Change Management: A Case Study of Blue Cell

Author: Reddy, Sandy
Supervisor: Professor Erik Schmikl
Date: March 2010

The evident problem is dissatisfied customers due to bad customer service. Blue Cells bad customer service emanates from poor training given to staff, which impacts profitability in the organisation. The problem researched within the ambit of this dissertation reads as follows: “Poor customer service and training impacts organisational profitability negatively”. The following extract contained within the ambit of the “key research objectives” of a research dissertation, serves as an example of this requirement: that the dynamic change strategies formulated in this dissertation be viewed as the first human-orientated change strategy being implemented, as opposed to following a traditional organisational orientation.

The research type for this dissertation was qualitative research, which involves examining and reflecting on perceptions in order to gain an understanding of social and human activities. The research was conducted in the social world, as the research has to do with “what is, not what should be”, culminating in the analogy that social science allows for the development of theories about “what is and why”. The primary research paradigm is theoretical in nature, as this research study refers to the subject “… through the writing of others and through discourse with learned and informed individuals who can comment on the subject area.” The research was approached by using the concept of methodological triangulation, whereby both positivistic and phenomenological research paradigms were used. The research method used in this dissertation was action research. The main aim of action research is to enter into a situation, attempt to bring about change and to monitor the results.

Change is a common thread that runs through all businesses, regardless of size, industry, and age. The world is changing fast, and as such, organisations must change quickly too. Organisations that handle change well thrive, while those that do not may struggle to survive. The concept of “change management” is a familiar one in most businesses today. However, how businesses manage change (and how successful they are at it) varies enormously, depending on the nature of the business, the change and the people involved. In addition, a key part of this depends on how far people within it understand the change process.

According to Lewin (1951:4), field theory in social science, developed one of the cornerstone models for understanding organisational change. His model is known as Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze, and refers to the three-stage process of change he describes. By looking at change as a process with distinct stages, organisations can prepare for what is coming and make a plan to manage the transition. The Unfreeze is the first stage of change and involves preparing the organisation to accept that change is necessary, which involves breaking down the existing status quo before one can build up a new way of operating. Key to this is developing a compelling message, showing why the existing way of doing things cannot continue.

After the uncertainty created in the Unfreeze stage, the Change stage is where people begin to resolve their uncertainty and look for new ways to do things. People start to believe and act in ways that support the new direction. The transition from Unfreeze to Change does not happen overnight: People take time to embrace the new direction and participate proactively in the change. In order to accept the change and contribute to making the change successful, people need to understand how the changes will benefit them. Not everyone will fall in line just because the change is necessary and will benefit the company. This is a common assumption and a pitfall that should be avoided.

In the Blue Cell Company, time and communication are the two keys to success for the changes to occur. People need time to understand the changes and they also need to feel highly connected to the organisation throughout the transition period. Managing change can require a great deal of time and effort, and hands-on management is usually the best approach. In Blue Cell, the change stage related to the following:

  • restructuring and reorganisation
  • transparency within the organisation
  • clear responsibilities, role definition and accountability
  • performance-linked rewards
  • generation of sales growth and improvements in profitability

When the changes are taking shape and people have embraced the new ways of working, the organisation is ready to refreeze. The outward signs of the Refreeze are a stable organisation chart, consistent job descriptions, and so on. The Refreeze stage also needs to help both the people and the organisation internalise or institutionalise the changes. This means making sure that the changes are used all the time, and that they are incorporated into everyday business. With a new sense of stability, employees feel confident and comfortable with the new ways of working.

The rationale for creating a new sense of stability in an ever-changing world is often questioned. Even though change is a constant in many organisations, this Refreezing stage is still important. Without it, employees are caught in a transition trap where they are not sure how things should be done, so nothing ever gets done to full capacity. As part of the Refreezing process, organisational success must be celebrated. It allows employees find closure, thanks them for enduring a painful time, and helps them believe that future change will be successful.

By recognising these three distinct stages of change, one can plan to implement the change required. One starts by creating the motivation to change (Unfreeze). One moves through the change process by promoting effective communications and empowering people to embrace new ways of working (Change). In addition, the process ends when one returns the organisation to a sense of stability (Refreeze), which is so necessary for creating the confidence from which to embark on the next inevitable change.

It is imperative that any organisation clearly defines its key strategic objectives and ensures that it has buy-in from all affected role players at all levels within the organisation. Clear and continuous communication is key to the success of this initiative, as well as the managing of any transformation and change projects via a proper project office. This ensures that proper structures are in place for monitoring and reporting. In addition, all employees are aware of progress, so that their expectations or questions can be managed effectively.