Leading Organisational Change at a London Alternative Provider of Higher Education
Mpofu, K., and Madichie, N. (2018) Organisational Transformation, Change and Development (OTCD) track of the 32nd Annual Conference of the British Academy of Management (BAM) hosted by Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, 4-6 September.
6 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018
Date Written: July 1, 2018
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies employed in leading and managing change initiatives at a small London Alternative Provider (LAP) of higher education (HE). The study explored the increasing organisational challenges related to leading and managing change, institutional complexity, exigency of change management practices and the resistance of followers in such processes. A mixed methods approach was taken (Morse and Niehaus, 2016) for this study, which involved the use of questionnaire survey, observation and some few follow-up interviews for primary data collection from a total of 38 participants. Descriptive statistical data analysis techniques were used to process quantitative data from the questionnaire survey. Qualitative methods such as thematic content analysis and epistemological bootstrapping technique (Archer, 1988; Mpofu and Watkins-Mathys, 2011) were applied for analysis of qualitative data from interviews and participant observation.
The case study results strongly suggested that the role of leadership is critical in setting the vision, providing strategic direction of change, aligning people, team building and providing motivation. The use of ‘smart power’ was evident from the transformational, charismatic and inspirational leadership that largely benefited from soft power resources of empowering, engaging and collaborating to influence and align followers towards the desired vision at the organisation. Working in collaboration with other HE partners, LAP benefited immensely from a consultative and adaptive leadership style – albeit avenues for more information sharing and critical buy-in from the key internal and external stakeholders with diverse demands and conflicting logics. The case study findings provide useful insights on the challenges of institutional complexity for those leading and managing in the middle, and have to constantly deal with the paradoxical need to balance between diverse external demands and the drive to do ‘good’ within their organisational contexts. This further suggested the need for leadership that constantly demonstrates understanding of potential tensions between the different values involved in change initiatives and how to strike a balance on what is desirable with what is feasible.
The insights suggested that good leadership is judged not only on the effectiveness in achieving organisational goals but also on the meaning that leaders create and share ethically with followers. An organisation with strong alignment between strategy, systems, structures, shared values and skills is in a better position deal with possible strategic drift and competency trap, including challenges brought by diversity and interdependency of relationships in a networked organisation. The findings have implications for theory, HE policy-makers, funding organisations and practice especially for those involved in leading and managing change in higher education contexts in general, and more specifically in the HE alternative providers sector in the UK.
Keywords: Alternative Providers of HE, Leadership, Power, Change Management, Institutional Complexity, Case Study
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