Change can be seen as an inevitable aspect of any organization. Changes in the internal and the external environment drive organizations to adopt new practices, new technologies, change culture, etc. Managing such change is a complex process, which can be seen as more difficult in public service organizations than it is in business organizations. For UK Fire and Rescue Services, one of the aspects that brought concern to the management is related to staff perceptions. Several members of Fire and Rescu8e services staff are of the opinion that the service should respond only to incidents outlined in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. Such perception, in that regard, is in conflict with public and moral expectations, which state that the Fire and Rescue Service should respond to all foreseeable eventualities.
In the light of the aforementioned, a strategic change in the organization is proposed, which will aim at changing the views of the staff to meet public expectations. In that regard, the present report will provide a review of relevant change management literature, providing recommendations on managing change as well as the way such change can be monitored.
Considering the root of the problem in Fire and Rescue Service, it can be stated that the drivers for change lay in cultural imperatives leader and employee mindset. It can be stated, however, that organizational culture might cover employees’ mindsets as well. Such drivers can be described as internal and more personal. The reliance on the drivers of change as a model for change management is stated to be useful in many aspects, which in addition to defining the type of change, provides a framework for communicating the desired outcomes. Defining organizational culture, and its applicability to the present case, such term refers to “the shared ideas, customs, assumptions, expectations, traditions, values and understandings that determine the way employees will behave”.
Considering the cultural drivers for change, it can be stated that cultural theories of change might be relevant to explain change initiatives in organizations. According to the cultural theories of change, the organization is viewed as a miniature society, in which the changes are resisted or driven according to the members of such society. The implementation of change, according to such theory, implies that people are likely to change in response to symbolic actions by managers. The management of change in the present case is more representative of a prescriptive approach, which also recognizes the informal aspects of the organization.
One common element of the approaches to cultural change can be seen through the qualitative and intuitive methods, along with a top-down approach, which mostly requires the assessment phase in their first stages.
In such phases, information will be collected regarding the current beliefs and assumptions of the personnel, underlying the culture of the organization, and directly focusing on the issue in question. Surveys and questionnaires can be seen as suitable methods for collecting cultural information about the assumptions and the perceptions of the employees. Such cultural information can be interpreted in order to identify the values conveyed in employees’ culture, which values support the changes to be made, which values inhibit the changes to be made. According to such information, the values that should be adopted or rejected are identified.
An example of the implementation of change can be seen through the approach taken by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue in driving positive change. The organization conducted a management and leadership program that set up a leadership culture through change management. The approach taken by the organization consisted of workshops, which transferred the core messages of the program, which is derived from the company’s individual vision. The evaluation of change within the organization supported the qualitative approach taken in cultural changes, wherein this case consisted of staff feedback.
Another approach can be seen through addressing the problem in the organization as a problem of professional accountability, where practices are defined for specific circumstances with collective accountability. Change will be conducted as training initiatives in which professional standards, rather than legislation, will govern the culture of the organization.
An example of changing safety culture in organizations can be seen in DeJoy who suggests linking key desires of the desired culture with key related outcomes. The key components of a desired cultural outcome can be taken from the vision of the organization or formed in accordance with a specific change. Transferring such suggestions into the Fire and Rescue Service, the key components of safety culture can be seen through linking the wider range of tasks performed by the fire force to staff motivation in doing them. Outcomes can be evaluated through surveys, questionnaires, response time assessments, percentage of time devoted to fire-related incidents, etc.
In the case of the UK Fire and Rescue Service, the approach that might be recommended in this case can be seen through integrating the need to change the culture of the organization within leadership programs. The shift of emphasis in the work of the fire and rescue service can be viewed in the context of leadership, which will provide the symbolic message to the staff on the importance of their roles in saving lives, regardless of the type of incident. An initial quantitative and qualitative assessment of the culture of staff will help identify the values hindering and/or supporting aims of the organization. The role of leadership will be combined with training workshops and/or seminars, in which training will explain the expanded role of firefighters and their importance in the community. Leaders will be trained to provide a compelling narrative for the staff and help them accept different views on the work of firefighters. At the end of the training period, an evaluation will be conducted through a benchmark survey in which the new values, perceptions, and assumptions of the staff will be assessed.
It can be concluded that cultural drivers of change in the UK Fire and Rescue Service change the views and the opinions of the staff. Such cultural change can be implemented through combining leadership initiatives with training seminars on the new role of firefighters. A survey assessment at the beginning and at the end of the change will be helpful in identifying the values of the staff and evaluating the impact of change.
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