Change, Follow, or Get Out of the Way Essay
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Change in an organization can be and usually is difficult for various reasons. Much of the difficulty is in the approach used to initiate change and the willingness to stay engaged and stamina to sustain change through to the end. Organizations can choose to lead by recognizing and implementing change, follow in the shadow of organizations leading the market, or get out of the way by standing still and eventually going under.
With this said; if change was easily done and successful for every organization there would be no need for change management specialists and years and years of study to establish approaches and models for implementing change.
Change would be a natural evolutionary process such as a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly, but it is not that simple. Seemingly simple changes to processes or procedures can cause an unbalance with leaders and employees alike.
First the need for change needs to be identified; followed by the proper model or approach used to implement this change.
During this paper, I will discuss implementing the Advanced Skills Management (ASM) software change in an organization by using Kotter’s Eight-Step Approach. First it is important to give some background on how organizations are structured specifically aviation squadrons with respect to the Marine Corps. The military branches are large separate decentralized organizations that are controlled ultimately by the President of the United States.
Since it is impossible for the President to efficiently manage all branches and all the separate divisions within them, each branch has a leader or CEO. Aviation squadrons are made up of different Military Occupational Specialties that pertain to the type model series aircraft assigned. Each specialty has different responsibilities in the care and maintenance of the aircraft; therefore, requires separate and different training and is broken down into separate departments.
It has all the typical levels of management expected; executive managers, middle managers, and frontline managers as well as managerial types such as staff managers and line managers. The Commanding Officer would be considered the CEO with the Executive Officer, Sergeant Major, Maintenance Officer, and Maintenance Training Chief falling into the general manager level. The Officer in Charge of each division would fall into the mid-level and the Senior Marine in each department being the front-line managers.
Each has similar reporting criteria, responsibilities, and decision making power as would a civilian organization structured this way. As one might imagine with a military unit it has a mechanistic structure with a high use of rules and procedures, with formal relationships between workers. In regards to the degree of delegation of decision making authority and power the organization is primarily centralized; however, some decentralization does exist to allow latitude in day to day business. The organization I have chosen is an organization I was previously attached.
Diagnosing this change falls under the Action Research Model, primary because an outside agency comes in to perform audits looking at our processes and procedures to ensure proper adherence to applicable rules and regulations are being followed and to train or advice on changes required. Through their process they discovered our organization’s documentation was incomplete or not correctly annotated. This probably does not seem like a very difficult change to make considering it is just documentation; however, it does go deeper than simply changing how maintenance training is documented.
The Chief of Naval Operations has established goals of seventy three percent MC (mission capable and fifty six percent FMC (full mission capable) as the overall material readiness goal (Aircraft Material Condition Readiness, 2012). When qualifications and training are not properly documented the ability and efficiency of the squadron is impaired causing the organization to struggle to me larger goals such as those of the Chief of Naval Operations, not to mention not being able to execute our Marine Corps mission.
This change is difficult to determine if it should be referred to as first or second order changes, because it will and has affected the organization as a whole and for most members this will be a radical change. Within aviation squadrons each member is required to complete training syllabi for each of their different Military Occupational Specialty, ground support equipment, and advanced qualifications. Other training requirements such as safety training, NAVOSH (Navy equivalent to OSHA), Military Occupational Specialty classroom training, and on records of on-the-job training are maintained.
All of this information is recorded on paper and kept in each members training jackets requiring large amounts of time to keep current. The first of Kotter’s Eight-Step Approach is establish a sense of urgency to have a pressing importance of action towards addressing issues and without this sense of urgency employees will not be motivated to examine markets and competitive realities needed to identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or opportunities the organization may be faced with (Weiss, 2012).
In this instance the sense of urgency or the pressing importance of this change intervention on saving time on administrative actions, providing an efficient process for accurately recording training information for auditing purposes, and using that time on aircraft maintenance to enable the organization to better meet the Chief of Naval Operations goals for aircraft readiness. Also, confronting the brutal facts that training, because of the time consuming process now is not being documented accurately or in a timely manner, sometimes not at all.
