Case study: Provincie Flevoland

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THE ROLE OF CHANGE AND INNOVATION WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION WITH RESPECT TO THE ADAPTIVE CYCLE MODEL

Group 2: Gweta Markosian, Sander Zijlmans, Renzo Hoogendoorn, Karim Camara & Vincent Tseng

Introduction

This report is part of a case study that was performed for the course (Virtual) Organisations in a Dynamic Context that was offered during the Master Business Information Systems at the University of Amsterdam. We conducted an interview at the organization Provincie Flevoland in Lelystad to investigate the role of change and innovation within a company and how this role relates to the Adaptive Cycle Model. To this end, the following main research question has been formulated: what is the role of change and innovation within the organization with respect to the adaptive cycle model? A phase might be triggered by a need to change with innovation policies playing an important role going through the different phases. If the role of innovation in each phase is understood, organizations might take advantage of this knowledge by optimizing its own innovation policy according to its lifecycle phase.

Provincie Flevoland

For this case study we interviewed Anneke Spijker, both a Program and an Information Manager at Provincie Flevoland.

It is expected from Dutch governmental organizations that they perform in a way that is efficient, effective, flexible, innovative and customer-oriented (Programmaplan Transitie, 2012). This means that concrete results should be achieved in an effective and efficient manner with the available resources.

The core tasks of the governmental organization revolve around providing proper societal facilities. Provincie Flevoland wants to fully contribute to the development of the province while taking the limited financial budget into account. Drastic policy decisions are therefore indispensable. The organization opts for a clear definition of its provincial tasks (one may refer to tasks related to regional planning, economy, and accessibility and above all local culture), a clear position of the province (added value) and an assertive, a powerful and a collaborative management style (vital coalitions).

The organization strives to develop Flevoland into a modern and sustainable province. To that end the organization has developed the Transitie program. This program should lead to a new profile of the organization that suits its own political ambition and is also in line with the overall political ambitions of the Dutch government.

Change, innovation and the Adaptive Cycle

Change (Management)

Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state, to fulfill or implement a vision and strategy (Ryerson University, 2011). It is an organizational process aimed at empowering employees to accept and embrace changes in their current environment.

Change can be triggered by both internal and external reasons. In the case of internal reasons, change originates from within the organization, making the change more easily accepted. Internal change includes financial management, technology capacity and the organization’s culture. External change is the complete opposite, as change is triggered by situations or events outside and beyond the control of the organization. Some examples include political movements, economy and competition. Change occurs frequently in most large and small companies. The problem is that it is not always well planned, deliberately executed, and successful. It is also often reactive to events rather than proactive in anticipating or even creating them (Susman et al., 2006).

Innovation

Innovation can be used to provide a response to the earlier mentioned change triggers. It can also be used the other way around as innovation leads to change. For this we can say that change and innovation are interrelated with each other. Disruptive innovation for example often requires employees to change because they have to do things in a new way, which can be highly uncomfortable.

Adaptive Cycle of Resilience

The adaptive cycle of resilience is a model that describes the cyclic development path that an organization goes through in order to come up with solutions to changes in its environment (Abcouwer et al., 2012). The four phases within this cycle are as follows: Equilibrium, Crisis, New Combinations and Entrepreneurship. The phase which a company is experiencing is determined by the level of certainty and what the organization can and wants to do. When an organization is uncertain about both what it can do as well as what it wants to do, the organization is experiencing the crisis phase for example.

All four phases of the adaptive cycle have something to do with change and innovation. If one looks at the crisis phase for example, internal and external reasons for change and innovation could have caused this crisis. In order to cope with this crisis, the organization will have to change and/or innovate so they are able to work towards a new equilibrium. The organization will have to adopt a new approach or customize the existing business processes to realize the new solution. If everything has changed in the right direction, the organization will reach a new equilibrium and the cycle will start all over again.

Results

The first part of the results will contain information about the role of innovation and change within the organization. The second part focuses on whether Provincie Flevoland recognizes themselves in the four steps of the Adaptive Cycle Model.

The role of change and innovation within the organization

One of the main concerns that were expressed during the start of the interview is the lack of an innovation policy within the company. It was mentioned that their only role with regards to innovation is by contributing to projects of other organizations. One of the examples given during the interview is the project to discover new forms of sustainable energy for the Provincie Flevoland.

