The Successful Implementation of Change Management Interventions through Governance Structures by Zakhele Kganakga

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The term ‘change management’ is becoming increasingly confused within organisations with  aspects such as organisation development, human resource development and communication. This has as a result relegated change management in organisations as a means to reduce resistance during transformation or changes in the workplace. Fritch (2016)[1]argues that although a lot of books and articles on “change management” exists, they appear to have missed several fundamental points. He reasons that the most important success factor in change management is to ensure that the entire leadership team shifts into a change leadership orientation.

This is considering that[2](2016) indicates that organisations are facing faster, more complex, more interdependent and more cross-functional change than ever before. Being able to deliver results on multiple changes allows an organisation to achieve their strategic vision and thrive in today’s changing landscape. Applying change management enables organisations to deliver results on each change more effectively and build competencies that grow the organisation’s capacity to tackle more changes at one time.

At the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), a change management standard was developed essentially as a resource to guide HR Practitioners and other managers in implementing change management using particular methodologies. The change management standard is part of the HR Professional Practice standards developed by SABPP in 2014.  The rationale thereof is contained in the June SABPP Fact Sheet (2016/17) on Change Management. The afore mentioned Fact Sheet has laid ground in terms of providing the theoretical basis for implementing change management and the implications for the change management standard.

The change management standard in its entirety seeks to equip HR practitioners with the knowledge and support in order to effectively manage change in organisations. The June 2016 Fact Sheet goes to a large extend to also provide guidelines for HR Practitioners to manage change. However, there seems to be a gap in terms of how HR practitioners and leadership or management interface in as far as change management is concerned.

Certainly, change management is the process, tools and techniques to management the people side of business change to achieve the most successful business outcome[3]. This article seeks to expand in part from what already exist in theory and provide practical best practice of how to successfully manage change through setting proper governance structures.  Furthermore, the article will also explore the role that leadership and change managers play during change management.

1. Change Defined: the confusion of change illustrated

Herbert (2016)[4]illustrates a very compelling scenario about the confusion of change management. In his argument he indicates that change management is one of the most confusing terms in the transformation space, the problem is that depending on the context and the individuals involved it could mean one of at least three different activities. The emphasis here being that the meaning of change management really depends on who you are talking to, their background or where they come from. Although theoretical frameworks and definitions exists in this regard, HR practitioners often finds themselves at loggerheads with management to commonly define this space.

He goes on further by giving examples of how different professionals in different context and business settings can define change management. Herbert provides the following examples:

Project Manager

The Project manager would state that Change Management is the management of the scope of a project through a Change Request/Control process or the official definition from the Project Management Institute (PMI) is “Change is inevitable and accelerating. Organisations that manage it effectively will pull ahead of their competition. Change initiatives are time consuming and costly, but by approaching change management with a disciplined approach, organisations can survive and thrive.”

Operations Manager

The Operations manager who is conversant in ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) would state that change management is the process of releasing new versions of systems to a specific environment or the official definition from ITIL is “In the ITIL framework, Change Management is a part of “Service Transition” – transitioning something newly developed (i.e. an update to an existing production environment or deploying something entirely new) from the Service Design phase into Service Operation (AKA Business As Usual).”

Change Manager

The PROSCI (Professional + Science) certified Change Manager could state that Change Management is the process of leading people through a change in the way that they work or the official definition, “Change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organisational success and outcomes[5].

Arguably HR Practitioners find themselves in a mine field of having to justify their relevance and explain the importance of change management during transformation processes.

The SABPP has coined a definition for change management as part of the HR Professional Practice Standards as follows:

The SABPP has not only defined the change management space in South Africa, but has also provided a change management standard framework to guide change management in organisations. It is on this basis that the guidelines and tips as purported in the standard are demystified in order to assist HR practitioners in implementing change. As Herbert[6](2016) illustrated in his depiction of different definitions of change management, at operational level the HR practitioner does not usually have the luxury of toying with concepts when confronted with a transformation process. They would need practical tools/skills and guidelines to help them successfully implement change in the business.

