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Resistance to Change in Public Sector Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 5382 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Background / General

Organisation cannot control environmental changes. They can only change their processes to adapt to the environmental changes and take advantage of the new opportunities that are the changes in the environment brings. When a change is resist is could be a very difficult to achieve the desired reason for the wanted change.

This is the case of IFAKO /IJAYE local Government Council Area (IJLGCA) where the management are finding it difficult to change the bureaucratic organisational culture among the employees of the local government council .The introduction of the “PACE PROJECT” that was aimed at changing the organisational culture was meet by resistance from the employees of the councils area .The PACE PROJECT was program is designed to re-engineer the human and material resources of the organisation in other to enhance and improve their performance and productivity.

Ifako/ijaye Local Government council area (IJLGCA), the organization has experienced rapid changes in the last six years to improve the efficiency of the operations as well as the capability of the workforce to produce the desired results which would make the sector to be more effective and efficient in operations.

Project PACE, was also purpose is to repositioning ifako/ijaye Local Government council area (IJLGCA) in to world-class organization, by clearly defining the vision for the organization and comparing to reach me that the other Council area created at the same time in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world by operating in compliance with the International Labour Standards by entrenching transparency in the organisational processes enhancing efficiency and making improvements in the value of procurement in the local governance

Change management can be defined as a decision-making procedure which modifies or transforms organisation to be more effective and efficient in operations.

Organisations need to change to adapt to external or internal development, but realizing effective change could be very problematic .change is so difficult and when it occur successfully it is by miracle. Kanter, stein, and jick (1992)

One major barrier to change is resistance from employees of organisations .Resistance is commonly considered is a natural reaction to organisational change.

IFAKO /IJAYE local Government Council Area (IJLGCA) government is still using a bureaucratic cultural administration style. The top to bottom approach of culture change in selling the preferred culture to staff has used different presentation styles, such as seminars and workshops, which are unable to change the mind-set of workers, but rather creating a form of resistance from employees who are afraid of losing their job a top to bottom approach with limited room for dialogue

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In this paper I will be studying the two the approach to change which are (1) Determinism Approach (2) voluntarism approach. The different classical models of change that is the Lewins model to change which would include the Lweins force field analysis to determine the driving forces and the resisting force to the desire preferred organisational culture that is the pace project of ifako/ijaye Local Government council area (IJLGCA).

Research Problem

Management efforts to refocus IJGCA staff to meet with challenges in the public sector through the PACE project, is yet to produce the desired results since its establishment in July 2004. The various launching, enlightenment campaigns and appointment of the local change-makers / teams are yet to provide the required support for the PACE project.

 Project PACE, whose purpose is to reposition IJLGCA into a world-class organization by clearly defining the vision for the organization .Also comparing the achievement with other the Council areas of Nigeria and other part of the world, that were created at the same time by making IJGCA a pacesetter for others to follow is still yet to yield to require result.

The Code name Project-Pace, said that it would be a comprehensive, multi-functional and coherent strategy in line with the task of setting up a high level of organization, but now the plan change is still remain at the elementary stage.

Staff awareness and understanding of the brand-new part of culture, which was launched in 2005 is still very low. The desired commitment on the path of staff is lacking due to poor understanding of the preferred culture elements which is “ACT NOW” which elements are: Safety, Performance, Empowerment And Entrepreneurship, Respect And Trust, Innovation, Ownership And Consequence Management ,Teamwork Control And Open Communication, Professionalism.

The Recently concluded roll out of the performance management system (PMS) under the PACE project had encountered some resistance, which was largely behavioural and attitudinal employee gives the management a major concern. Employee does not want to loss their power and jobs. Their belief is that this new change will take a lot of them.

This research project is set out to address the level of awareness and perception of staff and also recommend new ways of implementing the preferred culture successfully.

The Major Research Question

• What are the reasons for resistance to change and the lack of adoption of the “PACE PROJECT”, new culture?

Minor Research Questions

• What is the level of awareness of the preferred “PACE PROJECT CULTURAL” and acceptance amongst staff?

• To what extent is the organization culture a resisting factor?

Objective of the study

The research objectives are:

•To suggest how to create awareness of the PACE project among staff members.

