Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lessons learned.

Dear people,

I think after the whole process being undertaken and to be made as part of the ongoing change management program, I felt that organization everywhere must recognize that the pace of change is accelerating, and that survival depends, in large part, on being able to successfully navigate change.

After getting myself into the action of change management program, I believe that with the proper and well planned transformation program, we would be able to achieve the desired holistic change program in our BU. The most general lesson to be learned from is that the change process goes through a series of phases that provides a valuable insights and appreciation of what it takes to manage change effectively. Of course, the actual success of the change program in my BU has yet to achieve the desired results but the task-force has been given new perspectives on how to manage and develop a potent change program.

In summary, here are the most important lessons gathered:-

1) The importance to recognise and deal effectively with the strategic pressure points in a proactive way;
2) Listen and take stock of stakeholders’ concerns;
3) Be clear about the desired result on improvements;
4) Assess readiness to change and techniques to get “buy-ins”;
5) Adopt compatible strategies in dealing with change; and
6) Assist BU to recover, rebound and learn from change.

The other good news is that there is an increasing awareness of the value structured change management brings to my BU. By managing the people side of change, organisations are well aware that "one size fits all" may only work in the garment industry, but it is not a viable model for organizational change management.

Until then, have a wonderful day and do accept change with an open mind..


Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning about my learning... own experience on change management (Part 3)

Greetings to all,

On this final instalment of my own experience on change management, I must take cognizance that change process goes through a series of phases that, in total, usually require a considerable length of time and with some enduring change management process.

To achieve this, I will employ John Kotter’s widely used “checklist” for managing organisational change taken from his 1996 best seller Leading Change. Below are the steps to be undertaken and its detail actions:-

Establish a Sense of Urgency

The first element is to “defrost the status quo”. Our BU must establish a sense of urgency as people must have a reason, and a really good one at that, for doing something different. There need to be an honest and convincing dialogue about what is happening and the reasons to take bold steps into automated process.

For this, I need to use Change Equation of Richard Beckhard and Rueben T. Harris (1987) and Force Field Analysis developed by Kurt Lewin.

When the urgency rate is high enough and the strength of the opposing and supporting forces towards the change have been identified, I believe that the staff in my BU will be convinced that to continue doing business as usual at these trying times is not acceptable. Hence, the automation initiatives will have its crucial buy-ins.

Create a Guiding Coalition

Change cannot be directed through the existing hierarchy. It must be nurtured and supported by a dedicated influential leader in my division. The group may be small or large but it must be influential in order to lead the change.

In order to achieve any successful change initiative, a leadership coalition plays a very important role. Even though our BU has a dedicated task-force for this initiative, unfortunately it lacks the correct approach.

To achieve a successful guiding team, our current task-force need to be revamped to be the desired "change coalition" to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

Develop a vision and strategy

Failed change efforts are often littered with plans and directives, but no clear and concise vision. Kotter suggests that change leaders should be able to communicate the vision in five minutes and elicit understanding and interest. If not, they should rework the vision.

As such, our BU task-force needs to constantly communicate to the staff of the vision of an automated systems environment as when you keep it fresh on everyone's minds, they will remember it and respond to it.

Communicate the change vision and strategy, leading to commitment

I take cognizant that communication is more than a notice posted on the division’s bulletin board. Change leaders must communicate the vision through their actions.

I’m mindful of Kotter’s cautions that a results-oriented leader may want to skip one or more of these first four steps in order to get right to the action. Without the solid foundation established by all of these steps, any change action is unlikely to take hold and survive for the long term.

Empower Employees to Implement Change

This is the action element and the first step is to empower others to act on the vision. Change leaders must clear the way for employees to develop new ideas and approaches without being foiled by the old ways.

As such, our BU task-force must put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

Generate and recognizing small short-term wins

It must be noted that staff will not follow a vision forever. They must see results within 6 to 12 months of their effort or they will give up or perhaps resist the change. Like what Kotter said - short-term wins validate the effort and maintain the level of urgency. Change leaders may have to reward people responsible for the benefits.

Our BU task-force team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each "win" that we produce can further motivate the entire staff.

Consolidate the small wins, leading to early successes

Short-term wins must be stepping-stones to greater opportunities and bigger wins, all consistent with the vision driving the overall effort. Change leaders must not stop here. They must follow through with the next element.

In my view each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what we can improve.

In this case, the task-force have to make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of our BU, not only for this automation initiative, but for other future initiatives. This will help give that change a solid place in our BU's culture. It is also important that our BU division head continue to support the change, because if not, we might end up back where we started.