2. Required skills for implementing Change

According to Blake & Bush[7](2009, p32.), if some of your current work feels like it warrants a change management activity, and you are concerned by the impact of change on people like accompanying fear, control, stress, and the exciting levels of capacity and resilience; then you may need a change manager to step in and drive the change activities. The question then is what kind of a person do you need to drive a change process and what skills should they possess?

The SABPP June Fact Sheet[8]on change management provides a case study that creates the opportunity to unpack practical steps to management change. The authors go to an extend of providing tips to assist the HR practitioner to manage change. Some of the key guidelines allude to the following:

  • The HR Manager must acquire the proper direction from leadership/management. The leadership/management from both the medium and large companies must direct the HR Manager with regards to alignment, timelines, positions, policies and communication. The mandate must be clear with no ambiguity.
  • The HR Manager should ensure that the leadership/management is supportive and will drive change from their positions. Their visibility is key during the change process, and they must show interest and care in the transitional phase.
  • Policies and processes for adaption must be clearly aligned, and problematic ones must be flagged. Examples of these types of policies are remuneration, employee contracts and even job positions (OD).
  • Identify a change model (like Kotter’s 8 steps) that can assist in the understanding of the process. Create a plan that has deadlines, milestones and projections. Clarify the objectives within the process as this will assist with the implementation plan.

Although not fully exhausted, the key tips above signal a profile of a change manager with a particular skills set and the type of a person that would transcend organisational challenges and successfully manage change. A common thread in the tips is the HR Manager’s role in understanding the organisation in its entirety and the influence of leadership/management on the change process itself.

4. The Profile of a good and adept Change Manager[9]   

  • Understanding and refining scope – able to work within and refine the parameters set by the project and sponsor.
  • Understanding the psychology of change – understand how individuals and organisations react to change, and how to manage these reactions to increase the likelihood of success.
  • Able to see different perspectives – they identify, relate and respect the diverse perspectives of all the people involved in the change.
  • Able to plan for and deliver results – they gather information, analyse it and convert it into a plan. They are able to drive a plan to completion and achieve results, even in situations of ambiguity.
  • Act flexibly and are organised – they are able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, replan and mobilise seamlessly.
  • Build effective relationships – they are capable of developing and sustaining relationships with and between groups, leaders, and co-workers and leading a change team.
  • Communication– they are able to flex personal communication styles to suit the situation, business context or personality.
  • Manage resistance – they are skilled at dealing with resistance to change, removing obstacles that inhibit the change and realising results. They show tenacity, can foresee problems and overcome them quickly.


5. Best Practice – A Case Study of Implementing Change in Capricorn District Municipality

Managing change is essentially about managing people. In a change project, you may have a change team, change manager, change leaders, sponsors and steering groups. Each group needs and requires a discipline of management, including terms of reference, progress reporting and a clear decision-making remit[10].

It is imperative that any organisational change is dependent on changing the way the leadership team approaches work, what the leadership team rewards and the work climate that the leadership team is able to create. It is also important that the human resource management team is equipped to guide management through organisational change and facilitate the necessary changes in structures, systems and policies required by the change[11]. The Capricorn District Municipality in Limpopo successfully implemented a change process by ensuring that a proper governance structure for the change process is set up.

The context for Change in Capricorn District Municipality

The Capricorn District Municipality (CDM/the Municipality) appointed “The Resolve Group” to provide technical support with regards the implementation of specific interventions as part of its emerging change process which was focused on institutional development. The institutional development process was necessitated by the fact that the municipality had in the past couple of years undertaken a number of change management interventions with the aim of developing an institutional development plan and road map for implementation.

These interventions included:

  • The SAP Growth Support Services report;
  • The Enterprise Roadmap report; and
  • The Organisational Development Diagnostic Survey Tool (ODDST).


The Resolve Group as a facilitating agent undertook a detailed review of these reports, supplemented by interviews with managers and different stakeholders highlighted the following critical issues:

  • An organisational structure that is not aligned to the core mandate of the municipality;
  • The need for a formal process to integrate employees who had been transferred from the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and Provincial Health Department as a result of the devolution of water services and environmental health services functions respectively;
  • The need for a framework to facilitate the migration of staff from the old organisational structure to the revised organisational structure;
  • The need for an HR strategy as a basis for addressing people issues within the municipality;
  • The need for a change management framework to support change processes within the municipality;
  • The lack of validated job descriptions for the various posts on the approved organisational structure of the municipality;
  • The need to formally adopt the T.A.S.K. (Tuned Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) job evaluation system as the uniform system for evaluating the size/value of jobs within the municipality.