• Suggest ways of carrying staff along in the of culture change process

• Suggest how to encourage the acceptance of the PACE project

• Implement a new culture based on the PACE


The study will focuses on junior, senior management staff of the IJGCA which is one the seven hundred and seventy (770)local government councils areas in Nigeria and will be a Qualitative study of reason for resistance to change. Our exploratory study would be using force field framework. Force field analysis is a model that help us to understand the force and against change in individuals and organisations. Force Field Analysis is a useful technique for investigation, all the forces against the decision. Force filed model used in weighing the pros and cons in an organisation .for the purposes of this study force field analysis would be used to

demonstrate the level of resistance of staff to PACE PROJECT.


Analytical and Descriptive

Data gathering methods were adopted: open ended Questionnaire Secondary data review and the writer’s personal observations and discover reasons for resistance.


The study has several limitations are:

• The study is limited to IJGCA.

• The size of the sample of staff investigated may limit the generality of the results.

• Based on one cultural -change initiative

• Time constraints.


That PACE project is capable of implementation

That the PACE project is helpful


This research will benefit the following groups:

1. Employees of ifako/ijaye Local Government council area (IJGCA)

2. ifako/ijaye Local Government council area (IJGCA)

3. Lagos state Government

4. Policy Makers which includes: Head of departments, Council board


The study is presented in five chapters as follows:

Chapter one – Introduction

Chapter Two – Literature Review

Chapter Three – theoretical framework

Chapter Four – Methodology

Chapter Five – Conclusions and Recommendations



Literature review

Review of existing knowledge on the subject of the research will help in guiding the current research work. To start with, change management (under certain and uncertain environment) review the two the approach to change which are (1) Determinism Approach (2) voluntarism approach. The exiting knowledge on resistances to change would also be reviewed in this section of the study.


Organisation can be described as a group of people brought together for the purpose achieving certain objectives. As the basic unit of an organisation is the role rather than the person in it the organisation is maintained in existence, sometimes over a long period of time, despite many changes of members. Statt, (1992, p.102).in this defined the important point there is people interacting in order to order to achieve some defined goal.

Organisation can also be defined as systems comprising elements of formal organisational management and operations as well as elements of more informal aspects of organisational life. The organisational systems, themselves, are conceptualised as operating in three types of environments. These are the temporal, external and internal environmental whose elements interact with each other to form the ‘triggers’ of change which are significant in bringing about organisational changes. Stephen P .robbins and Timothy A. judge (2009 )

Change is inevitable in an organisation, that is usually very difficult to implement and it takes a miracles if it occurs successfully because people will always resist it. According to Kotter (1996:3) states that Although some people predict that most of the reengineering, restrategizing, mergers, downsizing and cultural renewal project will soon disappear, due to the fact that many Marco economic forces are at work and this forces may grow stronger in the future .As a result many organisations are pushing to reduce costs, improving their product and service quality, find new prospects for growth and increase growth. This caused many organisations to effect major changes in other adapt to the shifting conditions in their business environment. These changes help the competitive standing of organisations and have position them for a better future. In many situations the improvements have been disappointing, which have resulted to waste of resources and frustrated employees. To some degree the consequence of change is inevitable. Whenever people are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, it is generally very painful.

Organisational change is an ongoing process that is characterised by fine tuning of the fit or match between the organisation’s strategy, structure, people, and processes. Such efforts are usually manifested at the departmental and divisional levels.

Change management is perceived as a set of processes that is used to ensure that considerable changes are executed in an orderly, controlled and systematic approach to achieve organisational change. One of the objectives of change management is the human aspects of overcoming resistance to change in order for organisational employees to buy into change and achieve the organisation’s goal of an orderly and effective transformation .Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) start that most major organisations need to undertake moderate changes once a year and major changes every four or five years. Inefficient organisational processes, problems with coordination and lack of cooperation are examples of causes for change that happen within an organisation. Changes does not always have an external start point, it can also originate from an internal source.

According to Taiwo (2001:24) defines change as the process of analyzing the past to elicit the present actions required for the future. It involves moving from a state, to a future desired state. A change process starts with the awareness of the need for change. One can not understand an organisation without trying to change it. Change helps us to understand an organisation better.

Approaches to the Study of Change

The study of change has two approaches which are as follow:

Determinism approach

Voluntarism Approach

Determinism approach:

This is an approach by Wilson.1992 with the belief that the operations of organisation are influenced by largely by external forces namely economic situation, the environment and the context in which they operate. Change is been caused by external forces which are beyond the control of mangers or change agents. Wilson.1992 view that an organisation as a system operates in an environment and it is operation can be influence by the environment.

