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26 July 2023 | Story Kekeletso Takang | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Phillipe Burger, Prof Peter Rosseel and Prof Liezel Massyn
Prof Philippe Burger, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, together with Prof Peter Rosseel and Prof Liezel Massyn, Head of the Business School, at the recent guest lecture hosted by the UFS Business School.

The business world today is confronted with continuous disruptions and uncertainty. Organisations are challenged to think about digitalisation, innovation, and transformation to remain competitive. Leaders must be able to take everyone with them on a journey of continuous change.

This is according to Prof Peter Rosseel, Director of MCR Consulting (a spin-off of the University of Leuven in Belgium) and Affiliated Professor at the University of the Free State (UFS), who gave the lecture in the UFS Business School. The title of the lecture was The Golden Triangle of Vision-Leadership-Culture: why changing behaviour is so difficult and what you can do about it? and it was aimed at challenging leaders to deal with disruptions and uncertainty, the lecture equipped attendees with the skills to do so. 

Prof Rosseel challenged attendees to stretch their thinking. “Change management is not a human resource function, it is a leadership concern. Leaders who want to see a change in behaviour should create conceptual conflict.”

Conceptual conflict

Laughter was coupled with moments of silence as Prof Rosseel, a visiting professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium, took attendees on a roller-coaster ride. He alluded to five examples of conceptual conflict, statements that shook the room. 

  • Team building doesn’t work, it is a waste of money.
  • Stop giving presentations, people only remember 4% of what was presented.
  • Take the word ‘consensus’ out of your vocabulary.
  • You can measure all you want; it won’t change behaviour.
  • Training as a strategy to change an organisation is a very bad idea.

He believes that conceptual conflict is important for the development of the culture of an organisation.

In addition to creating conceptual conflict, leaders should negotiate with their teams. “There are three ways to go about this; inform, engage/empower, and observe the change in behaviour. People want to be informed on time, people want control, and people want to know why. Meet these terms and you are well on your way to observing the change in behaviour. People can agree to change even if they don’t support it, as long as they believe it is fair.”

An attendee posed a question to Prof Rosseel: “In South Africa, we have trade unions, and this leads to a consensus approach to decision-making. How do we do away with consensus in decision-making?” Prof Rosseel responded by saing: “That’s the context within which you operate. You can’t change the context. Play the politics but never compromise the strategy implementation.”

The golden triangle of ‘vision – leadership – culture’ provides a framework within which organisations can operate. Vision is the content, while leadership facilitates the change in behaviour, and culture is created through strategy implementation and cognitive dissonance.

About the speaker 

Prof Rosseel’s field of expertise covers strategy implementation, change management, cultural and digital transformation, leadership, and learning. He travels the world to help leadership teams and their organisations to change (80% of his time). 

He also teaches change management, and digital and organisational culture transformation to first- and second-year students in the Master of Biomedical Sciences, third-year Bachelor of Criminology students, and third-year Bachelor of Psychological and Educational Sciences students. In 2024, he will also teach a postgraduate course to engineers on the same subject matter. In South Africa, he teaches in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (20% of his time).

Read up on more programmes offered by the UFS Business School here.

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