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28.07.2003 Feature Article

Managing the Economy with Change Management in Mind.

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There is evidence that the current ministers, and the government at large, are facing problems, in terms of resistance to change, which hinders effective performance and management of the economy. Some of the reasons, as with the ministers are of a personal nature but others are not. However, the purpose of this article is to address this issue from a management viewpoint and as such will stick to that.

Without citing the many instances where government initiatives have been botched up, it is obvious that the lack of in-depth analysis, planning, and implementation and monitoring techniques, associated with some of those managing our economy is causing personal headaches for them and the society at large.

Against this backdrop there is evidence that some of these same individuals have no clue as to how best to manage the duties given to them as ministers or government appointees. Yes, they are managers and must always be, but to what extent should they prioritize aspects of management, as it relates to their specific department issues? Is it an issue of operational deficiencies, internal control, marketing, and communication or there is a need to streamline things? If these questions were answered before they embarked on any aspect of their job, they would identify the appropriate management tool to use, or the right combinations and doses of these tools to employ, in order to be successful.

Management is not a simple social science or art and this must be clear to the powers to be in Ghana. Management is about results of a very specific nature and requires analysis of the situation to enable the right diagnosis and “treatment” of a situation.

The discipline of change management, which is a component of business management, and the skills required to facilitate the process is what may be needed by anyone who is part of the management process of our economy, especially in the government circles. Today’s ministers and appointed government officials need to be schooled on this function of management, as it will be money well spent. It is a complex aspect of management which if not implemented, monitored and managed properly can cause great dislocations in what may look like great initiatives on the surface, but create unnecessary backlash once implemented, as we see reoccurring from time to time in Ghana.

If the managers of the economy should see themselves as facilitators of change, what tools are being used to effectively meet their objectives and accomplish the desired end results required of them?

The big question, is to find out if these people in government are aware of their roles as change agents or they see themselves in a different light? This, together with other questions is what the individuals in power need to answer and resolve in order to be successful. It must be noted that, the way one sees him or her in the grand scheme of things, provides one with the critical inputs to develop strategy or a roadmap that brings success to all one’s initiatives, to manage that piece of the economy that they are responsible for.

They can call themselves anything under the sun, from ministers to managers etc, However, when one looks at the task at hand for these “managers”, it must be noted that for Ghana’s economy to reach the level that it should have been today, considering the amount of damage done to the institutions and systems in the country, it will require massive doses of change, and it is for this reason that it is suggested that, knowing very well that change will be rapid and will be big, the principles of change management should be the premier skill set needed to be effective and successful on the job by ministers especially, used in conjunction with other aspects of management, such as technical and managerial competence, in terms of operational skills. Given the needed momentum that is needed to fix the several broken down processes and systems in the economy, including that of changing the mind set and attitudes of people, as a result of a very corrupt past, which requires a major c! ultural shift, it becomes much clearer how change management must be a prime management tool in the economy. In the Ghanaian context, using two examples, I will attempt to illustrate why and how understanding change management will help in reducing the level of resistance going on, with changes sweeping through several institutions in our economy:

The recent case with respect to the VRA CEO is a good case in point. When one looks at the information from the media there is one view. In his (CEO) own words as he also sought to defend himself, we form other opinions, which once again are contrary to opinions formed based on accounts of staff also presented to the local media, as they describe their CEO in their own words. However, in going through all that information, what is clear is this: here was a manager, who could have maybe had all the technical competences in the world, but failed to recognize that he was involved in the process of change-doing a lot in short period of time. The momentum of it, and a lack of applying sound change management principles and techniques is what have crippled him today.

His failure as a CEO may not be as a result of a lack of technical expertise, but a lack of some of the “soft” skills and the very specific skills required in managing change. I do not wish to personalize any issue, but without any on hand relevant case studies in mind, I can only resort to using one of local content and one in recent times, to make the point.

In contrast, the Minister of “Beautification of Accra” has taken a bold and required step, in the scheme of change management practices, to invite people to contribute to how to accomplish his task. Whether it is sincere or not, it is a great first step, which is laudable, as it will create the conditions of ownership for all stakeholders of the process. In extending the offer for participation, the Minister has taken a correct step in managing change. Involvement and ownership of all stakeholders.

These two very different approaches, is to highlight the needed understanding of change management on the part of managers of the economy, but most importantly how it cerates the success story we all want.

A small piece of this complex management discipline is not to take the top down approach with issues, at all times. What to do on the other hand is to create the atmosphere of ownership for all involved. It must be noted that there is a lot more with respect to change management not cited in this article.

There are professionals who have mastered this area of management who can be secured to school all those in public office, especially in the supervisory or management capacity about how to properly manage the change process without resulting in what I call suicide missions of government officials including MP’s and DCE’s. From the perspective that all ministers, government appointees, MP’s and DCE’s are change agents or facilitators of change, initiatives put forth by them, without a reference point with respect to change management, and the needed tools to facilitate the process, could put all the current efforts in jeopardy. Knowledge is power. Use it or seek to acquire it.

Ako Folson
Ako Folson, © 2003

The author has 58 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: AkoFolson

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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