Strategic change management at the national cereals and produce board
The magnitude, speed and direction of environmental change is increasing at an unprecedented rate. As Burnes (1996) notes, public bureaucracies and monopolies are changing hands to the private sector or having the competitive market structure transferred into them. Firms that enjoyed legislative protection have had to rise to the challenges of change. Evolution and reevolution of change strategies is now the norm rather than the exception. The operating environment is such that Makadok (1998) says that in today's faster-paced hyper-competition it is becoming difficult to sustain competitive advantage for any length of time. It is against the background of a chaotic environment and the struggle by public institutions to stay afloat in the hyper-competitive scenario with their patently rigidly demarcated sets of dos and don'ts that this study uniiertook to analyse the change at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). It is acknowledged that a good strategy/plan may lead to fruition, a bad strategy may be a try but no strategy is a disaster situation. The focus of the study was the strategic management process ofNCPB with the main objectives of the study being; (i) To examine the operating business environment and it's influence on the changes at NCPB. (ii) To establish how the changes at NCPB were arrived at (iii) To establish the changes that occurred. The main objective of the chsnge/resttucturing process at the NCPB was to transform it from a government social service provider to a comrnercialised entity that does not rely on the treasury for financing. Both primary and secondary data was used. Primary data was obtained from thirty respondents who were involved in one way or another in the change. The consultants who were hired to guide the change appear to have settled on the use of the four-phase change model developed by Bullock and Batten in 1985. Cummings and Ruse (1989) hail this method as having broad applicability to most change situations. -...• IV The findings revealed that the highest rated force pressuring change was the need to plan ahead; this was rated at 93.3% as being important The conclusion from this being that what was needed was the adoption of strategic planning that would have focused the organization on building a sound future. The next highly rated force was the customer focus. An appreciation of the customer was sinking in and there was pressure to embrace the customer more robustly. From the research findings the external forces that were pressuring the change at the NCPB can be summarised as; legislative, that is the abolition of the monopoly status of the NCPB in 1993. There were consequent forces that resulted from the liberalization the main one being competition. The findings show that the internal forces for change revolved around a deficiency in the organizational structure, processes and systems that were incompatible with the dictates of the existing business climate. The systems were both rigid and stagnant with the change agent recommending a culture transformation. The GOK referred to the management as weak. The change consultant summed the general management as deeply lacking in commercial business orientation. The vision of the NCPB that guided the restructuring was, "To be the leader in all aspects of grain handling and marketing in Kenya and beyond". However, from the research data it is noted that of the thirty respondents only seven representing 23.3% were able to get the vision statement right None of the respondents from the field including senior field managers were able to get the vision statement right The interviewees indicated that the contents of the final report by the change agent were never directly communicated even to key managers. This revelation was quite startling and revealing on the deficiency of the communication process. The research revealed that there was average support for the change at both the top management and lower cadre staff levels. Both levels of staff were rated average in support by 60% of the respondents. The lack of enthusiastic support from senior management was thought to emanate from suspicion; this was especially so since the changes were being pressured by foreign...•aid donors. According to the research findings 70.3% of the respondents indicated that resources were availed reluctantly, 26% indicated that resources were readily availed while only 3.7% indicated that resources were very readily availed. This revelation bolstered the results that indicated that the support from the top management was less than enthusiastic, it was a dull average. Of the factors that influenced resistance, fear of demotion or retrenchment was rated highest at 80% strong and above in contribution. The research revealed that to counter resistance, there was greater preference in using communication at a rating of 60% followed by education and training at 50% rating. However, the research also found that resistance was not deliberately analysed and targeted for address. The research found that culture change was rated as being very important, with 63.3% of the respondents indicating an above average importance rating. The change consultant indicated that prominence of the customer underlined the thrust of culture change. Reinforcement of the change was found to have been very poor. The observation is further amplified by the trading results that indicated successive improvement for three consecutive years after the commencement of the change. Then there was a relapse that is demonstrated by a reverse on the gains that had been made. Good reinforcement or achievement of permanent learning would have yielded in the adoption of a strategic posture that would have militated against the slide to under-performance. The change process was rated by the respondents as being 51.3% successful. The findings show that there was under-communication, this was clearly a draw back. Most respondents did not even know the vision of the change. This position was so despite the use of knowledgeable change experts who used a tested theoretical model and were reputed as having guided a similar change in a grain handling organization in Australia. The competence of the change agent may not be in doubt or question but the environmental context of the Kenyan scenario may have had a profound negative impact.