The given case illustrates several issues of private prison change management that I, as a consultant, have to face. The two facilities under consideration lack discipline and are challenged with alarming staff turnover rates. There is a discrepancy between the staff’s capabilities and management procedures in one of the facilities, Kurz Manor, and violence and moral issues in the other, Longview. To address these issues, a research plan has to be developed with a view of creating a change proposition and the ways to implement them. For that sake, the methodology of research, the kinds of data needed, and the steps to implement the changes are to be considered.
Research methodology and theory
Informed decisions are the essential component of decision-making in change management, especially in the correctional institutions’ context as the lack of essential information can not only result in outcomes inconsistent with the institution’s objective needs but also potentially exacerbate the existing situation. Therefore, as the first step and an induction phase of the research, data gathering should be conducted to allow for informed and logical assessment of the needs and resources, bridging the gap between them, making possible credible discussions, and raising awareness that is the predictor of change.
There are two ways of obtaining the necessary data: as a manager, I can request access to the existing information or collect the data myself. The data needed to estimate the needs of the corporation and the two establishments are the rates of employee turnover, violence and rape rates as indicators of morale and discipline, means of control and punitive measures, organizational stressors, and other factors associated with employee turnover. The sources of these data would be, by order of credibility: the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) materials concerning specifically Kurz Manor and Longview, the records stored on the premises of the institutions, and human sources: the executives and their subordinates, the correctional officers, and the community. The research would, therefore, adopt a mixed-method design: the records would be retrieved and assessed quantitatively, while the information from the human resources would be collected by qualitative means and subjected to qualitative analysis.
It is true that change in any institution, including legal justice, can only be implemented when a talented leader is present. To confine the success of a change to the leadership’s performance, however, would be an understatement. A strong theoretical base and adherence to the plan are equally important in change implementation as they define the benchmark steps to achieve the minor goals on the way to the overarching ones (Stojkovic, Kalinich & Klofas, 2014). Kotter’s 8-step model can be adopted in this case, if only slightly modified to better account for the specific needs of a legal justice institution (Kotter & Cohen, 2013).
At Stage 1, the sense of urgency is established: the stakeholders involved should see the need for change. At that, the gathered data is used: providing the stakeholders with solid evidence to back up the appeal will convince them of the necessity of taking action. Stage 2 is when the guiding and supporting coalition is mobilized. This is done in order to ensure the change is supported from the policy-making perspective. The coalition can consist of the security, classification, and management information system staff, healthcare providers, probation, courts, correctional staff, etc. At Stage 3, the vision is created and the strategies are outlined to make this vision real. By this time, the needs assessment should have singled out the discrepancies in resources and the vision, which allows for the alignment strategies to be sketched out. Stage 4 is largely concerned with communicating the vision. The 5th stage is when the leadership restructuring is formed of the transition manager, the steering committee, and the implementation team in charge of their respective units. These should have a very clear idea of the steps necessary to implement the change because at the next stage the short-term goals are created, and it is the leadership’s task to ensure the employees are committed to achieving them. Stage 7 is consistent with staff retraining, development, and hiring, as well as the teamwork to pilot the first steps of implementation. Stage 8 is when the performance is overviewed and appraised making connections between the work of each team or individual and the results achieved (Kotter & Cohen, 2013).
Because one of the facilities is strictly traditionalist and relies on violence (which, as will be discussed below, can be an indicator of the staff’s stress) and the other’s employees are unsure about their duties, a number of resistance issues can arise. The likeliest ones are inertia and complacency (specifically among those who are insecure), protectiveness of the status quo, and deliberate sabotage (on the part of the traditionalists). The rigidity of the traditional chain-of-command management system can also cause little to no motivation to change (Stojkovic, Kalinich & Klofas, 2014).
To tackle the resistance, all-around participation should be achieved. Distributed responsibilities would be especially effective as they would help prevent autocracy in decision-making. When everyone is responsible, there is no place for finger-pointing and pushing the blame. Another means of reducing resistance is gradual implementation. If no active participation is visible, the goals can be broken up into smaller “chunks” and the small changes implemented one at a time. Finally, external pressure can be a driving factor in taking action (Goldstein, 2015).
To develop organizational effectiveness, a trusting environment should be established. The practices to increase the level of trust and support among the staff include, namely:
- Encouraging the staff to share their progress;
- Assigning goals and asking each team member to make their contribution;
- Promoting communication (both job-related and personal) by organizing common activities for relaxation, such as lunches, coffee breaks, birthday celebrations, etc.;
- Organize morning meetings to review the daily goals, discuss, make suggestions, and share.
From the top-down, the vision, goals, and accomplishments should be communicated openly to the staff. Managers should be encouraged to work with the staff, ask for feedback and answer their questions to give them room for career development (this is a good way to simultaneously reduce employee turnover). Also, the performance of the groups should be acknowledged and evaluated in a timely manner.
Establishing a trusting atmosphere and improving the staff relationships is one of the ways to increase job satisfaction. However, research indicates that much of the dissatisfaction is the result of stress, to which correction officers are quite liable. Common practices to alleviate the stress include offering opportunities for exercise and nutrition maintenance, providing recreation time, and ensuring the staff has regular breaks to prevent burnout (Misis, Kim, Cheeseman, Hogan & Lambert, 2013). More specifically, the punitive mindset practiced in Longview may be the direct consequence of stress, which is why the management should be encouraged to work with the staff and instruct them on the rehabilitative approach (Wozniak, 2016). Supportive supervision is also known to reduce the stress level (Goldstein, 2015). Consequently, burnout can be prevented if the staff’s progress is supervised, their questions are answered, and timely advice is given. Stress management is the key element in enhancing job satisfaction, which explains the need for supervisory participation.
To summarize, the necessity and the nature of change dictate the means of its implementation and management. The issues faced by both institutions can be tackled by the proactive approach adopted by the implementation teams and management. The theoretical background will facilitate informed decision-making, the gradual inception of change will reduce resistance, and managing stress by establishing a supportive, trusting environment will increase the staff’s satisfaction and motivate them. Naturally, challenges will arise, and the management should be prepared to take calculated risks, which is an indispensable part of any such process.
Goldstein, D. (2015). What Are Correction Officers So Afraid Of? Web.
Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. (2013). The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Misis, M., Kim, B., Cheeseman, K., Hogan, N. L., & Lambert, E. G. (2013). The Impact of Correctional Officer Perceptions of Inmates on Job Stress. SAGE Open, 3, 1-13.
Stojkovic, S., Kalinich, D., & Klofas, J. (2014). Criminal Justice Organizations: Administration and Management (6th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Wozniak, K. H. (2016). Perceptions of Prison and Punitive Attitudes: A Test of the Penal Escalation Hypothesis. Criminal Justice Review, 41(3), 352-371.