Change: The Expected and The Unexpected
It has been said time and again that nothing in this world is constant, except for change. Change is not a question of “if it will happen” but “when it will happen”. We are all up for changes at different points in our lives, and it really is futile to resist change. Instead, we should equip ourselves with the right tools such that we can deal with the changes in our lives, when they happen. Sometimes we are given a heads up; thus, enabling us to prepare ourselves. However, sometimes change comes to us by surprise. And because we do not know precisely when it will happen, we should prepare ourselves even before any change occurs. It is then perfectly understandable to devote a whole science into studying change as it affects all of us. It also affects every aspect of our lives – may it be in our personal or professional life. It is important to understand how it happens and how we can best position ourselves to maximize the effects of the changes in our lives.
Normally, people are reluctant to change; people are afraid of changes. Why? Because we love the familiar. We love the comfort that comes with knowing what to expect next. But it has also been said repeatedly that growth happens outside of our comfort zones. Growth is a by-product of change. And unless we want to stay stagnant where we are, we all have to face the changes in our lives that come along with all the challenges that could potentially stretch us and propel us to greater heights.
Change: A Case Study
I used to work for Yareem Food Company. Yareem oversees a host of restaurants and cafes. One of the labels they carry is Burger Joint, which has several locations and serves gourmet burgers. It was actually doing pretty well, but we had one particular setback. Back then, the meat we used for our burgers were coming from a local meat supplier. Unfortunately, our customers weren’t too happy with the inconsistency of the quality of the meat that came from this supplier. There were days when we would get juicy, delicious meat, and on other days, we just knew we could get better ones. One day, we decided this couldn’t go on as it was already affecting the reputation of Burger Joint. We knew we had to make some changes and decided we had to let go of our current supplier and find a new one. I took the initiative of taking on the arduous task of finding a new supplier that would meet our standards of consistently good meat for our burgers. I knew it was not going to be easy, and I had to do a lot of research. I had to study all of our potential options thoroughly. Truly, changes were never easy.
I scouted around and tried to come up with a list of potential suppliers from all over. We even considered international suppliers. It was a long and tedious process of sourcing, logistics, tasting, and determining which supplier was really the best choice for Burger Joint. We ended up with an Australian Supplier, but let me share with you our journey to change.
I prepared myself for the big change with the goal to improve the quality of our meal offerings by getting good meat suppliers. We also wanted to explore the different possibilities, to minimize our cost and maximize our profits. Ultimately, we would want to find the best meat suppliers for Burger Joint. I was looking for a supplier that could deliver consistently good meat and one that would also fit our budget.
These were the goals that we had in place when we first recognized the problem and decided to do something about it. These were pretty straightforward and I think they highlighted where we were coming from, where we were, and mapped out the endpoint where we wanted the changes to bring us. Setting up these goals also helped us set the expectations from the process and in a way helped us map out all that we needed to do. Setting the goals right at the start helped us set off the direction of all the changes we were about to go through in our efforts to look for a new meat supplier for Burger Joint.
With that goal in mind, I went on my way looking for the best supplier there is. Maybe I was not even aware of it back then, but I think I may have used the Kurt Lewin’s classical model (Stroh, 2004) as an approach for the change management I was about to take part in. It is one of the more popular traditional approaches in change management.
This model concerns itself with the forces within an organization that sustain or collapse the systems in place within that group. The model indicates that in stable systems, stabilizing factors need to be reduced so that change can be introduced (Graetz, 2002). In order to change the equilibrium, the driving forces within the organization that provide support and stability to the status quo should be challenged openly so that changes may be introduced. The process in this model involves three steps. These are Unfreezing, Moving, and Refreezing (Burnes, 1996). Unfreezing starts to roll out the process by communicating that there is a problem within the group or the organization. Moving, on the other hand, is recognizing that there is a problem and that it needs to be changed. The structural and cultural changes are introduced and applied from thereon. Finally, Refreezing is where all the changes thought about and planned in the Moving stage are reinforced within the organization in order to arrive at the new equilibrium.
As mentioned earlier, I started to introduce the changes by pointing out that we can no longer tolerate the inconsistent delivery and quality of the meat that were being supplied to Burger Joint. This may have referred to Unfreezing, as this stage requires the communication that there is a problem and that it needs to be addressed. After this, we decided that we needed to change our supplier if we did not want to drive away our customers due to the inconsistency of our food. I went on to the process of actual scouting and tasting in order to find the perfect fit – the Moving part. The structural and cultural changes of shifting from one supplier to the next came after. We had to reorient the kitchen and fix the logistics and all the details of expecting meat from a different supplier. Finally, when we were able to arrive at the decision to shift to our new Australian supplier, we had to find our rhythm again and set the system back up and running; hence, the Refreezing stage. We needed to arrange the schedules of the delivery, confirm with our accounting department for the change in payables details, and of course, the kitchen to check in if we were indeed getting good meat this time and to ensure that our customers were happy. Again, I may not even be aware at that time that this was the process I was making. However, on hindsight, this was what actually happened as we faced these changes at Yareem Food Company during that time.
Leadership and Influence
Throughout the whole ordeal, I led our company’s initiative for the change, one which I asserted that we really needed to undergo. Looking back on how I handled the whole change process, I think that I was using a logical leadership style. According to a leadership style inventory, I believe I actually fall under the logical style, especially in the way I handled this particular change process.
The logical leader makes sure that all alternatives are explored thoroughly. I made a list of all the potential suppliers and made a pros-and-cons table for all these suppliers. I did this to ensure that we were making the right choice for our next meat supplier for Burger Joint. I was very keen on finding the supplier that would deliver consistently good meat for our clients based on their track record with their other clients. This meant that I did not only research about the supplier, but I also checked on the food chains and grocery stores they supply to. Longevity in business relationships would seem to indicate a good track record, and I kept that in mind. I also made a quick check on the reputation of the restaurants they deliver to. A good quality-restaurant will only get raw ingredients from a good-quality supplier. On the other hand, I also veered away from the biggest players in the field. This was because the biggest suppliers would tend to cater to more clients, which means that we may be easily overlooked. I wanted to get the right mix of getting a good supplier without falling into the traps of wrong impressions.
It took me some time, but I also ensured that I looked into the different suppliers’ financial statements, their quality of meat, and other pertinent details about them. I tried to cover all areas that may signify the kind of company that they are and how they are going to deliver meat to the restaurant. I would like to think that I used a thorough analysis and continuous questioning before I arrived at the decision. These traits and actions are all typical of a logical leader who is faced with the challenge of change. Moreover, I would like to believe that using this style greatly helped me in arriving at the right decision for Burger Joint.
There are many types of power circulating around this discipline, but one of the more common descriptions of Power is that of French and Raven (1960). These two brilliant social scientists classified power into several forms that can help us understand where power is coming from and how it comes into play in an organization. They have enumerated these forms of power as follows: Coercive Power, or power that dictates; Reward power, or the power that gives people what they want in order to make them work for you; Legitimate power, or the power that is rooted in a role that is perceived to be authoritative; Referent power or the power that comes from the next person wanting to be exactly like you, or the other person liking you; Expert Power, which is rooted from the fact that I may have knowledge or skills that other people need; thus, giving me an edge over them.
Throughout the whole process of looking for a new meat supplier, I believe that I have utilized Expert Power the most. I believe that I used the power of the information I thoroughly gathered and analyzed before I finally arrived at the final decision about which supplier to choose. Expert power derives its strength and authority from the information and knowledge that one person has. Because information allows one to decide with logic and can gives the advantage of thorough analysis, it gives the holder of information a certain edge from the others.
I would like to believe that Expert power was what I harnessed all throughout this process. This went perfectly in sync with my logical style of leadership and has worked for me and our team in solving our little dilemma.
Decision-making and Negotiation
All throughout this paper, I have underlined the importance of the decision-making process that I underwent in order to arrive at our final choice. I have heavily relied on data, information, and thorough research. I gathered data, which I believed to be relevant to my issue and processed them to help me decide. After putting up the list of all potential suppliers, I gathered their client base, financial information, location, and other information in their history and track record that can give me an idea as to how they will be able to deal with us should we choose them as our new meat supplier in Burger Joint.
There was a lot of planning involved. It also involved scouting and actual visits to their sites to ensure that the conditions of their farm and inventory were at par with industry standards at the very least. I also interviewed the managers on their operations, maintenance, health, and safety standards, as well as their practices. I made a stretch and went ahead to look up their clients and see if I want to be associated with these clients. It was very tedious, arduous, and very labor-intensive, but I wanted to make sure that we were making the right decision over this. In the end, I think it was actually worth it. The suppliers were very cooperative and were more than willing to answer my questions. I tried to be as objective as I could, and thought of how I could choose what was best for the company.
As I have mentioned several times, change is difficult, but it is necessary. We will always be subject to change. It will always be a part of our lives, even our professional lives. As such, it is best to contemplate on how we can approach it and deal with it, so that it may yield the best for ourselves and the companies we work for.
Burnes, Bernard. Managing Change. Prentice Hall. 1996.
French, John, and Raven, Bertram. The Bases of Social Power. MI: Institute for Social Research. 1960.
Graetz, Fiona. Strategic Thinking versus Strategic Planning. 2002.
Reardon, Dr. Kathleen K., Reardon, Dr. Kevin J., and Rowe, Dr. Alan J. Leadership Styles for the Five Stages of Radical Change. 1995.
Stroh, Ursula Marie. An Experimental Study of Organizational Change and Communication Management. University of Pretoria. 2004.