Public sector managers' readiness to manage change during mergers
It is well accepted that if we want to progress we need to change. Though we all rationally recognise that progress means change, not everyone is ready and willing, or indeed able, to embrace the change. On the contrary, it is widely believed that most people would resist change. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether managers had been prepared and ready for implementing a merger (change) within the North West Provincial Government as part of a planned change process. One of the most important traits in any organisation that ensures successful change is the state of readiness of its staff to embrace and accept change. To achieve the state of readiness of employees there is a great need for senior management to create a rallying vision to galvanise and convince employees to embrace the change. The vision will represent some future image to strive for which then makes it simpler for management to make everyone in the organisation focus on the vision (Kotter, 1995). If there is buy-in from all employees involved or affected by the change and management makes appropriate efforts to conscientise them, chances of resistance to the change will be quite minimal and any form of resistance displayed can be well and satisfactorily managed. Because the research involved dealing with human experience, the methodology that was adopted for this research was qualitative and exploratory in nature. The population for this study was deemed to be homogenous and only employees of the two North West provincial government departments formed the research population. A sample size of 10-15 participants from departments that merged, which included staff, supervisors/managers and senior managers, was decided upon. However, qualitative sampling depends on data saturation that is at the point where any further collection of new data does not provide any further additional information or details on the issue under investigation. The data collection for this study was done through in-depth interviews conducted on a face to face basis. The in-depth interviews questions were open-ended questions useful when a researcher wants detailed information about thoughts, views and behaviours or wants to explore responses in depth. Analysis of the main findings from both the literature review and primary research indicated that senior management of the North West Provincial Government overlooked the importance of planning the change process ahead of implementation. As a result the entire process was not handled properly, expertly and professionally. First and foremost, there seems to have very little time between planning and implementing the changes, which may suggest that the change process was a knee-jerk decision. There was no change management team put in place to drive the process from planning to crafting persuasive communications and creating platforms and environments where employees would discuss the issue and raise their views and suggest ways of carrying out the change process as prescribed in Kotter’s eight-step model. The main findings from the literature review are that managers as well as employees have to be ready for change in order to make it happen. Change readiness needs to be created through proper communication and involvement. The findings from the primary research survey indicated that senior management of the North West Provincial Government overlooked the importance of planning the change process (merger of departments) ahead of implementation. As a result the entire process was not managed and led properly. First and foremost, they seem to have allowed for very little time between planning and implementing the change which may suggest that the merger (change) was a knee jerk decision. The managers who had to implement the change were also not well prepared - if prepared at all and mentioned the effect of the lack of preparation on their readiness and ultimate success of the merger. There was no change management team put in place to drive the process from planning to crafting persuasive communications and creating platforms and environments where employees could discuss the issue and raise their views and suggest ways of carrying out the change process as prescribed in Kotter’s eight-step model. Overall, there is great need for the public sector at large to realise that any change, especially mergers which are often overlooked as major change initiatives, follows a proper change management process and that managers need to be prepared and made ready for the change implementation.