The change process has so far progressing well. Our task-force has initiated series of negotiations with solution providers to identify the suitable software and hardware solutions for virtual meetings system. Our BU has also in collaboration with Forte Tech Solutions Sdn Bhd, a dedicated IT arm of UEM Group, to source for suitable Electronic Data Management Systems (“EDMS”) with the reputable vendors. Series of presentations and brainstorming were held between the task-force and the staff to continuously help us bring the experience of all team members into play in coming out with the customization of our BU’s automation requirements.

As a result, the automation initiatives have also been included in the UEM Group Corporate Centre Strategic Plans 2009-2013 under the Group wide initiatives for 5 years together with the strategy, tactics and the timeline to achieve the desired outcome for 2009.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Learning about my learning.. own experience on change management (Part 2)

Hello again everyone. Hope you guys are in the right mood and gear as I will straight away zoom on the subject matter continuing from the first part of my posting on my own experience on change management.

Our BU take cognizance of the fact that launching or upgrading office automation systems must consider a wide variety of factors that can influence the effectiveness of those systems. These factors include: cost of the system, timing, level of technical support, compatibility with other systems, complexity of system (a key factor in determining allocations of time and money for training). However, the most important factor that is of great important is the people themselves. After all, the office automation system is only as good as the people who make it and use it and our BU recognized that workplace resistance to these systems can dramatically lessen their benefits.

I first became acutely aware of the tremendous impact change can have on individuals while working on this automation project. The main issues identified are:-

a) The staff does not share the idea that of all the digital products out there can easily facilitate the process that once before required a tangible piece of paper; and

b) They were very skeptical of the idea that automation can make our BU more efficient and organized which would ultimately enable us to give our clients better service.

The reactions were not segmented into specific staff. Some staff who had never used digital archiving or sophisticated document storage program were delighted with the new solutions and eager to put them to work. Others however, were clearly intimidated with the new tools and publicly stated that they would never use the software and while the rest were clearly reluctant to have the buy-ins.

To them, there is no other efficient way to do it other than the current way. They are not ready to move away from their comfort zone.

Our BU realized that the challenge today is that change is not just a “technology” problem. Change involves people, and can call up emotions, uncertainties and inconsistencies. In other words, ensuring that staff are “aware” of the need for change, and communicating the good things about the new systems does not guarantee endorsement of the change. Successful change requires a well thought plans and guidance.

As summary to my Part 2 of change management experience, I honestly agreed that the "desire" to support change rests at a much deeper personal level and is directly related to each individual understanding what the change means to them - not the team, not the division or the Company as a whole.

In my next postings, I will share with you how we will apply Kotter's 8-Step “checklist” for managing organisational change taken from his 1996 best seller Leading Change.

Till then, have a wonderful day and catch you again later...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Learning about my learning...own experience on change management (Part 1)

Hi folks wherever you are. Hope you guys are in the pink of health. It’s been a long break for Labour Day and now today I’m writing this piece at UEM Land JB office as I’m attending the Management Meeting here all freshen up. Sidetrack – I think as the obidient LABOURS that we are, we definitely need more than 1 day in a year break don’t you think? Ah! well.. that forever will remain a wishful thinking…. So here’s wishing all my readers a happy "belated" Labours Day 2009!

Anyway for this week I am going to write about my own experience on change management. I’m a Company Secretary attached to UEM Group Management Sdn Bhd (“UEMGM”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of UEM Group Berhad (“UEMG”) whose principle activity is provision of corporate and administrative support services. Briefly, within UEMGM, there are 5 core distinct units providing selected outsourcing corporate and administrative support services to subsidiaries within the UEMG Group as follows:-

· Financial Management, Accounts & Reporting
· Internal Audit
· Risk Facilitation
· Productivity & Quality Improvement
· Legal & Secretarial

In a nutshell, the outsourcing services of these functions are to facilitate the operations of the subsidiaries so as to develop and channel their resources to core business activities.

In my analysis paper for change management, I shall only focus and conduct analysis of the current situation affecting my business Unit (“BU”) i.e. the Legal & Secretarial Division. The functions of my BU are essentially to provide corporate legal and secretarial support roles to the subsidiaries of UEM Group.

The BU’s total staff strength in my BU is 25, with 19 Executives and 6 non-Executives including 3 sub-heads and a division head director. At present, my BU has altogether 15 principal customers in the form of 15 major subsidiaries under UEM Group’s stable, 3 of which are public listed companies on Bursa Malaysia. In total, we provide services to approximately 150 companies.

At the end of the financial year, an annual Customer Satisfaction Survey (“CSS”) is conducted to allow the subsidiaries to measure the level of satisfaction on quality, competency and effectiveness of services rendered to our stakeholders. We have built in the CSS rating as one of our BU’s Key Performance Indicator (“KPI”) scorecard under productivity of resources.

