Leading change - context and drivers

Leading change - context and drivers

What are the context and drivers for change?

The context for change in infrastructure

The developing world faces many additional challenges for infrastructure development that need change. Specific challenges include:

  • Infrastructure provision in some countries is not focused where it is most needed (i.e. on poverty alleviation)
  • Countries typically do not manage to spend the budget allocated to investment in infrastructure
  • A high percentage of infrastructure assets need rehabilitation

At the same time many factors conspire to limit the space for change in design/delivery of infrastructure:

  • Risk aversion: impacts of failed infrastructure are severe
  • Technology 'lock-In' due to structural and social norms
  • Infrastructure assets have long lives: slow turnover
  • Bias towards unit efficiency at the expense of system effectiveness and resilience
  • Short term economic and political cycles
  • Mindset and 'compliance culture'
  • The time and money required to achieve 'change' in a delivery-focused industry is limited
  • Outdated models of contracting and procurement may inhibit innovation

Structural inhibitors and capacity

Structural factors inhibiting change within municipalities and engineering/construction supply chains may include:

  • Within municipalities: a lack of expertise and modern systems, non-optimum use of staff and supply-chain procurement
  • Within consultants: a shortage of experienced staff for feasibility, design and site supervision
  • Within contractors: a shortage of detailed design and quality control staff

Ways to change – the engineer and the organisation

  • Practising engineers have opportunities to influence change in projects in terms of design (efficiencies, contributions to sustainable development) and procurement (attaining primary objectives and extending to secondary goals)
  • They can also try to affect change in the way their organisations function and the direction they take towards sustainable development

Further reading:

Foster, V (2008) Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, Overhauling the Engine of Growth: Infrastructure in Africa, World Bank

Balance individual action and organisational change and utilise tensions between the players

‘Tensions’– between activists/NGOs, leading organisations, regulators, and the sector – are needed to ‘pull’ change

  • Key to change is understanding the role that you are playing in an organisation, the role that you want to play and the wider context in which your organisation functions
  • Change can be affected by both insiders and outsiders, activists and innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors

Further Reading

  • Meyerson, D E (2001) Radical change - the Quiet Way; HBR
  • The Social Intrapreneur; A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, Sustainability, 2008
  • Meyerson et al (1995), Tempered Radicalism and the Politics of Ambivalence and Change. Organization Science, Vol. 6, No 5, Sep.-Oct 1995.