Kotter and Schlesinger provide a practical, tested way to think about managing that change. The rapid rate of change in the world of management continues to escalate. New government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and an evolving workforce compel organizations to undertake at least moderate change on a regular basis. Yet few major changes are greeted with open arms by employers and employees; they often result in protracted transitions, deadened morale, emotional upheaval, and the costly dedication of managerial time. Kotter and Schlesinger help calm the chaos by identifying four basic reasons why people resist change and offering various methods for overcoming resistance. Managers, the authors say, should recognize the most common reasons for resistance: a desire not to lose something of value, a misunderstanding of the change and its complications, a belief that the change does not make sense for the organization, and a low tolerance for change in general.
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Kotter and Schlesinger provide a practical, tested way to think about managing that change. The rapid rate of change in the world of management continues to escalate. New government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and an evolving workforce compel organizations to undertake at least moderate change on a regular basis.
Yet few major changes are greeted with open arms by employers and employees; they often result in protracted transitions, deadened morale, emotional upheaval, and the costly dedication of managerial time. Kotter and Schlesinger help calm the chaos by identifying four basic reasons why people resist change and offering various methods for overcoming resistance.
Managers, the authors say, should recognize the most common reasons for resistance: a desire not to lose something of value, a misunderstanding of the change and its complications, a belief that the change does not make sense for the organization, and a low tolerance for change in general.
Once they have diagnosed which form of resistance they are facing, managers can choose from an array of techniques for overcoming it: education and communication, participation and involvement, facilitation and support, negotiation and agreement, manipulation and co-optation, and both explicit and implicit coercion.
According to the authors, successful organizational change efforts are characterized by the skillful application of a number of these approaches, with a sensitivity to their strengths and limitations and a realistic appraisal of the situation at hand.
In addition, the authors found that successful strategic choices for change are both internally consistent and fit at least some key situational variables.
Faced with stiffer competition and dizzying technological advances, companies often must change course to stay competitive. But most change initiatives backfire. They assume they can combat resistance, a notorious obstacle, by involving employees in the design of the initiative. But that works only when employees have the information they need to provide useful input. For instance, they may apply a go-slow approach even when an impending crisis calls for rapid change.
Use your analysis of situational factors to decide how quickly or slowly your change should proceed. But proceed slowly if:. In , The Conference Board asked 13 eminent authorities to speculate what significant management issues and problems would develop over the next 20 years.
One of the strongest themes that runs through their subsequent reports is a concern for the ability of organizations to respond to environmental change. For these reasons, needed reorganization is often deferred, with a resulting loss in effectiveness and an increase in costs. Subsequent events have confirmed the importance of this concern about organizational change. Today, more and more managers must deal with new government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and a changing workforce.
In response, most companies or divisions of major corporations find that they must undertake moderate organizational changes at least once a year and major changes every four or five. Few organizational change efforts tend to be complete failures, but few tend to be entirely successful either. Most efforts encounter problems; they often take longer than expected and desired, they sometimes kill morale, and they often cost a great deal in terms of managerial time or emotional upheaval.
More than a few organizations have not even tried to initiate needed changes because the managers involved were afraid that they were simply incapable of successfully implementing them. In this article, we first describe various causes for resistance to change and then outline a systematic way to select a strategy and set of specific approaches for implementing an organizational change effort. The methods described are based on our analyses of dozens of successful and unsuccessful organizational changes.
Organizational change efforts often run into some form of human resistance. Although experienced managers are generally all too aware of this fact, surprisingly few take time before an organizational change to assess systematically who might resist the change initiative and for what reasons.
Because of the many different ways in which individuals and groups can react to change, correct assessments are often not intuitively obvious and require careful thought.
Of course, all people who are affected by change experience some emotional turmoil. To predict what form their resistance might take, managers need to be aware of the four most common reasons people resist change.
These are a desire not to lose something of value, a misunderstanding of the change and its implications, a belief that the change does not make sense for the organization, and a low tolerance for change. One major reason people resist organizational change is that they think they will lose something of value as a result. During the two months after the president announced his idea for a new product vice president, the existing vice presidents each came up with six or seven reasons the new arrangement might not work.
Their objections grew louder and louder until the president shelved the idea. As some of the personnel people immediately recognized, the change would alter their relationships from a peer and helper to more of a boss and evaluator with most of the employees. Predictably, the personnel counselors resisted the change.
While publicly arguing that the new system was not as good for the company as the old one, they privately put as much pressure as possible on the personnel vice president until he significantly altered the new system.
Political behavior sometimes emerges before and during organizational change efforts when what is in the best interests of one individual or group is not in the best interests of the total organization or of other individuals and groups. While political behavior sometimes takes the form of two or more armed camps publicly fighting things out, it usually is much more subtle. In many cases, it occurs completely under the surface of public dialogue. Although scheming and ruthless individuals sometimes initiate power struggles, more often than not those who do are people who view their potential loss from change as an unfair violation of their implicit, or psychological, contract with the organization.
People also resist change when they do not understand its implications and perceive that it might cost them much more than they will gain. Such situations often occur when trust is lacking between the person initiating the change and the employees.
Shortly after the announcement, numerous rumors begin to circulate among plant employees—none of whom really knew what flexible working hours meant and many of whom were distrustful of the manufacturing vice president. One rumor, for instance, suggested that flexible hours meant that most people would have to work whenever their supervisors asked them to—including evenings and weekends. The employee association, a local union, held a quick meeting and then presented the management with a nonnegotiable demand that the flexible hours concept be dropped.
