When his colleagues were fidgeting about losing their jobs, Joseph Anetor, the Registrar, Institute of Change Management International (ICMI), saw an opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. Fate and other things put him on the right track. After graduating from the Delta State University (DELSU) where he studied English Language, he proceeded to the University of Benin, for a Master’s in Public Administration. Anetor recalls how after graduation and without a job, he had to take up menial jobs including “okada” riding to eke out a living. As a graduate, he had to put pride aside to do this job inside the campus of the University of Benin, picking and dropping off students from one faculty to another.
But he did not allow this to make him lose focus. About six months later he was lucky to be given a start in one of the foremost pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Lagos as a graduate trainee before he found himself in the oil and gas sector six years later.
A member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) and the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Anetor, today, is making waves as a change management practitioner, a critical aspect of human management that had been largely neglected.
Did growing up prepare you for this?
Yes! I have been a very inquisitive person. You have to be inquisitive to ask vital questions that will lead you to seek answers. It was my curiosity that found out the gap I am leveraging on now. The question I asked myself before this idea came was why do people find it difficult to change- accept change or adapt to change? The next question was what can be done?
When did you start the institute?
The journey began in 2013 when we applied to the Corporate Affairs Commission and from there to the Federal Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice. Since then, we have been putting things in place trying to prepare the ground to make the institute run successfully.
The phase we are now is the formal induction of our first set of professional members. In addition to this, we will be conferring honorary fellowship awards on some very distinguished Nigerians. It took us about three years to go through the rigorous process of registration and to get to this stage.
What does it entail?
It is a professional institute set up to provide professional support to individuals, businesses, organizations, institutions, government establishments, agencies etc as they grapple with the complexities of managing change in a constantly shifting business environment. Few years ago, things were relatively stable and predictable. But not any more; the speed of change has become quite amazing, if not dizzying, affecting virtually everything you can imagine. ICMI’s mission is to assist individuals, businesses and organizations to prepare for change by intelligently anticipating change and making appropriate responses and interventions to handle it as it emerges, and with little or no disruptions. The whole essence is to improve the general quality of work, increase productivity and drive profit. When individuals are trained in change management, the skills are transferred to their work, work output increases and they immediately become champions.
This is because they have been equipped to handle change and now see it from a fresh perspective that resistance to change is inimical to the business. They also become better managers of people because they have learnt how to seamlessly transition people through change without dysfunctions.
The institute champions change management advocacy, regulates the practice of change management in Nigeria, train and certify members, organizes conferences, seminars and provides the umbrella for professionals to network and share experiential knowledge in change management which members can leverage to raise their performances.
How did you come up with this idea, is it through experience?
As a human resource manager, I have seen businesses suffer or even collapse for their lack of timely response to emerging changes. I have seen thousands of individuals lose their jobs, and others missed promotion opportunities for the same reason. I have also witnessed the confusion, anxiety and alarm that result from restructuring, re-engineering or whatever transformations organizations embark upon to entrench value. These field experiences opened my eyes to the fact that managing change needs professional handling. A lot of the mess, failures and loss of jobs that sometimes come with these exercises could be better handled both at the individual and the organizational level if only proactive measures are taken to deal with foreseen changes before they happen on us. It all boils down to being ever-ready for change and equipping yourself ahead of time.
What kind of certification are you talking about?
What I mean is that the Institute is registered to standardize the practice of change management in Nigeria. We have a body of knowledge which intending members must undertake and be examined on before they are certified as professional change managers. We have various categories of membership such as, Graduate, Associate, Full Member and Fellow.
What businesses do you think need this concept more and what are the benefits?
Change management skill has become very critical and is a must for every CEO down to the least shop floor staff of any organization that wants to survive in this century.
Change management skills are needed by everybody, especially career focused individuals and businesses alike. It is a skill required by anybody who wants to secure his future because change is causing so much unnerving disruptions that even the prepared are finding difficult to handle. Everyday and everywhere, the ground is shifting as a result of change. And we need to have the basic skills to respond and manage it otherwise we will be swept away by the tide and wave of change. For instance, the media industry is witnessing a major transformation it has never seen before. With a smartphone, almost everybody has become a journalist. Digital journalism is changing the structure and culture of news reporting resulting in shrinking copy sales, especially for newspapers. Survival in this industry requires a shift in paradigm and a rediscovery of a sustainable value proposition. The game cannot be played the same way.
People have been losing jobs and millions more will lose their jobs in the next couple of years as a result of inability to manage change.
Look at the case of Kodak; in 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85 percent of all photo paper worldwide. In just a few years, their business model collapsed and they went bankrupt. Interestingly the inventor of digital photography in 1975, Steven Sasson, worked for Kodak, but Kodak closed their eyes to the new technology because they were slow to respond to change and in the process ignored their future.
So, what happened to Kodak will happen to a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next five to10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and they have risen to become the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is blazing the trail in the hotel business, becoming the biggest hotel company in the world even though they don’t own any property.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the workforce profile, computers have become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.
With IBM Watson in the US, you can get legal advice within seconds, with 90 percent accuracy compared with 70 percent accuracy when done by humans. In 2018, the first self-driving cars will debut for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted.
With the advent of electric cars, the shape of car design and automation will change. What about our oil? The value will reduce significantly due to reduced demand and use and will lead to eventual lose in revenue for producers like Nigeria. Does this portend any danger for the oil and gas sector? Yes, massive job losses should be expected. The solution lies in looking for other options and preparing ahead of time instead of waiting for it to result in a crises situation. That’s a critical aspect of change management.
If the project fails, are you going to go back to paid employment?
I don’t expect this endeavour to fail. So long as change remains constant, its management will continue to be critical. Instead, what I foresee is more work. Work from training, work from more research and work from guiding individuals and organizations through one form of change to the other. I don’t see myself going into paid employment again
What is the difference between your paid employment year and now that you are self-employed ?
The difference really lies in the level of responsibility. The responsibility has become much more and I see myself planning and thinking about the institute almost 24 hours of the day.