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In that sense, Wilkoff (1995, as cited by Weick & Quinn, 1999) reports on her attempts to intervene between two companies that had fused together in an unsuccessful mergence. The actors of the various companies persistently disagreed due to cultural differences in mindset, whereupon the consultant, recognizing this, changed her strategy. She began meeting with each actor separately and explaining the other's performance from his or her particular cultural assumptions. In this way, once each had understood the other, could both meet together and the mergence actually become effective. In a similar way, says Schein, can change be best implemented when the leader is willing and able to looking into, work with, and attempt to understand other cultural patterns. History is change. Change necessitates working with and understanding the heterogeneity of cultures that constitute the world. A leader who does this becomes flexible to the change dynamic and can best enable his organization to follow suit.
Sun Tzu's Art of War (2001) is a popular treatise used in business school and corporations alike. Managers comparing themselves to generals, and their corporations to the army (and competition to enemy) have used his recommendations in various ways. One of these is the rule of "doing it better" that Sun Tzu insists issues from the element of surprise that comes through change.
Two elements exist in war: expected and unexpected techniques. The latter involve change, are innovative but are simultaneously disturbing, since anything new or original, is by nature, disturbing. Expected innovative techniques insist Sun Tzu, however, give you the element of surprise, inevitably hoisting you in a higher position than your competitor.
Sun Tzu exhorts the general to seek change, to seek innovation. The executive reading this book, exhorts his corporation likewise: Change can be the key to your success, since it keeps your competitor guessing and provides you with an appealing characteristic of innovation.
Woolworth Ltd. overcame its challenges of the 1990s and acquired unprecedented success by focusing on change, insistence on flexibility with times, and emphasis that innovation must be encouraged from lower echelons upwards. (Hollingsworth, 1990). Using a bottoms-up approach, creativity was sought from the lowest level of the hierarchy, and change was emphasized and affirmed.
Sun Tzu speaks about the army and to great purpose since a general has to deal with change on a regular basis. A successful general knows how to live with change and succeeds in having his army adjust to the change. Doing so makes them all the more efficient and triumphant in their struggle.
A great example of just such a general was Marion (Crawford, Smithsonian.com), a little known revolutionary hero, otherwise called 'Swamp Fox' due to his ability in creating and adjusting to change, and leading his subordinates to do likewise. Marion adopted techniques deliberately different to conventional ones, he helped his soldiers adapt to and embrace his introduction of change so that they perceived it as innovative and welcoming, and Marion, consequently, became greatly beloved as one of the extraordinary heroes of the American Revolution.
Marion's rules of war were acquired from the successes and failures of contemporaries of his time. He employed rapid movement and surprise, struck in the early morning, and generated a comradeship with his troops where he habituated them to his strategies of surprise and got them to expect, accept, and embrace the unaccepted.
In fact, the element of surprise and the manner in which Marion used change to his advantage gained Marion his nickname. In 1780, a British Lieutenant Marion's troops for seven hours, and finally gave up cursing, "as for this damned old fox, the Devil himself, could not a tribute to his embrace of, and subsequent benefiting from the element of change.
The Four Stages of Change
The leader may be in charge of and harnessing the change, but, as recent analysis shows, attempts and phenomena of 'unfreezing' actually start earlier than was previously thought (Weick & Quinn, 1996) Prochaska and colleagues, for instance, proposed that people at both a micro and macro level when exposed to change the situation are at one of the four stages: precontemplation, contemplation, action, and maintenance. Precontemplators are still in the torpid stage when all seems well and they are unaware of the need to change. Contemplators -- level number two -- are aware that there is a problem, are thinking about change, but still loathe accepting it and disinclined from making or embracing that change. Action -- which most see as the change stage itself - represents that stage in which people accept and go along with the change in some way or other, whilst with maintenance, the participants involved (or on a macro level the organization) has absorbed the change into its system and retains it. It is now at a different level than what it was before.
What is most interesting and valuable from this research is that the action stage demonstrates that most people who have actually reached that stage relapse three or four times before they actually absorb the change in their system and maintain it. This is where the leader steps in, and endeavors to make the change more palatable and appealing so that it can be long lasting and be retained.
Beer et al. (quoted by Weick and Quinn, 1996) disagreed with this linear process and instead proposed that change was rather a spiral patterns of contemplation, action, and relapse followed again by replicated turns of this contemplation, action, and relapse, each of these turns somewhat weakened until the final stage of maintenance was achieved. This too, any leader or organization attempting to implement and come to grips with change will find an invaluable insight. It may explain, the difficulty of their employees in accepting potential change situation, and it may prepare them to potential results of the situation. Knowing this, they can best scheme and implement their strategy.
It has been further found that relapse is more common in discrete episodic change than in seemingly continuous change -- again leaders can present the change series as being continuous to promote this positive perspective - and that 85% of the relapses return to the stage of contemplation rather than to the stage of precontemplation (Weick & Quinn, 1996). Most interesting to the leader, is that "people are changing before we can observe any alterations in their behavior" (373), which suggests that the leader should never be frustrated that his interventions and plans are not working; they may well be even though she is not yet seeing results. What this also implies, as encouragement to the leader, is that people are closer to taking action once they have terminated their replicated spiral of contemplative stage.
How the Leader affects Metaphors of Change
Change, as said, can be seen in various ways, and the leader -- or prime mover - is greatly influential in the eventual change metaphor that is adopted.
Ideally, change can be seen as "improvisation, translation, and learning" (Weick and Quinn, 1996) and if this is the attitude that the leader himself adopts towards the change, the organization is more likely to simulate and follow suit.
It is the leader that crafts the narrative often through using war stories as a metaphor, i.e. analogies to the effect that stress or discouragement or fear (and so forth) is an enemy; we have to fight by being happy, courageous, spunky, persistent (etc.). By thus reinterpreting and relabeling, or, in other words, by adopting a positive, glowing metaphor, employees can be encouraged to traverse the stages of changes in an easier speedier manner.
Other narratives that can be employed are by reframing the change situation as an advantageous, growth-filled opportunity (as was mentioned with Habermas in the beginning). Presenting it as an opportunity, - and with the leader himself integrating this message -- may convert the perspective of participants. As example of this, Thachankary (1992), in Weick & Quinn (1999), presents the situation of intense but unproductive meetings that are rewritten as an image that affirms the value of 'corporative ness' and of community inspired by these meetings. In this way, change-imbued situations are presented as phenomena of improvisation, translation and learning, where the change can be colleted into a less threatening, more ideal manner of perceiving it, and is then translated in that way so that it becomes a learning situation for individual and corporate growth and transforms from fear-filled entity to confidence-promoting circumstance.
As Weick and Quinn (1996) note: "People change to a new position because they are attracted to it, drawn to it, inspired by it." (380). When change is presented and exemplified by the leader in this very attractive manner (as improvisation, translation, and learning), employees will be more eager to embrace the change, particularly if they are seen as being in 'charge' of the 'fight', controlling it, and that victory depends on them.
Returning to the concept of the leader, Kotter (1996) asks whether change is a phenomenon that the leader manages, or a phenomenon…[continue]
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