Changing the management
WITH ELECTIONS IN THE AIR, attention turns to how things might change or not change, depending on the outcome.
One certainty is that everyone would probably answer “yes” if asked if things need to change. Each will probably have his/her own version of what that change should be and why.
Among management consultants and senior executives, change management is a common concept that is interpreted in many different ways. It is misapplied when it gives the impression that the status quo will be radically disrupted. That is why we hear another concept coming into play – transformation.
This distinction is needed because there is a vast difference between managing a “disease” and effecting a “cure”.
Consequently, the dynamics involved in simply seeking to navigate the currents of inevitable change (change management) are different from a recognized need to change course drastically (transformation).
The required skills and mindsets are different and the ways “resistance to change” manifests itself are also different.
In a change-management scenario – such as studying and modifying existing policies and procedures, introducing legislation, upgrading systems and so on – there is no real urgency, outcomes are broadly defined and the approach can be gradual.
People who might feel threatened by the proposed change have time to diffuse and distort its impetus and protect their vested interests. The result is a watering down of what is proposed or things essentially remain the same.
The risks that exposed the need for change become exacerbated by delay. Health care in the United States before “Obamacare” serves as a good case study.
Barbados is replete with scenarios that reflect this gradual approach to change and with ample evidence of the damage it has caused.
This is not intended to advocate “chop and change” as a rule or imply that those who protect a proven order are not playing an important, valuable role.
Indeed, it is Barbados’ reputation for political and economic stability that makes it a desirable destination for visitors and investors.
There are policies and practices whose continued presence represent a malignancy that is undermining the credibility and viability of the Barbados “brand”.
Many people complain of things and events that should not be allowed to continue but most of it is just talk. It amounts to trying to jump a wide chasm in small steps.
Transformational leaders must have the ability to identify and characterize the effect of these dysfunctional elements. Connections must be made to how damaging it is to everyone.
The urgency must be difficult to refute and the benefits of taking urgent action must resonate in diverse constituencies. Transformational leaders must insist on providing a “scoreboard” that allows everyone to measure progress toward measureable outcomes that are clearly aligned with a widely shared vision.
They must also the resilience and perseverance to withstand virulent attacks from entrenched forces. These forces include those that possess positions of power, authority and great influence.
Over time, some will recognize benefits that they previously ignored. Others will be unable to tolerate the change. This makes the role of committed supporters of specific change essential.
There are some well-known areas where radical surgery is needed. This election is your opportunity to shape a new epoch in Barbados’ development.
• Dennis Strong is founding president of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants.