We are praying that this Coronavirus goes away and goes away soon! We are also praying that when it goes away it will leave its mark on the world, a mark to make the world wiser, to expose the evil people, but also to make us more prepared for the future. A lesson that we must manage our societies better, plan for population growth, plan our towns, plan for food and plan for the unforeseen crisises. But I hope too that it will forgive the poor souls in the developing countries who do not have the infrastructure and the money to manage it. They have no idea at all about this virus, they are just victims of circumstances. Hopefully these developing countries will emerge without big problems.
But what happens to organizations that survive the virus? They must change. This virus is leaving a lot of distraction in its path. It is disrupting plans and those who don’t plan also are in disarray. As I write now, millions of people are unemployed, organizations have closed, we are not sure when the lockdown will end in various parts of the world. How the world will look like? Indeed, many organizations will go under and many may never reopen. There are some organizations that can restart and be able to make up very quickly and succeed. But those who reopen, in what format? The large organizations that have got huge capital bases, huge reserves may live on. But in what shape?
Large organizations will still be affected. It is amazing that this thing we cannot see can bring behemoth airlines like Emirates to its knees. It can bring huge economies like that of the United States to its knees. It causes a drop in the growth of the unstoppable Chinese economy. But despite all this, what happens to organizations after the Coronavirus storm? There are new realities. These new realities are that the world has changed primarily because of technology. The new realities are that anything can change the world order. The realities that the world is full of greedy selfish people who don’t care about others. The reality is that technology can become an enemy of people who create it. Even the coronavirus appears to be a product of this technology therefore we should be ready for the disruptions it brings. The time is now to prepare. The reality is that organizations must adapt to changing conditions or die. The reality is that nothing freezes in place and the coronavirus is a disrupter unfreezing the status quo. It will change everything. But are organizations ready for the change and if they are, how do they go about it?
True in recent years, despite the current Coronavirus crisis, the world has changed tremendously driven primarily by technology. At the macro level, China is a new player in the world economy. Britain left the European Union! Global companies have relocated to China. The biggest companies in the world are no longer American. The most valuable companies are in IT! For individuals, change has also taken place. It is possible for you to sit in your office or home and conduct bank transactions, get money from your bank and pay various people who you owe money. We have seen a lot of gadgets that have come up, the phones, drones, virtual assistants, holograms, all these have come in as part of the technological changes that are affecting the individual’s way of life. The smart phone is an amazing product. People are using it for numerous things.
In organizations, we have seen change in processes and products. Gadgets are changing the way organizations works. Robots, online sales, online procurement are very common. All these have changed organizations. We have seen UBER emerge, we’ve seen the Amazon, Alibaba, we’ve seen Facebook emerge all these are the new businesses that are in the world and they are commanding lots of resources. The owners of these companies are very wealthy people and this is all attributed to technology. Even the coronavirus appears to emerge as one of these changes. So as we emerge from the Coronavirus effect, what are we going to do as organizations that survived, or even to survive after the pandemic? Are we ready for the change? If they don’t change most likely these organizations will be condemned to the corporate grave yard.
In the change literature it is reported that over 50% of all change effort in organizations fails! So let’s be ready for that. A whopping 50% of organizations we know today may never recover! Is yours one of those that has or will survive, ready for change? Besides will it survive thereafter? For those organizations that survive, they will have implemented change successfully and those that fail to initiate and implement change will definitely not survive. What does this mean for you, what does this mean for your organization? How do we adapt change? How do we incorporate change in our work? How do organizations get to change or how do they change in the current circumstances?
