Change Management Strategies as the Nexus of Performance Improvement in African Universities Post-COVID-19 Pandemic

Change Management Strategies as the Nexus of Performance Improvement in African Universities Post-COVID-19 Pandemic

Bethuel Sibongiseni Ngcamu (Nelson Mandela University, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6948-1.ch006
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The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in China in late 2019, came as the perfect storm at a time when leadership in African universities is leaving much to be desired. This status quo is what has triggered the current chapter, which sets out to explore responsive leadership development and the change management interventions that are required after the pandemic and which can make universities' operations agile. The chapter aims to investigate the nature of change management interventions, including agile talent management. This can help to ensure that African universities are effective and efficient in Africa post-COVID-19. The chapter employs different research methods; for instance, a literature review is synthesised on previously published studies that relate to the relevant applications and impacts of agile transformation in universities as a way of guiding leaders in their response to the challenges of a post-coronavirus world. Furthermore, the document analysis followed examines a number of documents related to leadership, development, and change post the pandemic.
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The infamous “Chinese curse” has given rise to both risks and opportunities for African universities. Managing such a crisis with imperfect leadership during and after the disruptive months of such a disaster requires leaders who possess in-depth change management knowledge, competencies and skills, which are mostly inconspicuous among university leaders. This has influenced them to embark on unprecedented, radical re-engineering of their business processes, systems, practices and structures. Furthermore, the novel coronavirus has changed the mindset of university leaders in Africa at different levels, encouraging them to become adaptive, flexible, nimble and resilient to the unusual, unfavourable, complex and uncertain leadership conditions. Numerous researchers (Atchyutimi & Narasareddy, 2018; Harris & Jones, 2020; Yawson & Greiman, 2016) observed that flexibility and nimbleness are required in organisations if they are to respond to dynamic environments and the new leadership structure brought about by the coronavirus. Recently published research on agile, flexible and nimble leadership has offered an explanation for the private sector, but limited empirical studies have been conducted in universities.

Agile and nimble strategies and other suggested leadership development and change management interventions will play a vital role in policy direction and alignment, which seeks to promote regular performance feedback, agile performance management, employee engagement and team-based structures. The agile leadership framework is guided by a plethora of principles which include leaders to have an ability to deal with change, organisations being viewed as fluid, with adaptive systems dominated by intelligent employees (Parker, Holesgrove and Pathak, 2014). In addition, a recognition of the limits of external control in establishing order as opposed to the intelligent control, humanistic problem-solving approach by recognising employees’ skills and valuable stakeholders, independent teams as having a collective ability to solve a problem as some of the principles. Lastly, this framework relies on pre-planning, reacts to the emergent outcomes from the self-organised team, and removes the outcomes that prevent the team in realising their set goals (Parker, Holesgrove and Pathak, 2014).

This book chapter sheds light on this issue by investigating the application of change management interventions in universities, including agile transformation methodology, which will assist HR managers in reviewing HR policies, processes, systems and practices. The required change management interventions that are applicable and relevant in post-COVID-19 universities are investigated in order to provide solutions to human resources (HR) practitioners and decision-makers to ensure that sound systems, practices, structures and policies contribute to the universities’ goals. The policies and procedures of universities would have to change from the short- to the long-term for them to be effective, efficient and productive, and to change the organisational culture. The short-term changes that are cost-effective to organisations would include meetings and workshops being conducted virtually by using various digital tools and channels. Long-term changes would include a blended means of operating such as the application of flexible working arrangements, which would mostly favour women in the workplace. However, the quality and work output of employees should be measured pre-COVID-19, during the pandemic and in the aftermath in order to apply innovative strategies where there are gaps.

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