It was also mentionted that Provincie Flevoland has a program called ‘Transitie’ which is dedicated to organizational change. The main topics addressed within this program focus on organizational development, management development and modern employment practices. One of the things she finds missing within this program is again the lack of innovation. Our interviewee thinks innovation is considered to be important when talking about the area of support in order to contribute to culture development.

Factors influencing innovation and change

Innovation is not triggered as an intrinsic need of Provincie Flevoland as they are working with a target architecture. This target architecture ensures the adoption and execution of policies that are developed in response to innovation and development projects from the government. In other words, Provincie Flevoland receives outside orders from the government to change and they will need to fulfill this request in response.

While change within Provincie Flevoland is generally triggered by external reasons, we also found an internal factor for change, which is related to scarcity. The main challenge according to the earlier mentioned ‘Transitie Programma’ is related to this, as the goal is to become more decisive with less people and resources. Since less space is available for the current amount of employees, this might eventually result in the use of more flexible technology. This type of innovation is not the result from a conscious decision to innovate within the organization as it happens indirectly. It is assumed within the organization that people are more willing to change when scarcity is growing. The culture within the company makes this somewhat difficult though, as will be explained in the following section.

Change and innovation is difficult

One of the interesting aspects which were mentioned during the interview was the resistance of employees in adopting new technologies. This is a topic which is greatly addressed as an important issue within literature about change management and still seems to be a problem in current management practices. Resistance in adopting new technologies is due to the existing culture within the organization, which is aimed at providing a stable environment instead of innovating. Our interviewee acknowledges that the adoption of new technologies is easier among employees and departments that did not have any systems or related technology before this. She refers to this as a ‘greenfield’ in which the employees do not experience the ballast imposed by working with prior technology.

Another aspect why change is difficult within this organization has to do with the lack of knowledge about what is needed to survive in the current environment. This is caused by the Government usually adopting a new policy every four years and Provincie Flevoland not knowing what amount of money will be left to spend after this adoption.

The last aspect is the lack of stimulation of provinces to innovate. Over the last ten years leadership from the government in which provinces had to innovate has decreased dramatically. This is experienced by the organization as an important issue.

Recognition of the four phases of the Adaptive Cycle model

Position of Provincie Flevoland within the Adaptive Cycle model

Our interviewee explained that Provincie Flevoland is currently within the crisis phase. This is reflected in the coalition agreement, because within the agreement it is decided that Provincie Flevoland needs to be combined with Provincie Utrecht and Provincie Noord-Holland. Provincie Flevoland is very small and will therefore probably be gobbled up. The question is what Provincie Flevoland must do in order to be able to connect with the other organizations. Our interviewee indicated that Provincie Flevoland will probably disappear due to the aforementioned crisis. One of the problems of Provincie Flevoland is that they should thicken, but at the same time they are not an attractive employer for young people. Provincie Flevoland will have to merge, but the question is whether it is politically expedient.

Scope of the Adaptive Cycle model

Our interviewee indicated that it is not very clear how the Adaptive Cycle model can be applied for governmental organizations. An organization will face a crisis after it has been in the equilibrium phase for longer time and the organization will be triggered to change. Provincie Flevoland is now located in this phase, but our interviewee wonders how and in which direction Provincie Flevoland has to change.

Our interviewee also wonders whether the model is tested within governmental organizations. Every four year there is a new policy developed, which makes it hard to guarantee continuity. The officials are basically meant for continuity and will stay for a longer time, but the four year policy cycle impedes continuity. Although the coalition agreement itself has been predictable for many years, people are indicating that provinces need to merge and the governance needs to be renewed. Yet the coalition agreement came unexpected for the employees of Provincie Flevoland.

In response to our question about the duration of a crisis within Provincie Flevoland, our interviewee explained to us that she misses the duration of every phase within the Adaptive Cycle Model. Our interviewee indicated that Provincie Flevoland is within the equilibrium phase every four years. After the election it is known which parties will govern the country and a coalition agreement will be formed. After this, some sort of equilibrium will occur.

Recognition of the Adaptive Cycle model sequences

When we asked whether Provincie Flevoland moves as the Adaptive Cycle Model suggests, our interviewee indicated that in the past, Provincie Flevoland moved from equilibrium to crisis and new combinations. A crisis in the form of a Black Swan will not happen very often within Provincie Flevoland. A Black Swan will occur once in the twelve to twenty four year. For example, the coalition agreement is a form of a Black Swan.

