The British Army Change Management

Subject: Management
Pages: 15
Words: 4011
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: Bachelor


In today’s competitive and increasingly global environment, many private and public sector organizations, not excluding the British army, are forced to make changes to compete with their competitors or face being left behind (Cameron and Green, 2004). To make a lasting change, acquiring knowledge through learning how to do things differently and breaking from the past will effect change (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010; Braben and Morris, 2020). However, this can only happen if the organization recognizes the challenges and accept to do things differently to thrive, although change is not an easier step to take and comes with internal challenges and a price to pay (Cameron and Green, 2004; Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010; Schein and Schein, 2017). Leaders in the British army have been regarded as the best in managing changes due to their ability to adapt, manage, and implement change through defense cuts in the budget, equipment procurement, and redundancy. This ability to adapt could not have happened without robust training of its future leaders on the values and standards. More importantly, the army service test guides all its service personnel (‘British army to get 148 challengers three tanks in £800m deal’, 2020). However, Farrell (2020) argued that most military organizations are perceived as traditional and resist making substantial changes. This opinion suggests that the military tends to stick to the notion of a no-fixing mentality if the system is not broken mentality and only makes modest adjustments rather than adopting a new change structure.

On the other hand, it will become a problem if the human resource (HR) department of the British army retains conventional qualities incompatible with global economic changes. The army stands a chance of failing their objectives and loose credibility both at home and abroad (Holmberg and Alvinius, 2019). Furthermore, Changes in the HR department start from individuals, departments, squadrons, regiments, brigades and divisions. Change is a gradual process and requires managing to avoid failure (Andre, 2013). This study sought to examine operational changes within the HR department of a large civil service organization. As well as looking from the perspective view of the manager with a specific emphasis on a few critical aspects; organizational structure and culture, strategic and operational change, reasons for change, how employees respond to change and some of the change agents. The view is to gather evidence from various literature and apply it to change in the HR department. Applying the literature theory to the HR department will not be effective without looking at the structure of the Army.

Organisational Structure

The organizational structure plays an important role in the effectiveness of the functioning of any organization. It lies in how the work of individual parts within the organization is controlled and formed. The organizational structure is necessary to achieve the set goals and objectives and manage individual work (Joseph and Gaba, 2020; Ashkenas et al., 2003). It also impacts the organisation’s identity, power, and how it conducts business (Carnall, 2007; Boddy, 2017). The most common structures that are found in most organizations are tall and flat.

A tall organizational structure implies the presence of multiple levels of hierarchy. Another characteristic feature, in this case, is a rather narrow and strict range of control carried out and the unification of participants in the activity according to the similarity of ranks (Boddy, 2013). A flat system, in turn, implies the presence of a limited number of these levels. It has a wide area of regulation of the functioning of sublevels and connects employees of different ranks. The organizational structure of a company or institution determines the level of activity management. Thus, the persons who make the most important strategic decisions are established, are engaged in defining and linking goals and objectives among themselves, and form the sequence and regulations of the organization’s work.

Matrix organization is one of the ways to form and regulate the activities of an organization. Its main difference is that all participants in the activity report to the head or head of the institution and to the head of the department. Thus, the matrix system is characterized by team members reporting to several managers. Therefore, such an approach can facilitate the initiation of measures to introduce changes without reorganizing the units. Deal and Kennedy (2000, 2) state that it “is an enabler and inhibitor for shared leadership, as it facilitated collaboration and communication”. This factor shows that this form of the organization of employees can become effective when implementing change.

The British Army as an organization has features of a highly centralized structure. Hence, it has very clear responsibilities for each role, while subordinate roles obey the instructions of their superiors. For example, The command structure is hierarchical, with units and brigades responsible for managing groupings of smaller units. Thus, the matrix system can be applied to the British Army and can contribute to changes without the appearance of harmful consequences. It is worth adding to this argument that the army also applies more modern approaches to its formation, which also supports its propensity for a matrix system.

The HR department fits in well with the vertical structure as its layers of reporting chain are rank structured, and an officer sits at the top layer with the lowest private at the bottom layer (Ashkenas, 2011). However, Boddy (2017) had a contrary view and saw horizontal hierarchy as the best fit for the whole British armed forces structure because each regiment and department in the army is unique in its functions and responsibilities. Cummings and Worley (2005) had a contrary view to Boddy and Askkenas. They argued that the old top-down hierarchical structure had been replaced in these modern days with a lean and flexible alternative, allowing organizations to adjust quickly to changing surroundings.

Organisational Culture

Organizational culture is the next important criterion that is necessary for every organization. This aspect implies a set of values and practices that determine the actions of all members of the organization (Elsmore, 2017). If properly established and formed, this concept can affect the increase in productivity and efficiency (Mullins and Christy, 2016). The organization’s culture determines the correct behavior within the organization and the effectiveness of the changes taking place in it. It also creates an environment in the organization and influences the nature of long-term plans and dictates policies and processes that allow the organization to fulfill its mission. However, if it is incorrectly defined, it can contribute to the appearance of traits that can interfere with the organization. This is often because the rules and values established by the culture do not contribute to improving the organization’s effectiveness.

There are many models that explore organizational culture and its impact on change; among them are Deal and Kennedy’s (2000) Handy’s (1993), and Schein’s (1992) and others. The focus for this scientific paper will be on Schein’s, McKinsey 7-S and Lewin’s models. The culture model of this researcher helps to gain a clearer understanding of organizational culture. He indicated that “organizational culture represents a set of shared basic assumptions learned by a group to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered as valid” (Schöbel et al., 2017, 39). The first is the obvious and understandable aspects, which include, for example, the form or attributes used by the organization. In the case of the British Army, this may be military uniforms and various weapons and vehicles used. The second aspect is a declared set of values and norms. This indicator particularly affects how members, that is, the military, interact and represent the organization.

The last aspect, assumptions, are the basis of organizational culture. These basic assumptions form the basis of culture and the ratio of supported values and artifacts. Thus, applying this fact in the British army, all employees have the conviction that faithful and correct service will ensure a better future and a better future for the country. Henceforth, this model of organizational culture matters and is applicable to the British army because, with well-formed values, it will be ready for any possible changes.

Strategic and Operational Change

In order to work effectively and achieve the greatest productivity, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the difference between strategic and operational changes. Thus, strategic changes imply changes in the culture, thinking or mission of the organization. Moghaddam et al. (2020) emphasizes that “in today’s competitive and dynamic environments, it is essential to provide the necessary conditions and preparations for implementing strategic changes that maintain the survival and sustainable productivity of organizations” (p. 133). Operational changes are where the organisation carries out internal activities and processes to improve systems and processes to have competitive advantages over its competitors (Buchanan and Hucynski, 2017). When they are implemented, there is a clear planning of the expected initiatives to increase competitive advantage or achieve an important goal. Operational changes, on the other hand, affect how employees work and lead to changes in the system or processes. Examples of such transformations may be reorganization, dismissals, or appointment to a higher position. Operational changes are among the most difficult for all parties involved in the process, because they are characterized by the difficulty of predicting the results.

In system implementation initiatives in the HR department, the department team roles include project managers and computer experts. There were collaborations between the project team to meet the organisation’s strategic goals while also meeting the technical criteria for a successful deployment of Quick Response (QR) code to help remove the unnecessary face to face appointments (Mullins and Christy, 2016, 557). The successful deployment of QR code also brought traditional decentralisation to centralise HR personnel into ihub to reduce employees workforce at work due to government COVID-19 guideline (Raghavan, Demircioglu, and Orazgaliyev, 2021). Global changes force organisations to adapt and make operational changes to survive (Mullins and Christy, 2016). The implementation of QR code systems in the HR department, in particular, has highlighted the need for procedural adjustments in all organisational functions. The development of QR codes was also an intelligent way of registering and monitoring the location of employees, unlike the traditional method of registering employees present at working on a paper version (Formations, divisions & brigades, n.d.). This smart way of working implementation shows that strategic and operational response in a pandemic is not a choice but a compliance decision that must be changed.

The British Army has recently undergone several changes. One of the most obvious was the radical change in the order of decision-making and the empowerment of officers. Thus, the operational initiative was to implement a new system. The command of the mission, which was called flexible, now aims to provide tools for quick decision-making in order to destroy the enemy. Moreover, in accordance with the military restructuring, the total number of tanks will be reduced from 227 and the number of 72,500 soldiers will be reduced by 2025 (‘British army to get 148 challenger 3 tanks in £800m deal’, 2020). All these transformations will take place within the framework of increasing attention to unmanned aerial vehicles and cyber warfare. The explanation for these operational changes is the provision of the possibility of conducting combat operations in spaces filled with a number of enemy threats.

Rationale for Change

Strategic and operational changes cannot occur without certain driving forces. So, there are several main factors that stimulate transformation. According to Schein (2017), the fear of failure alone may motivate or give organizations reasons to make changes. Among them, social change, technology, the environment, economics and politics stand out. These shifts force organizations to constantly innovate and adapt. Sources especially emphasize the fact that the army currently uses strategies that are outdated. In consequence of this, Morgan (2018) highlights that “army must continue to evolve by implementing change initiatives and solutions adapted to the knowledge era” (p. 3). Therefore, one of the main tasks should be the application of an adaptive structure in the practice of the armed forces, which will contribute to the development of greater flexibility.