However Burns (2000) criticise this approach as been ‘over-fatalistic’ that mangers would only act as a result of external forces after event have taken place.

Voluntarism Approach:

This approach is based in the assumption that the result of change process is based on the ability of the manager or changer agent to use a choice strategy to determine the outcome of a change process that is the strategic choice implemented can promote or undermine organisational effectiveness. This model will rely on the skill of the manger ability and confidence to achieve the necessary course of change required in the organisation. This process requires that will identify the type of change the organisation needs. By knowing this it would help to determine the method to use in effecting the necessary changes and the areas to change. You can not fully understand a system until you try to change it.

This perspective is shown in the figure 1 below.

Identify type of change

Incremental change

Discontinuous change

How to Change

Set goals to be attained

Diagnose what to change


Diagnose what to change

How to Change

Set goals to be attained

Diagnose what to change

Figure 1: the process of the voluntarism approach as developed by Nadler and tushman

Kurt Lwein argued that for organisational change to be successful it most pass through three steps which

1. Unfreezeing or unlocking from the existing level of behaviour: this a also know as status quo changing to overcome the pressure of both individual resistance and group conformity. This knows as the equilibrium state. The unfreezing is necessary because it helps us determine the Driving force, which direct behaviour away from the status quo can be increased and also the Restraining forces, which hinder movement from the existing equilibrium, can be decrease

2. Change or move to a new level : this a change process that transforms the organisation from the status quo to a desired end state, it involves moving from the equilibrium state to overcome the pressure of the both individual resistance and group resistance

3.Refreeze behaviour at the new level: this combine the two approaches . organisations who have succeed in the past are likely to encounter restraining forces if the management want to bring changes in the organisational process similarly ,that organisation with strong culture excel at incremental changes but are overcome by restraining forces against radical changes P.G Audia, E.A Locke and K.G.Smith,( October 2000),p.837-853.

This can be illustrated below in figure 2

Force Affecting Changes:

From studies there are two types’ forces that affects change, internal and external (Kreitner, Kinicki p 562)


This normally occur When people that have been through difficult ,painful and not very successful change efforts often end up been pessimistic and angry conclusions. This usually result to them be suspicious of the motives of those pushing for transformation in the organisation they worry that major change is not possible ,without having a negative impart on them. They usually normally fear that their boss or the management is incompetent. This type of force within an organisation can be described as INTERNAL forces resisting change. Internal forces for change are operative from inside the organization. They are:

• Human resource factors.

• Managerial behavior/decisions


With the trend of globalization, organisations are now encountering challenges in different face. A globalized economy is creating both hazards and more opportunities for every body, which is now forcing organisations, to make sudden change in their processes not only to compete and prosper but also to survive in their industry. Globalization itself is driven by a set powerful forces associated with the following (1)Demographic characteristic (2)technological development (3) market changes (4) Social and political pressure

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Resistance to change

Resistance is seen as a defensive mechanism use by employees to resist change in an organisation which they assume the change would move them from their comfort zone. A major barrier to change is resistance of the people of the organisation .Resistance to change happens when people perceives that the change would take something very valuable from them, this type of reaction is usually been considered as a standard or natural reaction to organisational change. It is not only people that resist change , organisations also resist change they perceives change as a threat to their comfort zone for example an organisational plan or a change in a product line in an organisation maybe considered as a threat among employees which will raised debate , downsizing because of the proposed change .

Resistance can be overt, implicit, and immediate. It is easiest for management to deal with resistance when it is overt and immediate. For example if a change is proposed and employees quickly response by complaining , treating to go on strike or engaged in work showdown all this can easily managed by the management by engaging the employees in a dialogue to resolve such issues. in the case of an implicit resistance effort are more subtle to result to loss of loyalty to the organisation , loss of motivation to work , increase in error and mistakes , increase in absenteeism due to sickness and this is more difficult to understand or recognise.

In some cases resistance do not normally surface, in a change process is may appear to be minimal reaction at the start but after a week, month, or even years later. Reaction to change can build up and then explode out of proportion in responses to any change action that follows thereafter. According to Golstein(1998) and maurer(1996) resistance to change arise just because management fall to implement reward schemes, training and development , industrial relation and other board human resource processes that will reinforce the change process and assist individuals in accepting it as their own. Inline with this perspective, organisational change will not be successful unless it is owned by the senior management of the organisation.