We also asked whether Provincie Flevoland experiences all phases of the Adaptive Cycle Model and our interviewee gave an affirmative answer. Provincie Flevoland was established twenty-six years ago with only a small amount of officials. During the following years this has been expanded considerably and has been in the equilibrium phase for a long time. Our interviewee thinks the order of phases within the Adaptive Cycle Model is logical and the movement from equilibrium to crisis to new combinations and from new combinations to equilibrium is also detected by our interviewee. Our interviewee did wonder whether it is possible to go back in the Adaptive Cycle Model. For example, when the newly invented combinations do not seem to work, can you relapse in a crisis.

Soft edges of the Adaptive Cycle model

At last, our interviewee also wonders what the soft edges of the model are and thinks that the issue of giving meaning is relevant for every phase an organization will encounter. For example, it is very important for a commercial business to make a profit, but this does not apply to Provincie Flevoland. Our interviewee thinks that the soft edges probably lie deeper within the Adaptive Cycle Model. Our interviewee was wondering how you get these out of the model and whether it can appointed. Whenever possible, it is possible to steer innovation or change.

Summary and Conclusion

From the interview we can now state that the need to change and innovate within Provincie Flevoland are mainly triggered by external reasons. Internally, Provincie Flevoland developed a program called ‘Transitie’ which deals with organizational change. The main topics addressed within this program are organizational development, management development and modern employment practices. Change within the organization is difficult because of the culture within the organization, which is aimed at a stable environment. Our interviewee did acknowledge that the adoption of new technologies is easier among employees and departments that did not have any systems or related technology before the new technologies were introduced. She refers to this as a ‘greenfield’ in which the employees do not experience the ballast imposed by working with prior technology.

Provincie Flevoland has encountered all the phases of the Adaptive Cycle Model in the past and is currently experiencing a crisis phase. This crisis phase is caused by a ‘Black Swan’, which is the coalition agreement. Within this agreement it is decided that Provincie Flevoland needs to be combined with Provincie Utrecht and Provincie Noord-Holland. As Provincie Flevoland is very small it will probably be gobbled up.

The organization itself does not have an innovation policy and is wondering how and where Provincie Flevoland has to change in order to cope with this crisis. In the past the government stimulated innovation, but this decreased dramatically over the last ten years which is indicated as one of the issues for the lack of innovation. Other problems to react to this change are related to the small size of the organization and the lack of money and knowledge.

When discussing the model itself with our interviewee, some remarks reached the surface. While she finds the phases within the Adaptive Cycle Model logical, she wonders why the model does not allow you to go back. It might happen for example, that newly invented combinations do not seem to work and cause the organization to relapse into a crisis without having experienced a new equilibrium.

Our interviewee also mentioned she misses the duration of every phase within the Adaptive Cycle Model. She indicated that Provincie Flevoland is basically every four years within the equilibrium phase. From this one might argue that it will be interesting to add some kind of timeframe for each phase. Miss Spijker wonders what the soft edges of the model are and thinks that the issue of giving meaning is relevant for every phase you will encounter. For example, it is very important for a commercial business to make a profit, but this does not apply to Provincie Flevoland. She finds it difficult to explain the motivations to change or not to change. Miss Spijker thinks that the soft edges lie probably deeper within the Adaptive Cycle Model and wonders how you get these out of the model and whether it can appointed.

The answer to the main research question: “what is the role of change and innovation within the organization with respect to the adaptive cycle model?” can now be answered. From our case study it becomes apparent that change and innovation are needed to get an organization out of a crisis. When an organization does not have the money nor the knowledge about what is needed to get out of this crisis, this will cause the organization to remain in the crisis for a longer time, especially when a ‘Black Swan’ has occurred. In our case study the lack of an innovation policy contributed to this problem as well since there was no stimulation to innovate. The last problem that can make it difficult to change and innovate is related to the culture within an organization. Especially in our case, the culture within the organization was aimed at providing a stable environment, which has caused some resistance to change, and innovation. When all the previous mentioned factors can be addressed, it should be easier for an organization to work towards a new equilibrium without facing too many unexpected outcomes.

References

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