Management of strategic change at Rift Valley Railways (Kenya) Limited
In the business environment, there are many factors that drive and escalate the pace of change within organisations. According to Scribner (2000), managers must develop a systematic approach to looking at the changes in the internal and external environment that confront the organisation. Strategic change management provides managers with wide variety of models to initiate, manage, control and direct the change. However, the choice of model used will depend upon the nature of the organization in terms of its resources and problems, and must be adapted to that organisation (Nadler and Tushman, 1997). Whereas strategic change may cause resistance due to disruption of the momentum of organizational processes, sound change management practices can help in overcoming or mitigating this resistance. On taking over operations of the railway network from the insolvent Kenya Railways Corporation in November 2006, Rift Valley Railways Kenya Limited inherited a company that was inundated with a myriad of problems. These included massive investment needs, poor management structures, mismanagement of finances, a bloated workforce, and lack of clear strategies for future success. As a result of the poor performance exhibited by the previous railway operator, there were several factors that compelled the top management of RVR(K) to make strategic changes. Consequently, the reaction by management of the company was to make concerted efforts to initiate processes for implementing, managing and controlling the results of these changes for the successful operations of the company. The two objectives in this study were to determine the factors that necessitated the strategic changes that occurred at RVR(K) and to identify the model of change that was employed in managing these changes. A case study research design was used in this study, whereby interactive personal interviews were carried out with six respondents who were involved in managing the strategic changes at RVR(K). A questionnaire with open ended questions was employed as the interview guide to gather primary data. The study found that there were several external and internal factors that created necessity for changes at RVR(K). These included requirements for technological upgrades, political interference, economic effects, industry and customer demands, employee unrest, cultural challenges and restructuring requirements. The study also found that management practices employed by top management at RVR(K) were closely borrowed from the Content, Context and Process model of managing strategic change. Some of the factors which hampered successful implementation of change at RVR(K) included resistance to change, failure to plan for change, failure to ensure effective communication by management and lack of participation and involvement of employees in implementation of change in the company. Throughout the study, there were a number of limitations that were identified. The inability to use detailed information from the Kenya Concession Agreement due to its confidentiality was a major drawback. Other limitations include the delay in collection of primary data from the respondents due to their initial unease with the subject and inability to access documented departmental strategic plans. This study on management of strategic change at RVR(K) could provide the basis for carrying out future research on the importance of competence in managing strategic change as well as the use of the Balance Scorecard as a tool for strategic change management. The effects of undertaking change management as a business function at RVR(K) could also be another topic for further research.