Stages in creating change in organizations
Change is needed for survival. Any organization that doesn’t change or that doesn’t create change or adopt change will definitely not survive. Change is anything new or different. As organizations grow, they change. Usually, competition is what creates the need to change and outmatch competitors. Organizations die because they are out competed. Because they are fearful of bringing new production methods and new products. Nokia, the onetime powerful phone maker, failed for failing to see change in the market. While competitors bring the need for change, it is often facilitated by technology, but this time, the change is driven by other factors. Coronavirus is one of them. So in the coming one to three years after the Coronavirus pandemic had been controlled, we will still witness tremendous changes in organizations and how they do business. The change will be driven by the coronavirus and its affects but still facilitated by technology. Who will survive and why? What is it that we need to do as organizations? Change must be deliberate, yes, some organizations create or adopt change successfully through a muddling through, but those a few. Good change must be orchestrated. There are a series of steps in change management I would like to recommend.
First of all, do you know where you are going as an organization? The coronavirus may have changed that. Who are your customers? Are they still the same? Are their tastes and preferences the same as before the pandemic? What are your markets? Do they still exist? It is extremely important that you recognize those opportunities that are availing themselves to you either to serve your existing customers or create new ones. Opportunities solve specific problems in the society. This is the starting point. Do you still have the market for the product you want to sell or can you create the market .Just take a case at UBER, we had taxis all along but all of a sudden, we have UBER, what did UBER do? It simply added technology to the concept of taxis and it changed things. UBER used technology to ease transportation. It changed the way transport is delivered to people. In many countries including Uganda, what does the future offer? What are the possibilities in the future from which the business opportunity can be recognized? What new possibilities has the Coronavirus disruption created? Can your organization adjust to them and exploit them?
The second, and probably most important aspect that one must look at is technology. Technology is the dominant factor in creating and facilitating change. What are the available technologies? Today we talk about the 4th Industrial Revolution. This industrial revolution is simply extending the impact of digitization. We have had digitization for some time in the world but the 4th industrial revolution is creating a bigger impact. It is pushing that impact of digitization to make it available in all products and processes, it is said, even inserted in human beings! What are the various technologies that have come up in the 4th revolution, not that they are new but are simply being extended and made better. This includes artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, 3D printing, Nano technology, Bio- Technology, Quantum computing, among others. These are some of the technologies that are emerging. What was your level of digitization before the pandemic?
What technologies have you been using? Are they still relevant? Where is your organization in respect to these emerging technologies? Which technology impacts your business? You will not succeed as a changing organization in a changing technological environment without adapting these technologies. So, as you prepare to change what is the change that you want to see in your organization? How are you going to create this change? How far do you want to go with digitization? Organizations that are going to survive in the new era, the post Coronavirus pandemic era, would have adopted or will adapt new technologies. Check your processes, what are they using now? How can new technology help? These new technologies are very important in improving efficiency, in improving organizational abilities, in improving operations of the organization.
Once this is in focus, the organization must then find ways of getting employees in the organization to accept changes that are coming up. It is likely that you laid off or are going to lay off employees as a result of this pandemic. Some organizations like Hotels, may open and operate at 20 or 30 percent capacity for some time. Staff are being laid off now. As the organization re-opens, you can’t take on all these people. That is a change. For those that remain, they have to buy-in, that is a change. If people don’t buy into the change, it will not succeed. People resist change even when it is good for them. People fear change, they fear the unknown, they fear to give up what they know and existing benefits. This kills change and kills organizations. If people don’t overcome this fear, they will drag the organization down along with it. Show them what and why the change as it begins. Educate them about the need to change and what change you are introducing. As what benefits it brings.
Once people have been sold the change they must be prepared for it. This is usually through clear communication and training. Since people fear change, take away that fear. Communicates the change, Empower your employee by making them familiar with the change you are introducing. The buy in process would have involved indicating the advantages of the new technology. But not everybody will buy in or take the training. Be ready to deal with those because they may be the link between the organization’s fortunes and its death. Training will get rid of obsolete skills. The advance of Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms have changed the way organizations work making them more efficient. Many people refused to use them leading to organizational inefficiency! In a competitive world, if you are inefficient, you die!