Our BU’s immediate challenge for 2009 is to achieve the highest rating (stretched KPI target) within the current resources and limitations. Notwithstanding the challenges, our BU’s is committed to continue providing its level best to its customers to achieve its KPI target.


With the nature of work that my BU is engaged in, the amount of paper usage and printing works involved in the preparation of legal documents, circulars and Board paper folders are enormously high, especially for the major operating customers.

Not only the amount of “paperworks” for current and ongoing works, but in line with UEM Group’s Business Continuity Management Programme (“BCMP”), our BU is also the custodian of agreements and other statutory records for our customers. Under the BCMP, our BU is entrusted in keeping copies of the agreements, JVs, MOUs, corporate exercise files, legal files, statutory records, Board papers etc in a traditional hardcopy form to be kept in various off-sites storage for retrieval during crisis or disaster.

Following are the brief descriptions of the SPPs affecting my BU:-

SPP 1 – Ever-increasing Administrative Expenses

Over the past 3 years - 2005 to 2007, UEMGM had not achieved its intended breakeven targets.What is more alarming is that there was a whooping increase of 365.6% in the administrative expenses over the 3 years. Indeed, this is a cause of a serious concern. The annual budget for office supplies and printing costs has also been in a similar upward trend.

SPP 2 – Understanding stakeholders’ interests

Not surprisingly, our customers are concerned with to what degree the economic downturn will impact their business. It is not far-fetched to imagine for our customers to increase cutbacks as concern grows and prolongs. Some of our customers have announced preemptive measures to cushion such impact by implementing prudent initiatives to better manage operations and costs.

SPP 3 – The need to remain as dynamic BU

Essentially, to remain a dynamic BU, we need to react quickly to minimise this cost escalating trend amidst the current economic recession.

To remain viable and productive, our BU needs to continuously introduce a more efficient and effective ways to serve our customers. To pursue cost-cutting measures but at the same time still adopting the “traditional” way in its business process will not have the meaningful impact it intended.

Leverage on the “cost cutting” drive as the story line, our BU felt that this is the opportune time for our BU to be establish the great sense of urgency to migrate into a more sophisticated way in doing its daily chores. The sub-heads were of the view that utilizing the state-of-the-art technology and facilities is the answer to remain as a dynamic BU.

These are the SPPs that are driving the need for change in my BU. In this case, the SPPs will impact the business strategy and organizational capabilities of my BU and the change drivers are as follows:-

  • Internal factor – the need to introduce a more sophisticated and efficient ways to serve our customers; and
  • External factor – the cost cutting measures to be undertaken group-wide.


Our BU deals with tons of paperwork daily and have a few more tons tucked away in filing cabinets that we continuously have to add to or get information from. Our BU must maintain client files and any paperwork pertaining to that client for a number of years. Many times these files must be accessed for various reasons. However, we found in our daily chores that some of the processes can be automated and integrate into electronic versions of paper documents and other types of digital medium storage.

In our analysis, we found that reducing office supplies and printing costs is the most widely employed and can be the effective cost cutting measures for my BU, way ahead of reducing staff, travel or telecommunication costs.

Our BU task-force has identified the impact of these SPPs and has embarked with initial steps to diagnose the issue. Some of the areas that we have identified for automation are as follows:-

  • Board papers folders are distributed to Board of Directors for Board meetings in hard copy form
  • Manual assessment of Board effectiveness i.e. via paper survey by each Board member
  • Board meetings are done in a “traditional” manner where all Board members must be present at a designated location
  • Very limited dependency on paperless database to retrieve corporate information
  • The storage of agreements and other statutory documents under BCMP is on a “traditional” paper form

That is all for now and I will continue in the next postings the detail management plan to be undertaken using the principles laid out by Kotter and in the process using the relevant tools and applications that I learned throughout the 3-day UEM-MBL LOC program.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Let's do it the Kotter's way....

Ok let us recap what we have covered earlier on the change management program.

Firstly, we talked about the change, the need for change and the change management program and how organization’s survival depends, in large part, on being able to successfully navigate changes.

Secondly, we also touched briefly on Kotter’s 8-Step “checklist” for managing organisational change, the SPPs and its impacts, change readiness and the resistance to change.

Moving forward as we go along, we will know that managing organizational change will be more successful if we have taken into cognizance all the above principles. In that respect, achieving personal change will be more successful too if we use the same approach where relevant. Change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes.
If we force change on people normally problems arise. Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. Before starting organizational change, ask ourselves: What do we want to achieve with this change, why, and how will we know that the change has been achieved? Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it? How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with? Having known all the cornerstone principle of change, it’s only worthwhile to go into detail and try to appreciate what Kotter’s 8-Step “checklist” for managing organisational change is.

