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Managing change

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Sometime back, I found myself at the Road Traffic and Safety Services Department in Blantyre as the then minister of Transport and Public Works, Francis Kasaila, took a familiarisation tour of the new system put in place to provide better services. The speeches from the designated VIP indicated that the new system was expected to quicken the provision of services as well as curb corruption as transactions will be done electronically.

The minister also took the time to address the various people present at the Road Traffic premises at the time and assured them that the government was doing everything in its power to have the system up and running and make sure that operations at the department were running smoothly.

What I noticed was the growing wave of anger in the crowd; the people present simply wanted to have whatever business they came for sorted out immediately and were not interested in understanding exactly what was going on at the department.

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For the period I was there, people went on voicing out their frustrations towards the delay in services; showing resistance to the proposed changes and continued to point fingers of blame at the government for providing poor services, especially at this department. Some even went as far as approaching the media team and demanding that they be interviewed so that they can tell the nation how frustrated and angry they are.

I would admit services in government departments can be a pain and the tales of delays at the Road Traffic, as well as other departments like the Immigration, are all over the country. I remember a colleague of mine once lamented the amount of time it took just to get a licence renewed; several months. I had my own share of a tough experience while renewing my passport; it took some months as well.

Nonetheless, where change is being implemented, the least the public can do is be open-minded; it is obvious that government through the Road Traffic has identified the problems leading to poor services and is at least putting measures in place and a new system to assist in improvement of services. Actually, services are improving, it is taking days now to get crucial documents done, and sometimes hours.

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But, on the other hand, awareness is important on the part of the institutions that are engaging in change because resistance is often triggered by fear of the unknown and sheer ignorance. Therefore, it is important for people to be in the know when it comes to changes that are about to take place; this is a good way of controlling change. I am sure half the people out there are not aware of these changes or if they are, they are just aware that there is “change” but have no comprehensive understanding of what this change entails.

This is an issue I have noted over time in many sectors in the country trickling down to the ordinary life of individuals. From Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision services to adopting modern agricultural techniques to beat climate change as well as the growing demand for food; resistance is an issue because people are not intimately aware of how the changes will benefit them. Government and institutions should be aggressive in controlling change as well as in effecting change in a swift manner before people get weary of waiting for the unknown or end up embracing their ignorance and sticking to what they already know.

At times when strategies towards awareness are implemented, awareness is done too late or too fast. I mean you cannot expect a rural farmer who has been using the traditional method of planting maize to embrace sasakawa within a week of awareness. I think awareness should be injected into society like an intra-venous drip other than a single injection shot.

If we are to fight diseases like cancer, HIV/Aids and malaria; if we are to fight teenage pregnancies and infant mortality; if we are to fight poverty and the rise of unsafe drinking water; if we are to fight global warming and climate change; if we are to fight corruption and if we are to develop and forge forward as a country, then it is important to manage change through awareness. Let members of the public remain aware of development matters that are crucial to their everyday lives so that they can easily adapt to changes.

I rest my case.

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