It is also suggested that you select change champions and also create change teams. Yes and No. Much depends on the organizational culture. Now and again organizations are hijacked by informal leaders who are populists, watch out for them. They may lack direction but have great influence on others. This may create inertia in the organization. If informal leaders can be harnessed to support in leading change you will succeed. If you fail to harness them, they may take the organization down with them. Therefore watch out who champions change. Teams do not necessary work depending on circumstances! You may have individual eagles working excellently. Teams may therefore not give you good results. At times they do, depending on the tasks and goals. It is you the leader to make judgement on what it requires to create, adapt and implement change successfully in the organization. Irrespective of circumstances, consequently, select a team that delivers results, if necessary and champions and let them champion change.
After you brought the people on board and empowered them, you should then implement the change. This change may be in the way you communicate both inside and outside the organization. Every method has advantages and disadvantages. It may be in the way you hold meetings. Are they virtual? Do you need personal assistant for those positions up there? How do you book your travel? Is there UBER service. On the production line, what is new in the robotics? In sales, what does online do? All these and other many issues have been digitalized. They can be extended. The usage of robotics, the usage of drones in doing a lot of work is changing things. It’s possible that you can order for a meal from a restaurant and it has been and always been brought by somebody maybe on a bike. Today the drone can deliver that meal. It is also possible that you can order drugs from a pharmacy and they will be delivered by a drone to your house. These are examples of the nature of changing business. These are the changes that are coming up that organization must adapt.
In terms of manufacturing and logistics, the use of robots is going to become increasingly popular as we look for lowering cost of production. Robots are going to replace human beings! This creates another worry of unemployment (change) globally and these are things that one should look at very carefully as you try to drive change in your organization. Online communication channels have opened up. People have learnt to work from home. Travel is becoming less important. How can you initiate and manage the various technological changes will make you win or loose. Remember even competitors out there are struggling to do the same!
Problems of implementing change in organizations
But what are the problems that we as Africa face, that Ugandan companies are going to face. First of all Uganda and indeed many African countries have not yet joined the first industrial revolution! The developed world is implementing the 4th. The first revolution brought the steam engine, it mechanized things. Today our agriculture is still the old hoe, which means we are not even in the playing field. Yes, we can leap frog technology adaption but it is going to be very difficult For Ugandan companies to compete in agriculture with companies elsewhere, for instance Israel which are using drones for agriculture and yet we are still using the old hoe. That is a problem. It is the responsibility of the state to facilitate our businesses to operate in the current industrial revolution. But how will the large number of informal business, people who hawk their goods around, adapt it. How will the technology impact on them? It is likely that it will throw them out of employment! It is likely that manufacturers of the products hawkers sell may sell through other channels. Online for instance.
I know there is a committee to ensure Ugandans adopts to the 4th Industrial Revolution but if we don’t address this properly, there will be a big problem. We shall remain miserably poor as a country producing with a hoe and not able to compete. Right now, in terms of technical education brick laying is being done by robots. There are plastering machines, there all kinds of machines that do work that technical and vocational people have been doing. This is writing on the wall especially for African countries. So, if we don’t change we will continue to be poor. The Western countries will continue their best kept open secret “keep Africa where it is as we extract raw materials and minerals for our own use”. There is no reason why Africa hasn’t changed and countries to be on the periphery of world events, development and issues with so much mineral wealth. These of course are some of the issues of the in inequalities that emerge from development of technology and adoption of technology. Of course, there are other problems like what you normally call the facilitating conditions, do we have the internet, the equipment. Do we have all the money to pay for them? Do we have all these things we are able to adopt these technologies keeping these in mind.
The coronavirus may be an opportunity for Ugandan organizations to restart. Indeed many organizations had started incorporating new technologies in their processes. But the biggest danger is people. Corruption has created a sick society that cannot succeed irrespective of technology. There is need for a new culture of honesty and transparency for the organizations to succeed.
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