In summary a major force for the resistance to change can be classified into human and organisational sources. Individual source in more off characteristics such as perceptions, personalities and needs while that of organisation is more of the structural makeup of the organisation .Change and resistance go hand in hand: change implies resistance and resistance means that change is taking place. One of the assignments of top mangers and change mangers is to overcome resistance to change of both middle level mangers and employees. Therefore I propose a different view on resistance.

The Organisational Culture

Organisational culture can be refers to as to be the values and pattern of belief and behaviour that are accepted and practiced by the members of a particular organization( C.D Pringle, D.F .Jennings, and J.G. Longenecker) ,p.594 because each organisation have its own unique cultural which they have develop over time .even organisations in the same industry exhibit distinctly different ways of operating this is further explained in the paragraph below

Organisational culture can either facilitate or hinder an organisational strategic action. Organisational culture reflects in the values and beliefs of the process and operations of the organisation. The purpose of organisational culture is to help firm to adapt to environmental changes and to coordinate and integrate its internal operations.(E.H Schein)1985 p.9 .For many organisations the first and major influence upon the culture is their founder, his or her foundational assumptions about success form the foundation of the organisational culture. For example the culture of McDonald’s fast food was fast service first which was embedded by the founder Ray A. Kroc, who died in 1984.tildate this it still the cultural of McDonalds fast food.

Yukl .P.215-216 points out, that the set of belief about a distinctive competence of the organisation is one of the important elements that make the organisational culture, which makes it different from other organisations. This belief will direct and reflect on the organisational goal and operations. For example an organisation that holds is success to innovation will response quickly to a drop in sale of new product that was introduce to the market. This type of an organisation will offer a common product at a lower price but response to any attempts to lower the cost further . This type of culture normal prevents organisations from adapting successfully to environmental change due to the ever changing need of customers. The needs of consumers are increasing as well as the environment is changing. Example people use more healthy product and environmental friendly products this day. This have cause the culture of organisations to change.

In general, we can say that the foundation of an organisation’s culture reflects the values and beliefs of the founder. But with time the culture is modified as the environment changes.

Environmental and societies change render some of the elements of the organisational culture obsolete and even dysfunctional. New elements must be included in the organisational culture and old obsolete elements be discarded for organisations to maintain their success.

As seen in figure 3.

Influence of a transformational leader

Beliefs, values, and assumptions of the founder

Adaptation to environmental change over time

Current Organisational Culture

Evolution of organisational culture

Figure 3 the evolution of organisational culture by K.Kerwin and N.Fins

Definition of culture:

Many people think of culture as national culture which incorporates the idiosyncrasies of a certain race or tribe of people, traditions and methods which have been from generation to generation. Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1985)

Culture is defined more broadly than just national culture, although national culture can not remove from the definition, a fact that will become evident. Culture consists of a group of group of people and contains the values that are significant to the group, be it consciously or otherwise. One clarification that national culture can develop for certain values the importance to this study, but the fact that it is part of national culture is incidental.

However there is a common problem faced by all the theorists researching culture, that it is exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to precisely define what organizational culture is.

Both Schein (1992:12) and Brown (1998:12) define culture thus:

“[Culture is] A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.” – Schein (1992: 12).

“Organisational culture refers to the pattern of beliefs, values and learned ways of coping with experience that have developed during the course of an organisations history and which, tends to be manifested in its material arrangements and in the behaviour of its members.” – Brown (1998: 12).

Hofstede (1985:347:357) has defined culture as being “the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one group or category from another”. For the purpose of this study, the definition of Schein and Brown will be adopted.

Corporate Culture

Culture can be defined not only at the national level but also at the organisational level. This concept is known as corporate culture. The culture of an organisation defines appropriate behaviour, bond and motivates individuals and asserts solutions where there is ambiguity. It governs the way a company processes information, its internal relations and its values (Hampden-Turner C., 1990, p11)

Models of Corporate Culture

There are a whole host of approaches that seek to identify and qualify an organisation’s culture. In the main, there are two approaches that theorists use to model or explain organisational culture. These are:

• Qualitative observational analysis, ethnographical study.

• Quantitative analysis, phenomenological study.

Schein (1992:17) also recognises that there are different layers of an organisation’s culture, which are illustrated in the Figure 4 below.


