Interview: Dr Joe Jaina Change Management

Interview: Dr Joe Jaina
Change Management
Steve Macaulay
Hello this is Steve Macaulay from the Learning Services Team at
Cranfield School of Management. I am looking today at the whole
process of managing change and I am speaking to Dr Joe Jaina who
is a senior lecturer in organisation behaviour at Cranfield.
Now Joe, I would like to talk particularly about structured
approaches to change – the change kaleidoscope, the seven S’s, the
culture web, SWOT analysis, for example. It would be helpful for
me first of all, and for the listeners to get some background from
you about the involvement you have had in organisational change.
Joe Jaina
Right. Well, I suppose my career has featured a number of
different change programmes. One of the overarching principles
that occurs to me is that each change is inimitable, it’s unique.
Each context is unique and one of the important things to
remember is that is so. Change programmes, change processes of
themselves very often work and they work in a variety of contexts.
One of the great challenges when you are embracing change
theory and change models is that good ideas don’t always travel
well. They don’t always benchmark well. What you have to do is
take the idea, recognise the context really as a precursor to
introducing the model or the theory or the framework. I think that
is probably one of the main features that has characterised my
involvement with change programmes over the last, I guess, twenty
or so years.
Steve Macaulay
So, can you give me some thoughts about structured approaches to
change based on your practical experience.
Joe Jaina
Yes, I guess one of the issues that you have to think about is really
to unpick the word structure. To some people change will mean
it’s all about people and inevitably as a result of their background
and experience they will focus on people issues. Some people,
quite reasonably will say no, no, no – it’s all about structure and
what we need is to get the structure right, get the roles and
responsibilities, the job descriptions right and everything else will
follow. And again, there is a third view, equally tenable, which is
it’s all about process – that what you need to do is plan your way
through the change process. You need milestones, you need to
back up the milestones with resource and provided they are all in
place and everybody understands them, it all works out. I think
there is a fourth way, which is basically it’s complex, things change
half way through, things don’t work to plan. You have to
Joe Jaina
understand, as I was saying earlier the context. You also have to
understand that as soon as your plan hits the workplace, it does of
necessity need to change. So, many, many structured approaches
are really what I would describe as a descriptive heuristic, in other
words, they are a rule of thumb that help you describe facets of the
change prior to deciding how to plan it and of course the change
kaleidoscope is a good example of that.
Steve Macaulay
So, if I look at some specific quotes from the book on the change
kaleidoscope Exploring Strategic Change, one of them is this – the
ability to manage change is fast becoming a mainstream
competence for managers, it’s no longer an optional extra in the
managerial toolbox.
Joe Jaina
Yes, I guess that is clear and self evident. One of the more
problematic aspects is the verb really, it’s the word manage. It
raises the spectre of the issue can you manage change? Is it
manageable? Or do you just muddle through or do you do your
And I think the answer is in the anticipation of what the change is
about and what your interventions in the change process are about
and any model or theory that helps you lay out the territory,
understand what it is that you actually want to change, why you
want to change it, how you want to change it, when you want to
change it and emphasises all the different dimensions of change,
prior to you actually deciding exactly how you are going to change
it, exactly how you are going to communicate it and exactly how
you will know when you have achieved success.
So, this idea of a change competency is important but mustn’t be
overstated. Part of the equation around change is being capable of
managing the change, the other part is being equally capable of
understanding the context for the change and it’s the combination
of the skill and the contextual understanding that really leads to
successful change implementation.
Steve Macaulay
Can you give me any examples from your experience? I mean this
sounds, if you like, great for an academic to talk like this, but there
are a lot of people out there in the field trying to respond to this.
Joe Jaina
I can give examples – obviously they will have to be suitably
anonymised. Very often a good practical example would be
around mergers and acquisitions. Mergers and acquisitions often
represent a really ripe field for thinking about the change process.
Why? Because the environment that they operate in is destabilised, people are in turmoil, people are not sure of what the
takeover or the merger or the acquisition is really going to result in
– they are not sure whether their jobs are safe. So everything is
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Joe Jaina
fluid, everything is open and I will give you an example of a merger
that I have been associated with recently, where the acquirer in this
particular merger – it wasn’t really a merger, it was more of a
takeover – had very clear views about standards. They knew what
they wanted to achieve and by when they wanted to achieve it.
But the issue of how they achieved it for the acquired organisation
was left completely open and the acquired organisation had no
president for how to organise the change.
So, a good example of the change kaleidoscope was, the
kaleidoscope allows you to ask some very simple questions about
the context of change in the midst of a merger, or as in this case, a
takeover. And what it allows you to do is to ask simple questions
like how long have we got? To ask questions like what do we wish
to preserve? And are there individuals that we wish to preserve?
