Rosabeth Moss Kanter Change Management essay

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Taken together, the foregoing factors confirm that organizational change can be difficult or even impossible to achieve unless certain steps are followed. In this regard, in her book, When Giants Learn to Dance, Kanter recommends using the following steps to motivate and sustain superior performance among workers which can reasonably be extended to change initiative efforts:

Principle 1: Emphasize success rather than failure. You tend to miss the positives if you are busily searching for the negatives.

Principle 2: Deliver recognition and reward in an open and publicized way. If not made public, recognition loses much of its impact and defeats much of the purpose for which it is provided.

Principle 3: Deliver recognition in a personal and honest manner. Avoid providing recognition that is too 'slick' or overproduced.

Principle 4: Tailor your recognition and reward to the unique needs of the people involved. Having many recognition and reward options will enable managers to acknowledge accomplishment in ways appropriate to the particulars of a given situation, selecting from a large menu of possibilities.

Principle 5: Timing is crucial. Recognize contribution throughout a project. Reward contribution close to the time an achievement is realized. Time delays weaken the impact of most rewards.

Principle 6: Strive for a clear, unambiguous and well-communicated connection between accomplishments and rewards. Be sure people understand why they receive awards and the criteria used to determine rewards.

Principle 7: Recognize recognition. That is, recognize people who recognize others for doing what is best for the company (p. 356).

In recent years, Kanter notes that organisations have been subjected to three fundamental external forces: (a) globalisation, (b) information technology and - industry consolidation. According to Kanter (1986), in this type of changing business climate, the role of a leader in change adept organizations is to:

Encourage innovation;

Deliver personal competence;

To be open and honest;

Extend the organization reach;

To be proactive to discontinuity; and,

To listen to customers.

As noted above, Kanter makes the analogy of a manager conducting an organizational orchestra wherein all of the musicians come together to produce meaningful results while achieving their own personal goals in the process. These are tall orders, of course, but Kanter suggests that it is possible to keep the orchestra in tune and playing together if the manager / conductor takes advantage of the expertise and abilities of subordinates rather than trying to effect change from the top-down only. For example, Kanter notes that besides possessing passion, conviction and con-dence, organizational managers should work closely with their subordinates as partners in change: "he/she should create a network of listening posts.... Form a coalition with your employees and partners. Provide support by way of resources and coaching. Be involved in the change process. One of the mistakes leaders make in a change process is to launch them and leave them. Recognize, reward and celebrate achievements (Kanter, 1999, p. 37). The foregoing steps and principles provide a useful framework in which change agents can consolidate their allies and sustain action over the long-term by providing incentives and motivation even when there is no other "what's-in-it-for-them" carrots to offer.


The research showed that Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a well-known and highly respected authority on organizational change and change management. Kanter's work spans several decades and she has been a prolific author during this time. One of the issues that emerged from the review of the relevant literature, though, was the enormous difficulty associated with organizational change wherein workers actively resist change even to the point of sabotaging such efforts. As noted in the introduction, although Kanter has equated organizational change with "trying to teach an elephant to dance," an old adage suggests that even an elephant can be eaten -- one bite at a time and this is also the case with organizational change. By following the advice, steps and principles outlined by Kanter, change agents may not be able to teach the organizational elephant to dance, but they can effect change through the appropriate use of people skills and a collaborative approach that celebrates victories and rewards them.


Austin, D.M. (2002). Human services management: Organizational leadership in social work practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Johnson, W.C. (2001). Evolve. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(1), 126-127.

Kanter, R.M. (1986, December). Celebrating employee achievements. Management Review in Kermally at p. 86.

1983). Change masters: Innovation and entrepreneurship in the American corporation. New York: Simon & Schuster.

2000). Change is everyone's job: Managing the extended enterprise in a globally-connected world. Goodmeasure, Inc.

1999, Summer). The enduring skills of change leaders. Leader to Leader 13 in Kermally at p. 89.

2001). Evolve. Boston: Harvard Business School Press in Johnson at p. 126.

1979). Life in organizations: Workplaces as people experience them. New York: Basic Books.

1993). Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.

1997). Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the frontiers of management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

1989). When giants learn to dance. New…[continue]

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