Overcoming Barriers to Change

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The external environment in which businesses operate is continually changing. Businesses must respond to these changes to remain competitive and continue to meet the needs of their customers. They need the commitment and support of key stakeholder groups, such as employees, in order to ensure changes are embedded to shape the organization for the long term.

Corus was formed in 1999 when the former British Steel plc merged with the Dutch company, Hoogovens. Corus is now a subsidiary of the Indian-owned Tata Group. Corus has three operating divisions and employs 40,000 people worldwide:

Corus Strip Products UK (CSP UK) is based at Port Talbot and Llanwern, Newport in South Wales. CSP UK makes steel in strip form. This is used in markets such as vehicle manufacture, construction, electrical appliances, tubes and packaging. Corus aims to be a leader in the steel industry by providing better products, higher quality customer service and better value for money than its rivals.

In 2005 CSP UK introduced a cultural plan for change called ‘The Journey’. The company wanted to address a wide range of business challenges, but the common theme was the fundamental way that people at all levels went about their work. The Journey focused on the values and beliefs of its people. Vitally, this was not limited to employees, but it included contractors, suppliers and other partners. This community of people together re-defined eight core values. These provided the guiding principles by which Corus people would work.

By early 2007, all employees had been provided with a booklet outlining the CSP Journey values and the behaviors the company expected them to follow. The new values encourage individuals to be accountable for their actions. For example, previously, there had been tragic accidents on site and other health and safety issues, such as poor driving behaviour. This needed to change. The Journey program has taken a positive approach so that it now steers everything CSP UK does and underpins the culture of the organization. This case study focuses on how Corus Strip Products UK has overcome barriers to change in order to secure a more prosperous future for the business.

Reasons for change

Organizational change is a planned and ongoing process and follows clearly structured elements:

Identify the key drivers for change. These are forces outside and within the organization, for example, the growing strength of competitors (external) or health and safety issues within the organization (internal). Corus employees were encouraged to understand what was happening in the business (the ‘As Is’) and identify any flaws in the existing way of working.

Identify the barriers to change. This often involves people’s attitudes. They may want to continue to work as before or cannot see the need for change.

Create and implement a plan for change. This focuses on winning the commitment of all employees, identifying specific solutions to problems areas (for example, cutting staff or investing in new systems) and setting out ways of measuring improvement. Employees were encouraged to envision what the ‘To Be’ position for CSP UK looked like and make plans to bring it about. Measure the effectiveness of the change. CSP UK is prepared to make further changes based on the outcomes of the actions. Examples of internal drivers for change (inefficiencies within the business) at CSP UK included:

• Poor delivery - rather than delivering steel to customers on time there were delays, leading to loss of business.

• Competitiveness - steel produced in the UK could be more expensive than from some other countries.

• High wastage - failing to make products right first time meant that they had to be reworked or scrapped.

• Low staff morale – employees were committed but were not motivated by the environment in which they were carrying out their jobs.

External drivers (pressures for change outside the business) came...
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