The goal here would be to help others recognize the need for change and generate a need to act immediately at all levels. To help all levels of leadership see the urgency, showing them the advantages to implementing the software would be my immediate action. First demonstrating the reduction of man hours spent maintaining and updating records. The work performed in military aviation is not measured in by a monetary bottom line as is the case in most civilian organizations.
Success is measured by maintenance hours versus flight hours and mission readiness of the aircraft we maintain, so the more man hours saved the more can be spent towards the mission. Second advantage is the ability to standardize training and syllabi not only as an aviation community, but for each platform or type aircraft. This will allow easier transfer of personnel and qualifications from one squadron to another again easing the administrative burdens as well as better audit results. Third advantage is the software will link with the maintenance management system used to record all maintenance on the aircraft.
This link will transfer on-the-job training for each member from the maintenance document to the on-the-job training section in ASM again saving administrative time of having to physically write each job performed in the training jacket. Second step of Kotter’s Eight-Step Approach is forming a powerful guiding coalition; done by assembling a team of top-level officers or other key influential members from the various levels with enough power and credibility to lead the changes and encourage these members to work as a team (Weiss, 2012). In the military, changes are often implemented simply through adherence to orders given by superiors.
Members roger up and get the job done whether they agree or not, but the reason for change should be deeper than this. Sustaining the change under this type of implementation is very difficult and often does not hold. To be able to form a powerful coalition and convince leaders this proactive change is good and get buy-in both the implementation and the sustaining will be easier. In the case of ASM, it seems being able to demonstrate and show leaders at all levels of the management the advantages to implementing the software would be the first step in getting buy-in from them and to begin the coalition.
These leaders will not entirely be those with legitimate power, but include those members whose expertise will also lend credibility to the need for this change. An example of this would be those who are responsible for ensuring training is properly conducted and recorded. Furthermore, to demonstrate how the software will save them administrative time, how it will enable better record keeping, show them the data warehousing to enable easier and more accurate reporting of core competencies, and eventually allow them to focus more man hour time on the mission.
Third step in Kotter’s approach is developing a vision; meaning to create a vision as a guide to direct the changes along with the strategies that will be needed for achieving the vision (Weiss, 2012). Vision, or common goal, is something for the organization to strive for. This is not likely to be immediately achievable, but gives employees something to believe in and a direction for the company to focus their efforts (Weiss, 2011). The Marine Corps vision states “The Marine Corps of 2025 will fight and win our Nation’s battles with multicapable MAGTFs, either from the sea or in sustained operations ashore.
Our unique role as the Nation’s force in readiness, along with our values, enduring ethos, and core competencies, will ensure we remain highly responsive to the needs of combatant commanders in an uncertain environment and against irregular threats. Our future Corps will be increasingly reliant on naval deployment, preventative in approach, leaner in equipment, versatile in capabilities, and innovative in mindset. In an evolving and complex world, we will excel as the Nation’s expeditionary “force of choice” (Marine Corps Vision & Strategy 2025, n. . , pg. 6).
The Marine Corps vision mentioned, among other things, being “innovative in mindset”. Part of being innovative is finding ways to be more engaged in the mission and making sure assets are ready whenever and for whatever called upon. Innovation and change normally bring about efficiency and hopefully savings in either money or in this case man hours. The vision for implementing ASM is to create efficiency through innovation; simplifying indirect mission essential tasks allowing more focus on the direct mission goals.
Strategy for implementation would be fairly simple and would require to first receive classroom training to learn basic functions of the system. Next phase would include implementing the system at the organization, which would include loading and entering all required qualifications and training from the paper versions of the training jacket. This would include further over the shoulder training from the company who developed the software to help speed the implementation process.