In order to address some of the institutional issues identified herein, the CDM embarked on an Institutional Development Project which amongst other things was intended to deliver the following:


A revised organisational structure inclusive of Water Services and Municipal Health

The project team developed a revised organisational structure which is in line with the municipality’s legislative mandate and allows for effective and efficient delivery of this mandate. And the final product that reflected the integration of both the transferred employees from Water Services and Municipal Health was approved and adopted by Council.


Validated and quality assured job descriptions for all positions & Evaluated jobs on the T.A.S.K job evaluation system to determine the size/job grades and relative ranking of jobs in the municipality

CDM, like all municipalities in South Africa are expected to migrate to the T.A.S.K job evaluation system as a mechanism to determine the size/value of jobs.

One of the key issues that emerged in this project was the perceived disparities in pay – particularly amongst former DWAF and Environmental Health employees, which could be attributed to the use of different job evaluation systems i.e. the Van Der Merwe system (in local government) and EQUATE (in the public service).  However, the aim of this process was not to address these anomalies, it was aimed at introducing a uniform system for evaluating all jobs within the municipality and subsequently the use of this system to evaluate jobs on the current organisational structure.

The evaluation of posts using  T.A.S.K. was outsourced to Deloitte’s Consulting which owns the intellectual property rights to the system. Resolve, which is familiar with the system and understands the CDM organisational dynamics, supervised the job evaluation process. Typical job evaluation principles such as the ones outlined below were applied:

  • Job evaluation focuses on the job and not the person doing it (the process assumes that the job incumbent is trained and competent to perform the job to the required standards);
  • Working conditions such as traveling, working at night, etc., were not taken into account; and
  • Individual performance of job incumbents was not considered.


A job evaluation report which shows the “relative ranking” of CDM jobs i.e., T.A.S.K job grades for those positions which had job descriptions. In addition, “benchmark” grades were provided for some of the positions that did not have job descriptions.


A placement framework that will guide the placement of staff (particularly those that have been absorbed from the former DWAF and Environmental Health) onto the organisational structure;

A Placement Framework was developed and the municipality undertook the following key steps:

  • A review of the legislative framework that governs restructuring processes, more specifically we reviewed the Labour Relations Act and relevant guidelines;
  • Conducted research with regards to commonly accepted approaches to migrating staff as a result of a restructuring process;
  • Consulted key stakeholders including the Municipal Manager, Management and the Local Labour Forum prior to and after the preparation of the first draft placement framework; and
  • Prepared a final placement framework based on inputs obtained from these engagements.


And the outcome of this process is a placement framework was adopted and provided for the following prescripts and guidelines that allowed for:

  • A placement process which adheres to legislative requirements in this regard.
  • A placement process that will ensure that there are no retrenchments.
  • A placement process that is fair, transparent, consistent and objective; and
  • Minimal disruption to service delivery.
  • Objections/appeals in cases where employees were not satisfied with the placement.


A change management model and capacitated “change agents”

A Change Management Framework was developed and adopted. At this point change agents per department were identified and were capacitated and supported throughout the processes. Various change management sessions were conducted and they were positioned as key communicators and promoters of this change process in departments. This among others included talking about the change framework. The outcome in this regard is that the CDM has adopted the framework and can use it to manage change on future projects. The Change Management framework outlines:

  • A phased approach to implementing change processes;
  • Processes/templates for managing stakeholders during change;
  • Processes/templates for embedding change; and
  • Processes/templates for sustaining change interventions.


An HR strategy.

