive in hot weather, following this came resistance as parents failed to meet the teacher’s expectations with the homework packages. Finally, caregivers, such as my sister, adapted and showed a willingness to get involved and take responsibility for facilitating their child’s (or niece’s) digital learning.
Another important aspect to take into consideration when approaching change is finding strong leaders to implement the change; the Jick and Kanter method of change and the Leading method of change both emphasize the importance of having strong leaders who support and implement the change (Al-Haddad et al, 2015, p. 250). Introducing a change in the organization can have either a positive or negative effect on the company. To go back to the example of the organizational change at Inmaculada some strong and weak leaders were evident in the classroom. Power outages are common in Costa Rica. My sister reported consistently receiving SMS messages cancelling my daughter’s class by one specific teacher. My sister reported being resistant to the online classes when the teacher (who should be acting as a leader in implementing the change) could not deliver material for the class at the allocated time. In contrast to this, the other teacher who also was put into a leadership position, always had her devices charged and used her hot-spot if the power failed. Within two minutes of her power going out she would re-enter the classroom and finish the lesson. This specific teacher and agent of change adapted and got involved in the change. She acted as a strong leader to show how to deal with the change and excel in the new environment. When discussing this with my sister, she remarked that the effectiveness of online learning had much to do with the teacher’s technical capability, and ability to adapt and be prepared for rapid change in the environment.
In addition to this, a technological framework needs to be in place in order to implement and facilitate the change. For example, Inmaculada failed to deliver information to teachers on protocols when faced with power outages or tech problems. The transition into virtual classes was difficult for caregivers and teachers due to the lack of this information. According to Biech (2007) one of the best approaches to long-term change is the informational strategy which is based on delivering education and knowledge (p. 4). Although this strategy is slower to implement it could have been effective if it was initiated at the beginning of the pandemic. According to my sister, teachers continue to be left to their own devices to solve tech problems. It is difficult to hold educators accountable when the school has not supplied them with a procedure to follow when encountering tech problems. Some leaders were able to develop their tech skills and continue to give classes throughout the power outages while others were not. Lastly, effective organizational change occurs over a long time period rather than a short one. With this in mind, we can compare the initial stage of virtual classes which I had to endure with my 6 year old compared to my sister’s experience four months later. One challenge Inmaculada faced was the short notice they had to make such a sweeping change in the organization. Al-haddad et al. (2015) states that small scale change happens consistently at regular intervals and is more effective than large scale change (243).
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.
Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.