Are there aspects of structure? Are there processes? Are there
brands? Just be clear about what we want to preserve rather than
sweeping away everything in the pursuit of change ideology.
Other areas that it allowed us to look at was capability – what is the
experience of management in managing change previously and how
can we capitalise on that experience? What is the capacity? Have
we got enough money, time, energy, resource to do it? A model
like the kaleidoscope also allows you to address the political
concerns which are often unseen or even taboo in some
For example, are we clear about why we are changing? Is the
board of the company, or the most senior significant people in the
company, are they aware of the need for change? Do they share
meaning about why they want to change and are they prepared to
stick with it?
So, they are just some facets where the kaleidoscope for example
will give you a rich understanding of what it is you are going to
change and when you turn your attention then subsequently to
how you are going to change, a model like this will allow you to
answer some questions like do we need to implement this change
top down? Or do we need to implement it bottom up? Or should
we identify prototypes – should we go for industry standards and
simply introduce them?
No, in this particular case, what we decided to do was to go top
down – as Stephen Covey once famously said, if you are going to
sweep the stairs, start at the top. So they are some design choices.
Other design choices that you might make are to do with how
participative or do you just tell people to get on with it? And in this
case, we didn’t have a lot of time, so it was necessary to grip things
and enact them very, very quickly and in fact we only had about
three months, so it was top down and it was driven in a very, very
clear way. It wasn’t participative, but again what we did was, we
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Joe Jaina
made those design choices about implementing change based on a
framework which was comparable with frameworks that other
organisations have used. It wasn’t the same, but it did allow us to
say are we including everything that needs to be included in the
process of designing the change?
The big issue with frameworks like this is that they introduce
uncertainty and ambiguity. They allow you to cope with the fact
that things do change and probably the biggest advantage of using
the kaleidoscope in the situation that I have just mentioned is that
it allows you to set an overarching goal, it allows you to be very
flexible about how you do the change and finally, it forces you to
focus on really getting feedback, getting high quality intelligence
from the workplace as each and every change intervention takes
So, it is this notion of setting a goal, being really flexible about how
you do it, but not being mindlessly flexible – basing your flexibility
on good quality feedback. So you give an emphasis to all of the
processes that are so important in change. That is really one way
in which the model helps.
Steve Macaulay
So, is that if you like the story behind the words – I noted down a
comment that was in the book Exploring Strategic Change, change
doesn’t happen as a result of a plan, it’s more complex than that.
Joe Jaina
It is, it’s iterative and it changes, but the very basic principles
remain. One principle is that you want to keep sight of where you
are going and why you are going there and don’t lose sight of that
and many companies do. Many companies lose interest or the
change programme itself becomes unfashionable, so one of the key
elements is focus on what you want to change, set a clear timescale
for it and don’t lose sight of that, but recognise there are many,
many ways about the how of change implementation.
One of the reasons that the kaleidoscope is helpful is that the
literature, particularly academic literature on change
implementation is less well developed by comparison with the
literature on the what of the change. The big, macro strategic view
about change is generally well served. Change implementation
literature by comparison, is impoverished.
Steve Macaulay
One of the things that strikes me – and there is a quote here that
says changing organisations is about changing people and any
implementation approach has to work with a cultural, political and
social nature of organisations. I mean that feels like very
intangible stuff to me and yet in the end it has got to come down to
hardnosed business figures and results.
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Joe Jaina
Joe Jaina
Yes. I think what a lot of these models and frameworks are really
helping you do is to understand the myriad complexity of the
change agenda and basically to be able to be hard about a soft
subject. What you really want to do is to be both soft and hard.
It’s a bit like bringing up your children really, too much love and
they go off the rails, too much discipline they go off the rails. They
need love and discipline.
So what you need to do for example is be very clear about the
political processes in change. You need to be clear about where
the power is, who the stakeholders are, how they are going to be
influenced and what these models and frameworks help you do is
plan out the landscape for the change, locate in key individuals in
that landscape and then decide what you are going to do about
It is very much a rule of thumb, but if you don’t do it the
opportunity cost of not laying out the territory of influence for
example, of not laying out aspects of implementation, of not laying
out how to manage the feedback can be huge.
Steve Macaulay
One of the things that people often say is how stressful, how tiring,
how difficult a change process is. There is a quote that is used in
the book again from Exploring Strategic Change, the transition is
better characterised as an emergent process, full of surprises with
unpredictable and uncertain outcomes, words like frustrating,
chaotic and difficult are often used. Now the process you have
been describing feels like a very cool, rational process and yet on
the ground people are describing frantic, difficult, emotional
experiences – how do you marry the two?
Joe Jaina
Well, I think when you change anything people are disconcerted.