This process reflected on some of the challenges that the municipality had that would require and HR Strategy. Some of the challenges included:

  • Shortage of capacity to deal with high volumes of administration-intensive processes.
  • There isn’t a long-term perspective which looks at more strategic aspects of HR such as talent management, effective workforce planning, etc.
  • The HR team seems to be always “fighting fires” hence is more reactive than proactive;
  • Internal customer needs are not known and understood well i.e., what kind of services and standards do HR customers expect?
  • HR processes are not documented and some policies are outdated.
  • To play a more strategic role in future, the collective competencies of the HR team will need to be strengthened; and
  • The absence of a leader in the form of a full-time HR Manager perpetuates some of these challenges, creates uncertainty which undermines motivation levels and weakens the credibility of the HR function.


A guided process of the Service Provider appointed to deal with the change process assisted the municipality to undertake the following steps in order to come up with an HR Strategy:

  • A desktop based review of the challenges impacting HR;
  • A review of best practices with regards to HR;
  • The development of strategic interventions to address these challenges including prioritisation thereof; and
  • A consolidation of all these into the draft strategy for the municipality.

The outcome of this process was an HR strategy that was recommended for adoption by the municipality. And it sets out the following:

  • A future vision of the role of HR which sets the basis for the evolution of the HR function.
  • HR competency requirements.
  • Strategic interventions for addressing some of the fundamental HR issues as a springboard for the transition of HR; and
  • Providing a basis for determining the framework for measuring HR value in the municipality.

It was envisaged at the time that this would be a highly participatory and consultative process and as such the process itself involved extensive stakeholder engagement including the roll out of specific communications interventions.  For purpose of this article discussions will be limited the organisational arrangements for the project governance as well as the management arrangements.

To that effect a diagrammatic illustration will be used in order to show the model that the municipality adopted to manage the institutional Development Review project. The adopted governance structure that was adopted was as follows:


                                 Figure 1:  Adapted from Resolve Group Closing Report: 2011


Considering the fact that a municipal environment is highly unionised, it was vital that clear organisational arrangements on the project were put in place and are clearly communicated. Regarding the governance structure, the following arrangements were made:

  • The Municipal Manager was the overall sponsor of the project;
  • The Senior Manager: Corporate Services was the designated project champion and also chaired the Project Steering Committee which was made up of Senior Managers and organised labour (SAMWU and IMATU); and
  • The CDM Project Manager who was the HR Manager when the project kicked-off.


As illustrated in Figure 1 every role or member of the project steering committee were given tasks that were communicated. This was done to ensure that as the project is being implemented all stakeholders are aware of each other’s role.



In conclusion, change processes resonate with the strategic intent of the change itself and how leadership as well as management enables such an initiative. Often the change facilitator or change manager loses  heart to soldier on with the change process mainly due to managers’ shifting goal posts as they don’t seevalue in the change process. In essence, while good change management methodologies such as the Kotter model or Prosci framework provide sound guidelines, it is recommended to anchor all change management effort on a solid foundation such as the SABPP Change Management Standard.  Moreover, the Capricorn District Municipality case study shows the importance of a clear governance structure to lead, execute, control and monitor the change management. Ultimately, the HR Manager plays a key role as a facilitator of the change management process and methodology and working with key organisational stakeholders not only ensures proper buy-in, but also enables effective governance, follow-up and follow-through. The release of the HR Governance Position Paper by SABPP in 2018 will provide further impetus in ensuring the governance of HR processes, systems and practices in organisations.


Zakhele Kganakga is currently employed by Capricorn District Municipality (CDM) as an Operations Manager: Human Resources Development (Training, Organisational Development, and Performance Management as well as Employee Wellness) since 2005. The inputs and contributions by Lathasha Subban are acknowledged.  More information about the municipality is available on



[3]Blake, I., & Bush C., (2009). Project Managing Change: Practical Tools and Techniques to make change happen. Pearson Education Limited, London, UK.




[7]Blake, I., & Bush C., (2009, p.32). Project Managing Change: Practical Tools and Techniques to make change happen. Pearson Education Limited, London, UK.


[9]Blake, I., & Bush C., (2009, p.89). Project Managing Change: Practical Tools and Techniques to make change happen. Pearson Education Limited, London, UK.

[10]Blake, I., & Bush C., (2009, p.89). Project Managing Change: Practical Tools and Techniques to make change happen. Pearson Education Limited, London, UK.

[11]Institutional Development Project Closeout Report. (2012). Capricorn District Municipality’s unpublished report.