The president, caught completely by surprise, complied. Few organizations can be characterized as having a high level of trust between employees and managers; consequently, it is easy for misunderstandings to develop when change is introduced.
Unless managers surface misunderstandings and clarify them rapidly, they can lead to resistance. And that resistance can easily catch change initiators by surprise, especially if they assume that people only resist change when it is not in their best interest. Another common reason people resist organizational change is that they assess the situation differently from their managers or those initiating the change and see more costs than benefits resulting from the change, not only for themselves but for their company as well.
For example:. The reorganization immediately ran into massive resistance from the people involved. His actions have already cost us three very good people [who quit], and have crippled a new program we were implementing [which the president was unaware of] to reduce our loan losses.
Managers who initiate change often assume both that they have all the relevant information required to conduct an adequate organization analysis and that those who will be affected by the change have the same facts, when neither assumption is correct. In either case, the difference in information that groups work with often leads to differences in analyses, which in turn can lead to resistance. But this likelihood is not obvious to some managers who assume that resistance is always bad and therefore always fight it.
People also resist change because they fear they will not be able to develop the new skills and behavior that will be required of them. All human beings are limited in their ability to change, with some people much more limited than others. Peter F. For example, a person who receives a significantly more important job as a result of an organizational change will probably be very happy.
But it is just as possible for such a person to also feel uneasy and to resist giving up certain aspects of the current situation. A new and very different job will require new and different behavior, new and different relationships, as well as the loss of some satisfactory current activities and relationships.
People also sometimes resist organizational change to save face; to go along with the change would be, they think, an admission that some of their previous decisions or beliefs were wrong. Indeed, there are probably an endless number of reasons why people resist change.
Assessing which of the many possibilities might apply to those who will be affected by a change is important because it can help a manager select an appropriate way to overcome resistance. Without an accurate diagnosis of possibilities of resistance, a manager can easily get bogged down during the change process with very costly problems.
Many managers underestimate not only the variety of ways people can react to organizational change, but also the ways they can positively influence specific individuals and groups during a change. And, again because of past experiences, managers sometimes do not have an accurate understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the methods with which they are familiar.
Many managers underestimate the variety of reactions to change and their power to influence those responses. One of the most common ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about it beforehand.
Communication of ideas helps people see the need for and the logic of a change. The education process can involve one-on-one discussions, presentations to groups, or memos and reports. But some managers overlook the fact that a program of this sort requires a good relationship between initiators and resisters or that the latter may not believe what they hear.
It also requires time and effort, particularly if a lot of people are involved. If the initiators involve the potential resisters in some aspect of the design and implementation of the change, they can often forestall resistance. With a participative change effort, the initiators listen to the people the change involves and use their advice.
To illustrate:. We have found that many managers have quite strong feelings about participation—sometimes positive and sometimes negative. That is, some managers feel that there should always be participation during change efforts, while others feel this is virtually always a mistake. Both attitudes can create problems for a manager, because neither is very realistic. When change initiators believe they do not have all the information they need to design and implement a change, or when they need the wholehearted commitment of others to do so, involving others makes very good sense.
Considerable research has demonstrated that, in general, participation leads to commitment, not merely compliance. Nevertheless, the participation process does have its drawbacks. Not only can it lead to a poor solution if the process is not carefully managed, but also it can be enormously time consuming. When the change must be made immediately, it can take simply too long to involve others.
Another way that managers can deal with potential resistance to change is by being supportive. 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.
Facilitation and support are most helpful when fear and anxiety lie at the heart of resistance. Seasoned, tough managers often overlook or ignore this kind of resistance, as well as the efficacy of facilitative ways of dealing with it.
The basic drawback of this approach is that it can be time consuming and expensive and still fail. Another way to deal with resistance is to offer incentives to active or potential resisters. Here is an example of negotiated agreements:. Negotiation is particularly appropriate when it is clear that someone is going to lose out as a result of a change and yet his or her power to resist is significant.
Negotiated agreements can be a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance, though, like some other processes, they may become expensive. And once a manager makes it clear that he will negotiate to avoid major resistance, he opens himself up to the possibility of blackmail.
In some situations, managers also resort to covert attempts to influence others.
Choosing Strategies for Change by John P. Kotter and Leonard A. Schlesinger
Choosing Strategies for Change
Scientific Research An Academic Publisher. Kotter, J. ABSTRACT: In order to survive and develop effectively in an increasingly dynamic and uncertain environment, an organization should have the capacity for continuous and adaptive changes. Change can only occur through the collaboration of participants of this process. Collaboration should be adaptive. Adaptability of collaboration is expressed by its adjustment to dynamic organizational changes. Adaptive collaboration AC is an organizational capacity needed for coping with adaptive changes.
Readings in Strategic Management pp Cite as. Few organizational change efforts tend to be complete failures, but few tend to be entirely successful either. Most efforts encounter problems; they often take longer than expected and desired, they sometimes kill morale, and they often cost a great deal in terms of managerial time or emotional upheaval. More than a few organizations have not even tried to initiate needed changes because the managers involved were afraid that they were simply incapable of successfully implementing them. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
Schlesinger and John P. When people are threatened with change in organizations, similar maxims about certain people and departments are trotted out to prevent an alteration in the status quo. Fear of change is understandable, but because the environment changes rapidly, and it has been doing so increasingly, organizations cannot afford not to change. One major task of a manager, then, is to implement change, and that entails overcoming resistance to it. In this article, the authors describe four basic reasons people resist change. They also describe various methods for dealing with the resistance and provide a guide to what kinds of approaches will work when the different types of resistance occur.