John Kotter (See pic) says that the change process takes time and goes through several different phases in a successful change effort and that a mistake made during any phase of the change effort can have a negative impact on the organization [Kotter, John P. (1995). Why Transformation Efforts Fail? Cambridge: Harvard Business Review: pp. 59-67]. Kotter outlines an eight step process (See below) to help organizations transform. His model is useful in understanding that the change process takes time and is not something that happens overnight. It is essential for program leaders and communications staff to understand that the steps needed to support any transformation initiative take place during all phase of our initiative.

1. Establish a sense of urgency
This is key to setting the right "mood" for change, a sense of urgency works wonders specially if we can couple them with reachable short term goals designed to grab visible low hanging fruit. This is the fuel on which change runs.
2. Create the guiding coalition
Careful selection of indivuals here can go a long way in providing the continual energy for change to happen. People who are recognised as "influencers" by their colleauges can be of great value.
3. Develop a Vision and Strategy
Develop something but you are going to keep your eyes open to develop the vision and make corrections to the strategy. This allows for continual course correction which is vital, often we really don't know enough at the beginning so developing the vision and stragegy as learning happens is crucial to improving value.
4.Communicate the Change Vision
This is the key role of the Change Agent. Communicating the vision to everyone all the time makes it happen.... as people start seeing the end result more clearly in their imagination they start moving towards it. A good thing is to keep your eyes open for the non-believers and make them see that change is going to happen with or without them.
5.Empower employees for broad-based action
Sometimes involving only a few people tends to create island of influence, everyone seems to think that the change is the responsibility of a few and they go about in a business as usual manner. So the more the people involved the more certain that change is going to happen
6.Generate short-term wins
This is quite difficult to determine. Failure to do this could result on failure of the entire initiative. The trick is to identify short-term wins that everyone will recognise as adding values, one short term win can lead to another and before you know it change is well on its way.
7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
This is like mountain climbing, every time you reach higher you put a stake into the mountain and it allows you to stand on it and reach higher.
8.Anchor new approaches in the culture
Culture is a way of life, the change results can be anchored into the culture by establishing periodic reviews or including agenda items into existing review structures, KPIs, or other similar tools that go in building a culture.
Finally doing it at the end of each process is very important, I think that all of them are required in its orderly manner and its not about one being more important than the other, the important thing is to observe, learn and keep continuously correcting the course and nudging people in the right direction.
In change there is no direct cause and effect, one action in some place leads to many results in others.....Think about it for now....
Till then, have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The SPPs and resistance to change...

Good morning everyone where ever you are...

To get our morning on the upbeat mode, let’s continue from where we left off. Before we can even begin to talk and discuss the application of Kotter’s widely used 8-Step “checklist” for managing organisational change, it is pertinent to start recognizing and deal with a term called “Strategic Pressure Points” and for the sake of saving some typing, we call it SPPs. SPPs are the essentially tool to identify the need for change in an organisation. It can be liken to a barometer to measure the air pressure as well as wind direction. In the context of change, SPPs will be able to tell us whether any change is likely going to take place, in what form and from which angle it is coming from. It works just as good as the real wind barometer in enabling us to prepare for storms or hurricanes. Except that what SPPs measure is less fatal to human.

Let’s use the barometer and the storm analogy once again. Now that we know how barometer works (not that you don’t before reading this Blog..), we may want to go a step further. Questions like what causes the storm, what causes the low and high pressure of air, what is the factor that drive the turbulence of air to form, etc. would be very essential for people with inquisitive minds like we all do. So under change management, we can also identify some of the key change drivers that create the SPPs.Briefly, some of the key change drivers that create SPPs include: -

  • Environmental factors
  • Marketplace factors
  • Technology
  • Customer needs
  • Business diversification
  • Expansion
  • Need for increased profitability
  • Acquisition of new capabilities
  • Retention or acquisition of intellectual capital

Now, basically there are 5 characteristics of SPPs that may have an impact into every organization as follows: -

  • Business Strategy - the way the organization had chosen to pursue and maintain competetive advantage.
  • Organization Structure - the way the oganization divides and organizes work.
  • Organizational Capabalities - the skills and capabilities of the workforce that, collectively, enable it to deliver its products or services.
  • Culture - the beliefs, values, and behaviours that describe the organization's culture.
  • Coordinating Systems - the procedures and methods that enable an organization to do its work efficiently and effectively.