They feel uncomfortable with ambiguity, with paradox and with
uncertainty and one of the great challenges of change is that the
timescale for the most senior people is often one, two, sometimes
three years, very much over the horizon. As you descend the
organisation you go onto for example, the shop floor, the timescale
there can be as short as five minutes or ten minutes, so you have
got a temporal difference and it is no good talking to people about
grand strategic plans, whose concern is what do I do in the next
five, ten minutes.
So you have got a conversion issue and it’s the job really of senior
management to convert the overarching plans about where the
business is going into things, into roles, responsibilities, into
activities, into plans that people can do something about. The real
value in application of these models and theories is that they allow
you to effectively convert a grand strategic plan into something
which is operational in a timescale which is meaningful to the
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Joe Jaina
people involved and the quicker you can do that the more you
reduce the anxiety for you and for others and so that is really
where these things help. They help you remove the concerns, the
ambiguity, the paradox, the uncertainty and the longer that
paradox and uncertainty and ambiguity goes on the more people
feel uncomfortable.
And very often it is because people lack a good theory – it’s Kurt
Lewin’s famous maxim, there is nothing so practical as a good
theory and in this area of change implementation, again I go back
to the point, people are not always well served by the literature
and very often the only guide that they have is a so called,
apparently practical guide of their own experience of the last
change programme that they have known – which may be
completely irrelevant as far as the latest change agenda is actually
So it is useful and it does help reduce anxiety and being able to
map things, clearly lay them out and create a managerial agenda
that is compelling and resonates with people. So that is really
where these things score and the way to judge the advocacy of
these things is to say, what is the opportunity cost? If I didn’t do it
using these frameworks and tools, what would I do? Now if
people have a plausible alternative, that is fine. In my experience
they don’t, what they often do is muddle through and it’s the
muddling through which causes the grief, the concern and the
Steve Macaulay
And yet one of the things that people like Julia Balogun and
Veronica Hope-Hailey say in their book is all the successful change
firms don’t use change recipes – they look at their own context and
kind of somehow meet those needs and move on. It feels like a
very difficult process really, there needs to be some certainty in
there that you can use, some toolbox, some recipes, some theories
and that they will work and they will help.
Joe Jaina
I agree with that entirely and I think back to this point about
inimitable context, that your context is unique, you need to
understand it as a precursor to doing anything about change. Then
what you might need is some signposts, some pointers, some rules
of thumb, some ways of laying out the territory in a way that is
meaningful given the context that you operate in. And here I
would draw a distinction between a recipe and a menu.
I agree entirely with the authors, I think the idea of a menu which
provides pointers and choice and leaves change implementation
practitioners in the high ground of choice is much better than a
recipe. The problem with a recipe is once you create a recipe you
can’t undo it and there is a real distinction between a recipe and a
menu and I think what we are seeing here in these models and
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Joe Jaina
frameworks are, if you like, menu pointers, rather than a formulary
recipes. I think the day of the formulary recipe, given the
complexity of the universal change at the moment, particularly
where the rate of change exceeds the capacity to learn so people’s
past experience is not a good guide to the future, a menu pointer,
driven approach has to be better.
Steve Macaulay
That is very helpful – I think that has given me a good feel really and
a start so that people can start to think about their own experience
and maybe broaden that out. So in this context then you feel a lot
of checklists and so on that are in the change kaleidoscope are very
helpful because they are not prescriptive, but they give you some
question that is useful to help guide you along the path?
Joe Jaina
Well, I think they do two things. First of all they provide headings,
if you like, almost a taxonomy to use an academic term. They
provide you with headings that ought to be considered prior to
designing how you are going to get through this change process and
these headings are all about aspects of context and some of them
are really obvious like time, for example.
Some organisations will create a burning platform, which is well
known. They will create a crisis in order to galvanise people, in
order to focus people on why are we needing to change. The
kaleidoscope, and there are many other devices, just encourages
you to look at each of these aspects of context in order to decide
what is going on here and when you work your way through that
process, it then in a sense forces you to be aware of them as you
design your change programme and make some connections –
managerial connections – between what it is you are doing and the
context that you are operating in and it is very easy to decouple
those things.
To think for example that there is only one way to manage change,
regardless of context and I think what the authors are saying is that
that is not the case, but actually you do have to recognise this
aspect of uniqueness, otherwise you destroy value, otherwise you
make changes which are difficult to recover from and I think if you
go back into the halcyon days of the years of the eighties, and to
some extent the nineties, business process for engineering, a lot of
asset and value and core processes were stripped out under the
aegis of ideology, never to be replaced, ultimately, sometimes to
the detriment of a whole industry.
Steve Macaulay
Joe Jaina, thank you very much indeed.
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