Some of the missing links that may sabotage the change process in Ethiopia
|June 29, 2018||Posted by Assegid under Africa, Ethiopia, Goal Setting and Strategy, Leadership, Politics, Updates, Values & Character, Vision||
Ethiopia has found herself at a crossroads so many times. Unfortunately, we were unable to tap into those opportunities to choose the right road toward genuine democracy, prosperity, and peace. We stumbled again and again. We have failed to manage changes. Here we are yet again at a crossroads struggling to implement a change long overdue smoothly.
Change experts agree that change has three phases: Initiating, Transitioning, and Reinforcing. I presume that the change that began a couple of months ago is in the last leg of the Initiating phase. Of course, the lines between these phases aren’t solid. There are some undertakings, right now in Ethiopia, toward implementing the change. Thus, in this commentary, I’ll focus on the first phase of change and point out some of the missing links that may sabotage the change process in Ethiopia.
In the Initiating stage, there are many tasks that are very vital and a key to preparing the groundwork for a sustainable change. Let me pick just a couple of the most significant ones that may sabotage any change agenda if they’re ignored or neglected.
The most important of all is making sure that what is going to change and what remains the same is known to all stakeholders. Remember, change doesn’t entail changing everything. There are things that must not change! If you don’t clearly state that ahead, you experience lots of unnecessary resistances from people including some who want to see the change succeed. Nonetheless, reaching consensus about what must change and what must not require regular discussions and consultations among key stakeholders. As far I can tell, this hasn’t been done yet satisfactorily. Every change has ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. The latter are those who benefited from the status quo. Both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ should be on the same page (I didn’t say agree). Otherwise, ‘winners’ may have unrealistic expectations from the change while ‘losers’ unwarranted fears, both of which are counterproductive.
Another crucial task during the Initiating phase is identifying, outlining, and communicating the change agendas to all stakeholders. This too hasn’t been yet completed. Currently, everyone has his/her own expectations about the change agendas. As a result, there are apparent disparities in expectations among main stakeholders. The scope of the change- its width and depth, isn’t clear. It’s not apparent the kinds of strategies that would be followed and the measures that would be taken to implement the change agendas.
Moreover, the incentives for those who support the agendas and potential reprimands against those who resist the change violently or illegally haven’t been stated. Since the ground rules haven’t set clearly, all parties are trying to assert their own rules. As a result, ‘winners’ are pushing hard to get the bigger pie while those who lost leverage and power are regrouping to reclaim what they gave up in the past couple of months.
Under this first phase, casting the vision too has a tremendous impact. Leaders of the change must show the light at the end of the tunnel as early as possible, especially to those who oppose it. Change is scary. We all tend to resist change even if the majority of us don’t want to admit.
In the workshops that I facilitate on change management, I ask participants- by a show of hands, how many of them are pro-change? Almost always, more than 90% raise their hands’. No one thinks he/she is a naysayer. We always point our fingers toward others and blame them as naysayers. To open their eyes and see that no one is always an endorser of changes, I create a scenario and ask them how many of them are willing to make this change? Some raise their hands’ others remain quiet. When I ask those who didn’t buy into the change proposal why they didn’t, they have very justifiable reasons why they don’t like that particular change. I then come up with another scenario. Many of those who said yes for the first scenario decline to support the second. After conducting a couple of scenarios, and facilitating a large group discussion, we end up being on the same page- we all resist certain changes because of some valid reasons.
That is why belittling, attacking, and forcing those who resist a particular change agenda is unproductive, especially considering the kind of political culture we’re trying to establish. Extraordinary change agents are capable enough to convert resisters into endorsers without threatening, harming, and manipulating. Thus, the new administration should be able to show what is in the change for the resisters. That is why casting a clear vision is vital since it allows resisters to go beyond fear and, in turn, stop sabotaging the change agendas. Here is a quick pointer for those of you who are change agents. Researches showed that two-thirds of changes aborted not because of resistance to change but rather due to wrong responses to the resistance.
Last but not least, celebrating little accomplishments while working hard to win more is a game changer during the first phase of change. Don’t treat this lightly. We have waited for so long to have a competent, charismatic, humble, and servant leader who respects and honors his own people. Now, we got one! Why are we hesitating to publicly admire and celebrate the positive words and actions Dr. Abiy and his team have been taking so far? Nonetheless, I’m not suggesting that you should stop airing your grievances and requesting more. It is possible to acknowledge the achievements of the new administration while stretching it to implement more changes. Of course, don’t forget to lend your hands to support them where you agree so that they may achieve more. We don’t need to wait until the change process completes to weigh in and decide whether to celebrate or condemn. Understand your roles during the first stage and fulfill your national obligations as much as you expect the leaders to fulfill theirs. Profound change like the one we desire needs the proactive contributions of all stakeholders including YOU!
Though all of the three phases of change are tough, the most difficult- the one that completely sabotages the majority of change efforts in the world, is the Transitioning (the implementation phase). However, if change agents do their job correctly and on time in the first phase, they would have a better chance to succeed during the Transitioning stage. By the way, many countries and corporations paid dire prices for failing to take the Transitioning phase seriously. We are not yet in the second and third (final) phases that I don’t want to invest a lot of time at this point. I’ll come back again to share my thoughts concerning what to do during the second and third stages of change.
In conclusion, sadly, none of our leaders enabled us to make the transition to democracy, peace, stability, unity, and prosperity. Now, we have a young, dynamic, and capable leader. We should rally behind him and shape the destiny of our beloved country and rescue the fate of our people from repeating the same history again and again. Don’t discount yourself. Your voice, support, and commitment are invaluable to fill the gaps at this early stage of the change process. Roll your sleeves up and join the change movement by playing your share, especially in this first phase where there are some missing links, which unless addressed may sabotage the change process quickly.
Regardless of the challenges we may face throughout the change process, the season has already arrived to shape our future. For that matter, not only we restore our dignity, we will soon resume our leadership role to restore the dignity of our continent. The hour has come for us to be part of the solutions to create a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous Horn and Africa.
And now, we have a leader to take us to our promised land. He has the promise and the vision like Moses had a promise and a vision of a land that flows with milk and honey. Remember. Moses didn’t have a well-trained army or powerful weapons at his disposals. Regardless, he led Israelites out of bondage successfully. We are coming out for once and for all from poverty, dictatorship, conflict, and corruption. We will get to the promised land in this generation. The question is whether you’re willing to step in and play your share or not. There are some missing links that need your attention…