Improving Transport Operation through Change Management – II

There is a very famous quotation from Robert P. Vanderpoel: “The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.” So, it is not the question of convincing people about the importance of change, but the challenge is to implement a successful change process. There is always some resistance from the employees to bring any change. So, a well thought-out strategy to address employee’s resistance needs to be in place.

How to deal with Resistance

Facilitation: The best approach to creating change is to work with them, helping them achieve goals that somehow also reach to the goals of the change project. When you work with people, they will be happier to work with you. This is a good practice when people want to collaborate but are struggling to adjust to the situation and achieve the goals of change.

Education: When people are not really bought into the rationale for the change, they may well come around once they realize why the change is needed and what is needed of them. In particular, if new skills are required, you can provide these via a focused course of education.

Involvement: When people are not involved physically or intellectually, they are unlikely to be involved emotionally either. One of the best methods of getting people bought in is to get them involved. When their hands are dirty, they realize that dirt is not so bad, after all. They also need to justify their involvement to themselves and so persuade themselves that is the right thing to do.

Negotiation: When the other person cannot easily be persuaded, then you may need to give in order to get. Sit them down and ask what they are seeking. Find out what they want and what they will never accept. Work out a mutually agreeable solution that works just for them and just for you.

Manipulation: It means controlling a person’s environment such that they are shaped by what is around them. It can be a tempting solution, but is morally questionable and, if they sense what you are doing, will lead to a very dangerous backlash. Only consider this when change is necessary in the short term and all other avenues have been explored.

Coercion: Even more extreme than subtle manipulation is overt coercion. This is where you sit them down and make overt threats, for example that if they do not comply that they will lose their jobs, perhaps in a humiliating and public sacking. This should only be used when speed is of the essence or when the other person themselves has taken to public and damaging actions.

Change Strategies

Empirical-Rational: People are rational and will follow their self-interest — once it is revealed to them. Change is based on the communication of information and the proffering of incentives.

Normative-Re-educative: People are social beings and will adhere to cultural norms and values. Change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.

Power-Coercive: People are basically compliant and will generally do what they are told or can be made to do. Change is based on the exercise of authority and the imposition of sanctions.

One of the other challenges is to decide which of the preceding strategies to use. This decision is affected by a number of factors. Some of the more important ones are:

Degree of Resistance: Strong resistance argues for a coupling of power-coercive and environmental-adaptive strategies. Weak resistance or concurrence argues for a combination of Empirical-Rational and normative-re-educative strategies.

Target Population: Large populations argue for a mix of all four strategies, something for everyone so to speak
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The Stakes: High stakes argue for a mix of all four strategies. When the stakes are high, nothing can be left to chance.

The Time Frame: Short time frames argue for a power-coercive strategy. Longer time frames argue for a mix of empirical-rational, normative-re-educative, and environmental-adaptive strategies.

Expertise: Having available adequate expertise at making change argues for some mix of the strategies outlined above. Not having it available argues for reliance on the power-coercive strategy.

Dependency: This is a classic double-edged sword. If the organization is dependent on its people, management’s ability to command or demand is limited. Conversely, if people are dependent upon the organization, their ability to oppose or resist is limited. (Mutual dependency almost always signals a requirement for some level of negotiation.)

In conclusion, to cope with an unpredictable world we must build an enormous amount of flexibility into our organizations. While we cannot predict the future, we can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change and convert risks into opportunities.

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