This would serve two purposes; first it would allow members to get further training and confidence in the system by learning where information is stored and second they would have experts available to answer questions and issues during the implementation process to help further personal mastery. Fourth step is for the coalition or team formed in step two must communicate the vision by any means possible ensuring employees understand the vision requiring these team members to model the behaviors needed for the vision and strategies to be successful (Weiss, 2012).
The vision will be communicated at every opportunity through emails, meetings, flyers, screen savers, texting, and memorandums throughout the squadron to ensure people are aware. Part of communicating the vision would include leaders receiving the training first to help during the implementation process and to show or be visible to the other members by setting the example using the new software with the intent that they will begin to communicate further to members below them. “A vision is not a vision if people don’t know about it. Repeat the vision, keep it simple, use metaphors and analogies, spread it in many forums and forms.
Above all, lead by example. If integrating EH&S into every decision and business process is the vision, make sure you do it, no matter how trivial the decision. This sends a powerful message to everyone you encounter” (Lawrence & Ruth, 1998, para. 7). Step five involves empowering others to act on the vision. At this stage it is important that members become involved in the change and begin to take ownership in determining the success. Members will have received their training and will be operating the system on a day to day basis.
This is where those members that have not bought into the change will begin to manifest themselves. They will begin to create barriers and want to revert back to the status quo, because they are comfortable with the old way of conducting business and where short-term wins will be important in showing them how the system is or will benefit them. “With the urgency established, the vision created, the guiding coalition and communication vehicles established, give employees the chance to take ownership. Eliminate obstacles that impede progress, such as lack of skills, or people who poison the water against change.
Facilitate the use of cross-functional teams and allow employees to push the envelope with fresh ideas and renewed energy” (Lawrence & Ruth, 1998, para. 8). Step six is generating short-term wins to solidify the benefits of the change. Short-term wins with the ASM system would include saved time for the administrators maintaining the system and training records. By now there should be noticeable or measurable results available showing the amount of saved man hours or more than likely a measurable increase in man hours spent on the aircraft maintenance mission.
As a result, the aircraft readiness should also be increasing allowing the squadron to reach or exceed the CNO goals. Another short-term win will include improved results on audits related to training management with more timely input of information and better accuracy. This in turn should increase the urgency and begin to create or solidify the new culture of using this system. “To ensure success, short term wins must be both visible and unambiguous. The wins must also be clearly related to the change effort. Such wins provide evidence that the sacrifices that people are making are paying off.
This increases the sense of urgency and the optimism of those who are making the effort to change. These wins also serve to reward the change agents by providing positive feedback that boosts morale and motivation. The wines also serve the practical purpose of helping to fine tune the vision and the strategies” (Kotter International, 2012, step 6, para. 3). Step seven requires consolidation of gains and the production of more change. This is done by using increased credibility to change systems, structures and policies and hiring, promoting, and developing members to further implement and reinvigorate the change (Weiss, 2012).
Policies such as time limits on completion of syllabi, testing procedures, and access permissions for example would be generated to better control and further enhance the efficiency of the system. Also those members who were causing the barriers for progress of the system would need to be dealt with in order for the change initiative to continue. Unlike many civilian organizations, hiring and firing employees to better position the organization is not an option.
Leaders in the upper levels can be relieved, but at lower levels positions are filled by external agencies and you have what you get and make the magic happen with the talent that exists. This often times is very difficult to juggle putting the right people in the right positions to conduct day to day business, much less initiate change and sustain it; so much time is spent trying to develop Marines. During this paper, I discussed implementing the Advanced Skills Management (ASM) software change in an organization by using Kotter’s Eight-Step Approach.
It can be a difficult task to implement change, especially when dealing with the various different personalities involved. Having a plan to be able to create urgency for the change, creating coalitions with leaders, and empowering employees with knowledge can make the change process easier by ensuring employees are a part of and take responsibility for the success. In civilian organizations removing those who do not want to be part of the change is an option; however, in the military setting this is not a likely solution making the idea of getting buy-in from members even more important.