THE MANAGER AND LEADING CHANGE
By Prof. Martin M. Lwanga
“To meet our budget we are also expecting income from our privatized parking lot,” so said Enoch, the Finance Manager. He was discussing this pressing matter with the newly appointedPrincipal, Mr Mugerwa. “However, problem is we can’t easily truck payments!”
“How come?” asked Mr Mugerwa.
“Our sources of income are quite erratic, Sir!” Enoch admitted.
“You mean you don’t have any way of tracking them?” Mr Mugerwa interrupted.
“No!” Enoch confessed. “How could we!”
Mr Mugerwa had just assumed the position of Principal. What had shocked him was to find that the Institute which he had looked at from afar with admiration was stuck in the pastwhere almost every facet of its work could be described as “manual”! In the office he found they were even using old electric typewriters. Whenever he made a request for some information it had all to be delivered in person.
“We need to move the Institute into the information age,” in his first meeting with top management, he urged. He noticed almost all were gray haired and dressed in dark suits. The reception was quite muted with some insisting there was no need. “We have always done well in the past and why worry!”
In spite of this apparent lack of enthusiasm, Mr Mugerwa was convinced the organization had to change. He couldn’t think ofany other way about it given the new drivers of business. Soon after, therefore, one of his first major decision was to purchase a Management Information System (MIS). Challenged by his Top Management elderly staff why he had to spend so much, he offered, “It will help us collect, process and store data. Once information is processed it will be disseminated at the key of the button for the required purpose.”
“But how?” one of the older staff wondered, genuinely puzzled.
“For example, payment of fees,” the principal explained, “could all be tracked by the MIS. This will help us save time and increase our productivity!”
Now that the MIS had been installed the opposition grew intofierce resistance. “No one knows how to use these things!” This became the convenient excuse.
“Well, let’s organize training!” Mr Mugerwa countered.
A meeting to educate staff on MIS use was organized. But at the scheduled meeting, which was well advertised, there was a no show. The department elderly heads had conveniently failed to pass on the information for their subordinates to attend. Noticing the absence, Mr Mugerwa decided to walk down the office bloc and move from door to door directing staff to attend.
The opposition moved to yet another level. Occasionally reports came that the MIS was “permanently down” though on checking it was minor easily rectified blockages. Once Mr Mugerwa got a call from a prospective parent who had paid fees but yet the student had not been admitted. The Institute was not responding. When Mr Mugerwa called up the Registrar, she quickly offered. “We have a volume of applications and I need to sort throughthe paperwork!”
“I thought all prospective students were now logging on the MIS!” he queried.
“But some parents do not know how to use the system!” explained the registrar.
“You could take them through the system,” he advised. “The trouble is you have left an alternative to avoid usage. What I want to see is we remove any alternative course of action.”
Here, in this case, we see the complexities of leading change in a modern organization. The new principal has rightly noted that the Institute needs to embrace new technologies to manage better. He comes from a younger age group that is well abreast with these changes and feels they will drive the business forward. However, once he moves ahead to share his ideas, opposition rises. This resistance is driven by fear (real or imaginary) and nervousness at loss of power. The resistance manifests itself both passively (failure to attend meetings) and actively (disruption of the new system).
To carry through this change initiative the Principal will need a communication and advocacy plan to woo the reluctant on board. He may also need to generate quick wins, so as to show and hopefully convince the skeptics that it all works. If resistance does not abate, he might have to isolate the resistors, and help the organization adopt to new trends, which is vital for her survival and growth.