Reducing Resistance To Change

When resistance to change is seen as dysfunctional, what actions can be take? Reducing resistance to change can best be understood by considering the complexity inherent in the change process. Kurt Lewin (1947), contends that permanent changes in behaviour involve three aspects: unfreezing previous behaviour, changing, and then refreezing the new patterns.

is the readiness to acquire or learn new behaviour.
occurs when people who perceive the need for change try out new ideas.
takes place when the new behaviour patterns are accepted and followed and followed willingly.

These three stages are crucial of changes in culture are required (see Figure 57).

Moreover, Margerison and Smith (1989) suggest that the management of changes exhibits four key features:

  • dissatisfaction with the present strategies and styles;
  • vision of the better alternative;
  • a strategy for implementing the change and attaining the desired state;
  • resistance to the proposals at some stage.

Because resistance typically accompanies proposed change, managers must be able to reduce the effects of this resistance to ensure the success of needed modifications.

Kotter and Schlesinger, who studied the phenomenon of resistance to change, suggest the following strategies for dealing with it.

Education and communication
An education and communication program can be ideal when resistance is based on inadequate or inaccurate information and analysis, especially if the initiators need the resistor's help in implementing the change. Communication of ideas helps people see the need for and the logic of change. The education process can involve oneonone discussions, presentations to groups, or memos and reports.
Participation and involvement
With a participative change effort, the initiators listen to the people the change involves and use their advice. However, when the change must be made immediately, it can take simply too long to involve others.
Facilitation and support
Facilitation and support are most helpful when fear and anxiety lie at the heart of resistance. This process might include providing training in new skills, or giving employees time off after a demanding period, or simply listening and providing emotional support. The basic drawback of this approach is that can be time consuming and expensive and still fail.
Negotiation and agreement
Negotiation is particularly appropriate when it is clear that someone is going to lose out as a result of a change and yet his power to resits is significant. Negotiated agreements can be a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance. However, they may become expensive. For example, management could give a union a higher rate in return for a work rule change; it could increase an individual's pension benefits in return for an early retirement.
Manipulation and cooptation
Manipulation normally involves the very selective use of information and the conscious structuring of events. One common form of manipulation is cooptation. Coopting an individual usually involves giving him a desirable role in the design or implementation of change. Under certain circumstances cooptation can be a relatively inexpensive solution to resistance problems. Nevertheless, cooptation and other forms of manipulation have drawbacks. They can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.
Explicit and coercion
Managers often deal with resistance coercively. Here they essentially force people to accept a change by explicitly or implicity threatening them (with the loss of jobs, promotion possibilities, and so forth) or by actually firing or transferring them. However, using coercion is a risky process because inevitable people strongly resent forced change. Nevertheless, in situation where speed is essential and where the changes will not be popular, coercion may be the manager's only option.

The most common mistake managers make is to use only one approach or a limited set of them regardless of the situation. Successful change efforts seem to be those where these choices both are internally consistent and fit some key situational variables. The strategic options can be useful thought of as existing on a continuum.

At one end of the continuum, the change strategy calls for a very rapid implementation; at the other end of the continuum, the strategy would call for a much slower change process. Exactly where a change effort should be strategically positioned on the continuum in Exhibit 52 depends on four factors:

The amount and kind of resistance that is anticipated
The greater the anticipated resistance, the more a manager will need to move toward the right on the continuum to find ways to reduce some of it.
The position of the initiator visa'vis the resistors, especially with regard to power
The stronger the initiator's position, the more manager can move to the right.
The person who has the relevant data for designing the change and the energy for implementing it
The more the initiators anticipate that they will need information and commitment from others to help design and implement the change, the more they must move to the right.
The stakes involved
The greater the shortrun potential for risks to organizational performance and survival if the present situation is not changed, he more one must move to the left.

Organizational change efforts that ignore these situational factors inevitable run into problems. Moreover, in a business world that continues to become more and more dynamic, the consequences of poor implementation choices will become increasingly serve.

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Managing Strategic Change
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