Visible organisational structures and processes (hard to decipher)


Strategies, goals, philosophies (espoused justification)


Unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings

(ultimate source of values and action)

Figure 4: – Schein (1992: 17) Layers of Culture

This type of assessment is a valid approach, but it does not arrive at an overall view of the observed culture and merely provides observations of specific attributes of a culture. Johnson & Scholes (1999:73) make use of similar areas for observation and take it a stage further. They place these observations in context with the physical manifestation of the organisational culture to define what they call ‘The Paradigm’ of an organisation. The tool they use for this is referred to as a ‘Cultural Web’.

“The Cultural Web is a representation of the taken-for-granted assumptions, or paradigm, of an organisation and the physical manifestation of organisational culture.” – Johnson & Scholes (1999: 73).

The Cultural Web takes the ideas of Schein (1992:17) and Hofstede (1985:344-357) and merges them into an amorphous collection of cultural indicators that help the organisation understand its complete self.

“It would therefore be a mistake to conceive of the paradigm as merely a set of beliefs and assumptions removed from organisational action. They lie within a Cultural Web which bonds them to the day-to-day action of organisational life.” – Johnson & Scholes (1993: 61).


Power Structures

Organisa-tional structure

Routines and rituals


The paradigm

Control Systems

Figure 5: – Johnson & Scholes (1993: 61) Cultural Web

Organizational culture can be defined as the composition consists of opinions, values, attitudes and behaviours models that are useful to describe the character of the organisation members. This system, which can be found in the organization, guides people `s attitudes.

Organizational culture can also be is a set of operating principles that determine how people behave in society. This form base of observable behaviour of people beliefs, values and assumptions that govern their activities. Organizational Behaviour (Barhate Mangesh 2009, p 20)

Organizational culture is an essential set of beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and emotions that each member of a group takes for granted (Schein, 1992). These assumptions have become so deeply imbedded in the psyche of a culture that incongruent cultural behavior is unthinkable. The premise is difficult to change, because they are not confronted or debated (Schein, 1992).


Human beings have the ability to construct perceptions. Perceptions can be seen as selective processes, since human beings do not passively record every detail of the world presented to their senses.

Selection is accomplished by active engagement with the environment and the perceiver constructs it in the most suitable informative manner. (M.Sullivan 2000.p.45)

Furthermore, it steers the perceiver towards what is relevant and important for the present purpose. Reality can be seen as too complex to be known completely and categorisation can help since it assures us that we know what we need to know (Ekenvall et al 2000:13-14).

Cultural Change Approaches

Ranson (2001:25-26) believes that change can be planned and implemented by focusing on changing individuals and their behaviour. He proposes a three-stage process:

• Unfreezing the current paradigm.

• Introduce change and move the culture.

• Refreeze into the new paradigm

Aside from the aforementioned, two major approaches to changing an organisation culture have been identified: the top down and the bottom up (Thornhill, Lewis et al., 2000:98-102).In the top down, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘culture engineering approach’ (Palmer & Handy 2000:37-46), it is assumed that the management and in particular the top management of an organisation has full knowledge of the desired values, norms and the behaviour expected of all organisational members to achieve success.

The success stories at British Airways and other organizations are typical examples of the top down approach. Despite the reported achievements, this approach has been questioned and criticized for being strong in rhetoric but weak in practice (Watson 1996:323-342).

In contrast, the bottom up approach attempts to bring about culture change in a participative and interactive manner. Under this approach, one or few pilot units or sections become the focal point for culture change. The lessons learned in the pilot units, which eventually become ‘role models’, are used to spread the desired changes to other parts of the organization.

The bottom top approach provides greater opportunities for employee involvement in culture change. This approach brings about unified teams and commitment because of regular meetings between staff and management, working across teams rather than functional silos and sharing information and knowledge across all groups. According to Peter Drucker,(2008) One of the main tasks of management should be in making people capable of joint performance, to make their weaknesses irrelevant. This will create harmony in working together, equilibrium in thoughts and actions, goals and achievements, plans and performance, products and clients.


In this chapter I would relate the force field theories in an in depth study to the problem of accepting the PACE project ,which would help in finding the driving forces and the resist forces to change and would help determine how the preferred PACE project .

However as mentioned in the various literatures, for the management of an organisation which is reacting to, or planning to change will be faced with forces acting to facilitate the change and forces acting against it. Thus this force are important for any type of changes, they form the frame work for transformational change.


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