Further, the justification for operational changes in the UK military system is the fact that the army adheres to traditional views. Thus, they do not meet modern requirements in all aspects and become a barrier to achieving goals. Research shows that “certain elements of the military organizational characteristics inhibit particular forms of pressure for change” (Holmberg and Alvinius, 2018, p. 131). The British Army must ensure organizational adaptability in the difficult conditions of the modern world by applying an effective model of change.

The thought of education, learning new ways of doing things, the fear of failure, self-doubt and employees consumed by the resistance are some reasons employees are afraid to make changes (Erskine, 2013). However, resistance should be seen as a normal reaction to change and should not be viewed solely as negative (Mullins and Christy 2016). Arora and Sinha (2020) emphasised that the rationale for change could be the process of change itself. This could be an attempt to enhance the already existing process, whether through inventing a new product cheaply, improved service delivery, or improved customer satisfaction.

The absence of employees due to sick leave in a pandemic era propel management in the HR department to put strategic plans in place to ensure the organisation’s operational effectiveness is not massively affected. Previous studies have found several change drivers, including leadership, training, communication (Hayes, 2007; Mullins and Christy, 2013; Cameron and Green, 2020) and participation (Whelan-Berry et al., 2010). Successful planning must start with recognising the need for change, communicating the plan to the team, designing, implementing, reviewing, and sustaining the change process (Hayes, 2018; Errida and Lotfi, 2021). The underlying goal of the change was to increase the organisation’s capacity to deal with global changes (Mullins and Christy 2016). Decentralising each section of the HR department to one centralised hub was put in place. This change drives other departments at xxx to follow due to the growing number of employees working from home because of government advice to protect public health (Department of health and social care, 2021).

Change Models

The implementation of a change initiative involves, finding appropriate conditions, time and channel to communicate plan to employees. According to Armstrong and Taylor (2017) change models describe the processes of change as well as the elements that influence its effectiveness. There should be an opportunity to evaluate the plan by comparing current plan to previous practice (Sava, 2020). The issue is frequently a failure to properly manage change. This occurs as a result of managers’ inability to establish and reinforce their positions inside the organisation (Hodges and Gill, 2015). Among them there are the McKinsey 7-S model and Lewin’s change management model which will be examined in this study.

In such large organizations as the army, it is sometimes difficult to identify problems that require self-directed solutions. Lewin’s model of changes can help with this aspect (Lewin, 1951). Thus, the researcher identified several stages of defrosting, changing and refreezing. So, according to the model, the process involves creating a sense of the need for change, moving to the desired level of behavior and fixing it as the norm. Lewin included both driving and restraining forces that can have the greatest impact on the organization. The second phase involves undergoing changes, followed by repeated freezing, which embeds changes in the culture. This model is especially valuable for the British army, which still has outdated models, as it provokes resistance to a return to the old methods.

In addition, there is the McKinsey 7-S model, which has not yet been used in the military system of England, but may become useful. This approach defines seven components of an organization for effective change management: structure, strategy, personnel, style, systems, shared values and skills. All these aspects are directly interrelated and a change in one area requires changes in the rest. The McKinsey 7-S model is a useful framework for organizations where employees perform various roles. This is because it recognizes that there are aspects of organizational change that affect each component of the organization differently.

Despite the proven effectiveness, there are some shortcomings in the Levin change model. One of them is the lack of detail of some of the proposed aspects. This is due to the fact that it is characterized by simplicity and excessive vastness. That is, the proposed stages can be interpreted differently by different organizations and gaps in the approach can only be filled by applying other models. The next disadvantage is incomplete compliance with modern visions and trends. The stage of refreezing is interpreted as rigid, since it suspends behavior that will need to be unfreezed only in the near future due to the rapid development of technology. They believe that the last stage should be more flexible. It can be argued that Kurt Lewin’s theory of change is perhaps somewhat outdated, since it was developed in the beginning of the nineteenth century long before technology became a central part of society.

Like Lewin’s change model, the 7S Model has some limiting factors that should be taken into account when applying it. The first is ignoring environmental factors. Thus, the approach takes into account only the most critical components to explain the interdependence of key processes within the organization. In addition, the files to model explain the main concepts that help the company achieve the greatest efficiency since the organization itself must realize them. The most significant drawback is the lack of a sufficient number of empirical studies on this topic, which greatly affects the choice of this particular model. This aspect also includes the fact that the model complicates the process of assessing the degree of compliance with the accuracy of the data.

