Change Management Theories: A Study on COMAIR, South Africa.

AuthorBose, Indranil


Change is an act or process through which operations of organizations are evolved. Initially, change was conceptualized and categorized into two basic ways. The first is the rational and strategic process approach in which organizations identify the need for change and design an action plan to implement change. The second is the evolutionary selection in which the organizations chose to resist the change happening around them (Flood & Fennell, 1995). In today's fast time of globalization and evolving technologies, it has become extremely vital for organizations to compete and revise strategy for their survival. Organizations should follow a proactive approach to make the required changes in their business to keep up with technology, economics, demographics, governments, consumer preferences and competition. If they resist change or are unable to undergo a strategic and successful change, they suffer loss and eventually seize to exist. Hence for the successful implementation of change, it is vital that the change process is managed properly. According to Moran and Brightman (2000), change management is the process of renewing an organization's direction, structure, and capabilities to serve the ever-changing needs of external and internal customers. There are a number of models that can be used to manage change. In this case study of Commercial Air Services, force field analysis, Kurt's 3 stage model, change management perspectives, and Kotter's 8 step model have been used.

The airline industry plays a vital role in globalization as it breaks the barrier of time and distance making it easier and faster for people to travel and transport goods across nations and connecting buyers and sellers. COMAIR Limited is a South Africa based aviation company formed in 1946 providing charter services to remote places in Africa. Comair has been known for its innovative and creative culture and which is evident from its expansion and awards received for creative excellence. Comair started expansion in 1992 by offering flights to domestic routes using Boeing 737-200 and Fokker aircraft. In 1996, Comair made an agreement and became a British Airways franchise and became known as the "British Airway Comair". In 2001, Comair started a low-cost carrier which helped revolutionize South Africa's air travel making it accessible and convenient to the public. Moreover, Comair has its own training center (Comair Training Center, CTC) which provides operations training to local and international cabin crew, flight operations personnel and flight deck aircrew. Comair also developed The SLOW Lounges, which offer high-end airport lounge experience. To maintain high standards, in 2012, Comair launched its own catering unit "The Food Directions" and Comair Travel which now offers the largest and broadest digital travel distribution network in South Africa.

The Change Eventualities at COMAIR

In 2010, the senior leadership team identified the need to streamline their operations which seemed to have been "cobbled together" due to the spontaneous growth especially due to The leadership team decided to implement the Sabre Airline Solutions, leading providers of airline technology. The company entered into a long-term agreement with Sabre Solutions to provide integrated products and systems specific to Comair's need. The leadership team decided to target commercial and operational systems to efficiently manage revenue with far greater control and flexibility, increase efficiencies and distribution capabilities, and to access Sabre's global community that is developing new products constantly.

Change is not always welcomed by individuals as it is disruptive in nature. The first reaction to change is a rejection and the need for information which is followed by a number of emotions like anger, loss of feelings, depression, etc. When they reach acceptance, they may require support to adjust to the change. The key to a successful implementation of change is clear communication of the vision and the desired changes. Kurt Lewin's (1951) theory of force field states that there are two types of forces associated with change, driving forces and resisting forces. Driving forces are any tangible or intangible factors that initiate and facilitate change whereas resisting forces are any tangible or intangible factors that hinder or decrease change. In order to achieve the desired state and to manage change successfully, driving forces should outweigh resisting forces. It is essential that before implementing change, a manager's aim is to achieve equilibrium among both the forces, which can be done by analyzing the resisting and driving forces. The manager then plans ways to suppressing the restraining forces and amplifying the driving forces so that change can take place (Baulcomb, 2003).

Force field analysis is an important tool as it can help stakeholders to create a timeline and a list of resources required. It can also identify the skills that need to be developed through training. It is vital for a manager to identify the people who are against and in support of the change. They can be used to strengthen driving forces and minimize resisting forces and create a less stressful work environment. When an organization is planning to undergo change, the communication within an organization needs to be clear. The force field diagram can reduce the communication barrier by providing visual aid (Toves et. al., 2016).

Comair had a large number of long-serving staff who were loyal and committed towards the organization's goal. They had seen the expansion and development of Comair and were familiar with the current system and processes. The operational change planned was supposed to impact the reservations, booking, staffing, and operational control system, which is an adverse change for the long-serving aging staff who are habitual of constantly working according to the old system. The success of the change within an organization depends on employees as they are the ones who implement it (Shah et al., 2016). Employees at Comair can be categorized as driving force as they were loyal and committed to working at Comair and if the information about the change is communicated properly and employees would feel that the initiative is happening with them, but rather to them. The transition at Comair required employees to learn new skills and remain productive. If the information about change was not delivered clearly, employees can tend to act as resisting force because they will start having doubts regarding the organization's performance and financial condition...

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