In all, effective change leaders use their analysis of the impact of SPPs in several ways. Once the impact of change is understood, change leaders can begin to diagnose the organisation’s change readiness.

Questions like are people ready and willing to change? Are they able to carry out the transformation and deliver its intended outcomes? Are the leaders prepared and capable of leading the transformation, individually and collectively? Is our own organisation prepared for the extent of the change required? Accurate answers to these questions are essential to determining the awareness strategy and gaining agreement to specific changes.

Effective change leaders understand that individuals assimilate change at different rates. Change overload results when people are required to absorb too much large-scale change in relatively short period of time. Understanding the organisation’s level of change readiness provides insight into what it takes to plan and manage change successfully.

People willingness to change determines how quickly and thoroughly a team or organization can move forward. Change leaders must consider several areas when assessing change readiness.

  • The organization’s adaptability
  • Understanding the need for change and sense of urgency
  • Alignment of senior leaders
  • Workforce’s change management skills
  • Obstacles to successful change
  • Clarifying change management roles
  • How well the organization has managed prior change efforts, including planning and communication activities

Change leaders should complete this readiness assessment prior to introducing a specific change. This tool is intended as a general assessment of change readiness as perceived by a change leader. The level of readiness is helpful to the extent that the change leader accurately understands the strengths of these components as they may be perceived by employees at all levels of the organization.

As such, understanding how our stakeholders will likely respond to change is the very first step in preparing to deal with intellectual and emotional reactions to change. When we embark on the journey of organizational change we will undoubtedly encounter resistance. It is the inevitable friction between where we want to go and where the stakeholders are. It is the result of many things but one thing is for sure, if we don't deal with it? It will deal with us. In summary, there are certain conditions that create resistance to change. It is therefore crucial to understand these situations and avoid them. As the rule of thumb, resistance is greatest when:

  • Change is unexpected and unexplained
  • Expectations are significantly disrupted
  • Change in the form of new behaviors or responsibilities are imposed without adequate explanation
  • Stakeholder feedback about concerns are ignored

The “desire” to support change rests at a much deeper personal level and is directly related to each individual understanding what the change means to them – not the team, not the division or the organization.

The final analysis to me is that initially, the inertia of change that is hard to overcome. Like pushing a car out of gas; very difficult at first then much easier once you get going. But once you acquire the right techniques and skills, it would not be that hard anymore. What perceived to be difficult thing is just a mind game, a mental blocker and those are intangibles. Think about it..

In future columns, I will write in greater detail about Kotter’s 8-Step “checklist” for managing organisational change. Until then, remember, the world is always changing and so should you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Change management anyone?

It’s been a hectic week for me. Back to back Board meetings and few other outstanding works that needs equal attention as their deadlines have passed earlier. Call it bad planning if you want. But I think I’m the kind of guy who work best under pressure.. or so I thought.

Anyway as promised, I will once again share with you on change management program. To begin to understand change management, first we need to know what it means. There are many different definitions of change management if you care to google in the net. However, for the purpose of this Blog, change management can be defined as the controlled transformation of an organization from its current operational state to a future operational state.

There are currently at least two schools of thought on change and change management. The first school of thought is based on Lewin’s Three Stage Model. The Three Stage Model uses the concept of Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze, which basically has the Organization moving from stability (Unfreeze from status quo) through change back to stability (new status quo).(See link on Lewin’s Three Stage Model for more information on the Three Stage Model).

The second school of thought, is as articulated by Professor John Kotter (named by BusinessWeek magazine, in a poll of US managers, as ‘The Number 1 leadership and change guru’). Professor Kotter (who teaches Leadership at Harvard Business School) has made it his business to study both success and failure in change initiatives in business. Kotter developed a list of factors that he believes lead to successful changes, and those that lead to failure. He has devised an 8 step method where the first four steps focus on de-freezing the organization, the next three steps make the change happen, and the last step re-freezes the organization with a new culture. When people need to make big changes significantly and effectively, he says that this goes best if the 8 steps happen in order.

Here are the eight steps summarised from Leading Change by John P. Kotter:-

1) Create a sense of urgency

2) Put together a strong enough team to direct the process

3) Create an appropriate vision

4) Communicate that vision broadly

5) Empower employees to act on the vision

6) Produce sufficient short-term results to give their efforts credibility

7) Build momentum and use that momentum to tackle tougher change problems

8) Anchor the new behaviour in the organisational culture

Basically, he suggests that to ignore any of the eight stages will likely lead to failure in any change process. In other words, his message is simple:

1) To lead change, you need to follow each of the steps

2) Skip a stage and you will reduce your chances of success

Will speak of these in more details soon. Until then have a productive weekend.