Responses to Change

The response to changes helps the extent to which the innovations being implemented are suitable for the organization. It is worth noting that the most common reaction to this process is resistance and discontent, especially among the employees of the organization. Amarante et al. (2018) underline that “resistance to change is widely recognized as the main reason for failure when it comes to change initiatives” (p. 426). That is why it is necessary to establish a clear organizational culture where each individual involved understands the importance of the goals and mission of the organization. Thus, a high level of negative consequences can be avoided (Coch and French, 2018). In addition, ways to overcome resistance to change include effective communication between all levels of employees, transparency, the development of a well-thought-out strategy and the involvement of people who have a positive impact.

For the most painless implementation of changes in the organizational system, especially if it concerns technologies, it is necessary to use the interruption model. Sources indicate that “the biggest challenge in effecting change is the human element: helping employees to embrace and implement the changes necessary for transformation” (Miller, 2017, p. 357). One of these, which can be applied in the case under study, is the Bridges approach. It provides assistance in understanding and managing changes and gives awareness of how to work with them through the human side of change. Moreover, in this case, the organization focuses on the desired result that the change will lead to. Therefore, it can be said that this approach will also help to cope with resistance from employees.

Role of Change Agents

Another critical participant in the process of introducing innovations into the structure of the organization are change agents. These participants have the skills to stimulate, facilitate and coordinate efforts to develop and apply changes (Dzimińska, Fijałkowska, and Sułkowski, 2020). The success of any change efforts depends in particular on the quality and degree of efficiency of the relations formed between the agent and the main persons of the organization. This is due to the fact that it is the change agent who takes on the greatest responsibility, so this specialist must accurately understand the goals that the organization wants to achieve. It is worth noting that they can be internal, for example, one of the employees assigned to monitor the change process. Change agents can also be external, for example, consultants on the effective implementation of technological innovations in the UK military.

A distinctive feature of the agents that the organization hires from outside is the fact that they are third-party and are not related to the culture, politics and traditions of the hiring party. Therefore, they are able to look at the situation from a different point of view and have the drive and desire to provoke a change in the state of things. However, in some cases, this circumstance may become a disadvantage, since agents have no idea about the company’s history, operational procedures and personnel. One of the functions performed by these employees is to study the behavior and relationships of people within the organization. This is necessary to obtain data on how the dynamics is formed and established.

It is worth adding that when implementing changes, the agent must take into account the opinion of the personnel involved in the process. Therefore, this specialist should co-operate and encourage employees. One of the key activities of a change agent is finding ways to help people change. This happens with the help of a clear and clear explanation of the essence of the proposed initiatives, thereby facilitating their implementation. The change agent develops systems, tools, forms, and processes that enable success in the process.

Change agents are also engaged in managing and resolving conflict situations that arise due to staff resistance. Thus, these employees help different parties to look at the situation from each other’s point of view and finding common goals, that is, they have an intermediary function (Mullins and Christy, 2016). They are working to improve understanding so that workers can collaborate to implement change. Another tool of these specialists is the provision of advice and recommendations. Turning to their experience, agents strengthen their authority in the organization. By sharing their knowledge, they demonstrate that they can be relied upon to guide people in the right direction.

Moreover, this specialist acts as the most important advocate for the changes being implemented. Thus, the organization will not lose enthusiasm for continuing its actions and will be able to achieve the best result. In addition, changes occur when people change their own actions, behaviors, and attitudes. In most cases, they are required to take risks and go beyond their comfort zone, especially in the situation of the adoption of new technologies in the functioning of the organization.


The British Army as an organization has features of a highly centralized structure. Hence, it has very clear responsibilities for each role, while subordinate roles obey the instructions of their superiors. For example, the command structure is hierarchical, with units and brigades responsible for managing groupings of smaller units. Thus, this scientific work considered the process of implementing and managing changes in the military system of Great Britain.

For this process to be more successful, it is necessary to study such aspects as organizational structure and culture, and the importance of the participation of change agents. In order to work effectively and achieve the greatest productivity, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the difference between strategic and operational changes. Thus, strategic changes imply changes in the culture, thinking, or mission of the organization. Further, the justification for operational changes in the UK military system is the fact that the army adheres to traditional views. Therefore, they do not meet modern requirements in all aspects and become a barrier to achieving goals. Moreover, the work examined two change models, McKinsey’s and Lewin’s.

One of the problems in this study is also the preservation of the qualities of the human resources management department, which may be incompatible with global economic changes. In this way, the British army has the opportunity to fail to achieve its objectives and lose confidence both at home and abroad. Thus, changes in the organization of the armed forces are a gradual process that requires the ability to avoid failures.


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