Change Management

The focus of the HIKE project is to investigate and evaluate the suitability of two systems, KB+ and Intota, as viable replacements for existing systems. The adoption of either system into a UK higher education institution would undoubtedly bring about a change within the library environment in which they are adopted. While some employees will eagerly and enthusiastically embrace this change, others will be less willing. Many people struggle giving up something they know to adopt the unknown, even if they know it is better than what they have.[1] They may worry about the extra work it may bring, going outside their comfort zone, the need to learn new skills and the new way of thinking.[2]

However, change can be good and is sometimes needed within organisations. In the instance of INTOTA it is hoped that this change will bring an improvement to the current LMS and associated workflows, including issues around dealing with the varied formats of resources and interaction with other systems, but also provide enough flexibility to deal with future changes.

In order for the implementation of change in an organisation to be successful it needs all members of staff to be behind the idea. This will help with the new workflows that changes inevitably bring but also to prevent barriers to change. Failure to get the backing of all staff from the beginning can actually create potential barriers to change as individuals can hinder the process of change by not adapting to the new circumstances and failing to encourage other members of staff to change.[3] This may eventually affect others causing disillusionment until eventually the process of change is slowed to a stop. Many people react like this as they believe that there isn’t the need for change or because they don’t think they can adapt to the change.[4]

Mumford has argued that the ETHICS (Effective Technical and Human Implementation of Computer-based Systems), a socio-technical approach to change, is an important way to ensure all employees are behind the change. This can be achieved by encouraging the participation of all of the staff who use the system to be involved at all points of the design and implementation of a new system. This promotion of participation is based on Mumford’s belief that there is a mutually dependant relationship between humans and systems that recognises that both the human and technical inputs need to be present to create a highly efficient system.[5] Traditionally, designers of systems were focused on creating highly technical systems, which created efficiencies through the reduction of staff. This generally had a negative impact on the company as it decreased the efficiency of remaining staff, as they were unhappy with their roles, resulting in absenteeism, high staff turnover, etc.[6] Therefore by encouraging participation it is believed that employees are more likely to support the change as they are invested in it, as a result this will lead to greater job satisfaction for the employees and greater efficiencies for the organisation.

Others such as Bell in ‘Learning to Lead Others to Change’ have focused on the importance of the qualities of individual leaders, rather than the methodology employed, when implementing change, stressing that trust, the ability to create an emotional connection to the idea and the ability to work collaboratively are the most important traits for a leader to have when pushing for a change. The existence of a trusting relationship between the leader and employees is an important foundation which must be present for the change to be successful. Even if they are unsure and nervous about the change employees are more likely to give it ago and follow their leader if they trust them.[7] Similarly the ability of the leader to create an emotional connection between their employees and the idea is an important factor in ensuring all staff are behind the idea. The other important attribute for a leader to have is the ability to work collaboratively with others to ensure the project is a success.

However, regardless of the different methodologies that can be employed to ensure all staff are fully supportive of the change there will still be some who are hesitant about it. For those people, rituals and rites, which can be implemented by managers within the organisation, can act as stabilisers during times of change by enhancing team spirit and creating a focus in times of transformation.[8] In one example, a Director of a Library implementing a change within the library initiated a weekly staff meeting with coffee and bagels, this helped to increase the team spirit, provided a stable point during the week while other things were hectic, and gave the staff informal access to the senior managers when they could ask questions and chat about fears of the impending change.[9]

Therefore in the management of a change as big as the replacement of a Library Management System, which for many of us is at the centre of all our daily tasks, it is important that we keep in mind the personal touch. In ensuring that relationships within the team are trusting and solid, communication channels are open both ways and staff are completely involved in and informed about the project it is hoped staff will support and feel comfortable with the change created enhanced job satisfaction which in turn will create a more efficient organisation.

So anyone for tea and cake on Friday?

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[1] Jason Martin, ‘‘That’s how we do things around here’: organizational culture (and change) in libraries’ In the Library with the Lead Pipe (August 22, 2012) <http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2012/thats-how-we-do-things-around-here/> [accessed 25th October 2012]

[2] Steve Bell, ‘Learning to Lead Others to Change – Leading from the Library’ Library Journal (August 23, 2012) <http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/08/opinion/leading-from-the-library/learning-to-lead-others-to-change-leading-from-the-library/> [accessed 25th October 2012]  

[3] J. P. Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), p.10.

[4] Ibid

[5] Enid Mumford, Designing Human Systems for New Technology: The ETHICS Method (Manchester: Manchester Business School, 1983), p. 13.

[6] Mumford, Designing Human Systems, p. 12.

[7] Bell, ‘Learning to Lead Others’.

[8] Martin, ‘That’s how we do things around here’.

[9] Martin, ‘That’s how we do things around here’.