Managing the Transition
The critical question confronting the executive manager is:
"How should this time of transition be managed?"
For example, in changing from a manual to an electronic system, someone needs to be in charge - in terms of allocating work, rewarding people, determining timetables for going on the new electronic system, etc?
- Should the person in charge of the current manual operation be in charge of the change?
- Should the person who will be in charge of the work in the new system be in charge during the transition period?
- Should both people be in charge?
- Or should their common supervisor be in charge?
There is no cut-and dried answer. To illustrate further. If, for example, one were to look at a new curriculum design involving different responsibilities, allocations of resources, assignments of teachers, etc. there is a transition period, a time during which the old curriculum is being taught in the old configuration and the early parts of the new curriculum are being brought into the program. A critical question facing the manager in this case is who should be managing the change - the heads of the old departments who managed and controlled the old curriculum, the program directors for the new curriculum, a special project manager, or the dean.
Some considerations in determining the particular management structure are finding someone who:
- Can have the clout to mobilise the resources necessary to keep the change moving. Usually in such a change situation, one is competing for resources with others who have ongoing work to do.
- Can have the respect of the existing operating leadership and the change advocates. A great deal of wisdom, objectivity, and link-age may be needed in order to make the balancing decisions, e.g., how much resource to put into the new activity and at what pace.
- Has effective interpersonal skills. A great deal of leadership at this time requires persuasion rather than force or formal power,
Depending on the nature of the change and the anticipated problems, different types of resources and mechanisms are appropriate to management of the transition. However, whatever the choice of transition management structure and personnel involved, making and communicating the explicit management decisions about management structure make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the transition.
The following is a list of alternative structures for managing this transition state:
1. The chief executive becomes the project manager.
The head person takes responsibility for coordinating the change effort. For example, in the development of a new plant or a major change in a plant, the plant manager may personally function as project manager for the change; if this requires considerable energy, the day-to-day operations of the "present" may be delegated to others on the CEO’s staff
2. A project manager.
The executive manager may give either a staff person or a line person a temporary assignment. Here, the project manager functions from the executive manager’s office and has the power of the executive office to manage the change. This alternative is very similar to that of a product manager in a technical organisation. The product manager is a program integrator charged with the responsibility of getting the job done, but having to do so with resources whose "homerooms" are in other parts of the organisation.
3. The hierarchy.
The change transition management is given as a separate or additional piece of work to the people who manage the operations. These individuals are thus "job-enriched" and have explicit responsibilities different from their usual operating responsibilities. An example is a management committee functioning as a new-products committee. As the organisation moves from a functional to a matrix structure in order to improve interdepartmental integration and co-ordination for new-product development, the heads of technology, marketing, manufacturing, and newly assigned product managers would hold monthly meetings to make company-wide decisions about new-product possibilities. For the functional heads, this type of activity would differ from their usual responsibilities
4. Representatives of constituencies.
Here, the change management structure is a group that represents the major constituencies involved in the change. For example, a new system of employee-management work relationships might be managed by a group representing both employees and managers. If one is moving toward more participation and democracy in working conditions, one might want representatives from blue-collar workers, technical and administrative junior management, senior management, and top management to monitor, oversee, and manage the change.
5. ‘Natural’ leaders.
Sometimes the executive manager selects a group whose members have the confidence and trust of large numbers of their colleagues, even though they may not be official representatives. For example, in a medical school the change would probably be facilitated if the chairman of medicine and the chairman of surgery and perhaps one or two others were to be involved and committed; then other departments and sub organisations would also become committed. Certain people in most organisations can "deliver a constituency".
6. A diagonal slice throughout the organisation.
This alternative is employed when there is a felt need to get continuing input from many different levels, cultures, and functions within the organisation. The diagonal-slice mode involves getting a representative sample of the various functions, locations, and levels as opposed to getting formal representatives of groups.
7. The "kitchen cabinet".
This American expression refers to those colleagues (or sometimes cronies) with whom the executive manager consults on an informal basis, but who in fact have high influence on both the executive manager and the organisation.
When the executive manager wishes to maintain direct control over the change and desires objective and candid input from others in the organisation, yet is concerned that line management may have vested interest in various options and distort their input, the kitchen-cabinet alternative may be the appropriate mode. Most chief executives have two or three internal colleagues whom they trust and consult in this manner.
To summarise, we are saying that the executive manager should:
- define the transition state as a set of conditions separate from either the present state or the changed state;
- determine what type of governance or management would be most effective;
- set up such a management structure and system; and communicate the existence of this structure or system to all relevant parties.
The transition is facilitated in most cases by having a management system for the transition state that is separate, or at least uniquely identified, from either the present state of operations or the future state of affairs.