How Change Agents Can Contribute to Change Resistance
According to Hussey (2000), as far as effective management is concerned, change remains a critical aspect. It can be noted that through their actions or inactions, change agents in most cases end up contributing towards the very occurrence of resistance (Ford et al. 2008). To begin with, by breaking agreements before or during the change process, change agents make significant contributions to recipient reactions. This is more so the case if change agents refuse or fail to restore the lost trust. For instance, it is possible for an organization or its agents in some circumstances to renegade (either knowingly or unknowingly) on agreements it has with employees. When this takes place, those affected experience betrayal and to get even, they may seek to shoot down organizational policies. Indeed, this desire for retribution is what threatens change in this case. For instance, the top management organs could promise not to lay off any member of the workforce on commencement of a certain change initiative. If the organization goes against this promise, employees could report a desire for retribution which could inform negative behaviors i.e. decreased productivity or general disobedience thus effectively threatening change.
Communication breakdown is yet another way in which change agents can contribute to change resistance. According to Ford et al. (2008), this could come about as a result of failure to undertake change legitimization, misrepresentation of success chances and failure to invite individuals to action. When it comes to failure to undertake change legitimization, change agents contribute to change resistance by failing to communicate the need for change effectively. This in addition to bringing about readiness for change enhances acceptance amongst recipients. In regard to misrepresentation, it can be noted that due to the need to facilitate recipient participation, change agents may end up misrepresenting change facts intentionally or unintentionally. This in the end undermines the credibility of the change agent and may drive the recipient to anticipate more misrepresentations hence effectively killing trust. Lastly, by failing to mobilize recipients to action, change agents could invite little or no action on the part of recipients. This in turn undermines performance.
Next, Ford et al. identify resisting resistance as yet another way in which change agents can contribute to change resistance. In this case, change agents become indifferent to ideas floated by recipients. This is more so the case in those instances where such proposals have undesirable consequences on the budget. For instance, if recipient proposals mean that more resource allocations have to be made, change agents may refuse to acknowledge such a proposal in the hope that the same will fade away with time. However, such resistance or avoidance from change agents begets resistance from recipients.
How Organizations Can Utilize Resistance as a Positive Resource
As Allcorn (2005) notes, not every resistance to change is counterproductive or undesirable. It should be noted that in a way, the various reactions change recipients have to change do not necessarily impede the success of change. Instead, such reactions can be harnessed as a resource to further drive change. To begin with, Ford et al. (2008) note that as a positive resource, resistance to change possesses existence value. In this case, the authors note that resistance can ensure that conversations are kept alive. This is more so the case given that it is inherently difficult for new conversations to survive in the midst of well-entrenched conversations. The reason for this is that, in a way, new conversations have the disadvantage of being new and inexperienced. Hence in one way or the other, resistance keeps such conversations alive. To highlight this, though complaining is in some instances taken to be a form of resistance, it helps keep the issue "on the spotlight" hence encouraging the participation of others in the same. This could be taken as an opportunity by a change agent to offer the necessary clarifications hence effectively legitimizing change further.
Next, as a positive resource, resistance to change possesses an engagement value. According to Ford et al. resistance provides a rare opportunity to engage with change. It can be noted that through resistance, change agents have an opportunity to challenge various attitudes held by recipients. If change agents in this case are able to convince recipients to adopt the desired view, this can be viewed as a significant gain and in such a case, change agents benefit by having motivated agents on their side. Hence by providing a platform to engage those who are of the opposing view, resistance helps to avert situations where recipients engage in "resistive" behavior once their personal interests are threatened.
Lastly, as a positive resource, resistance to change possesses what is known as the strengthening value. According to Ford et al. (2008), conflict enhances both the quality of formulated decisions as well as commitment on the part of participants when it comes to the implementation of the formulated decisions. Therefore, as a kind of conflict, resistance is considered to have a related strengthening value during the change implementation process. The authors further note that in a world where no change initiative is questioned, the probability of entrenching change would be slim. In such a case, proposals that are detrimental to the organization could also easily sail through. When change agents and recipients agree on the way forward through negotiation as a result of resistance, the probability of backsliding is minimized and with that comes an enhanced commitment to change.
The Common Mistakes Managers Make When Trying to Initiate Change
According to Kotter (1995), one of the main reasons transformation efforts fail to realize their projected goals is because of the failure by change agents or leaders to accept the fact that in some cases, change (large-scale) can take quite a long time before it is implemented in its entirety. Further, many organizational leaders fail to realize that for the change process to be successful, it needs to go through a number of unique stages dubbed the eight stages. Even in cases where these steps are followed, there is need to ensure that the sequence of the same is upheld as skipping a stage could reverse the gains made. It can also be noted that change initiatives may flop if managers fail to take deliberate steps to ensure that the organization is results-oriented as opposed to activity oriented (Williams & Hall 2011).
Overcoming Problems in the Change Process: Eight Phases Suggested by Kotter
The first step or phase Kotter (1995) identifies in this case is the establishment of a sense of urgency. When individuals identify organizational vulnerabilities, they are more likely to be sparked to action and in so doing; they pass the urgency message to others within the organization. What Kotter suggests in this case is that for the implementation process to gain momentum, individuals need to be driven out of their comfort zones. It is only then that people become motivated enough to pursue change.
Secondly, Kotter (1995) is of the opinion that to overcome the problems associated with the implementation of change, the relevance of building a powerful guiding coalition cannot be overestimated. In this case, the higher the number of people believing in the gospel of change, the better. It should however be noted that there is a need to ensure that individuals in this coalition are powerful enough on various fronts i.e. In terms of their organizational roles, reputation or knowledge/skill level.
Next, Kotter (1995) proposes the creation of a vision which is essentially a pictorial representation of the future. Such a mental image must in addition to being appealing to the relevant stakeholders also be easy to communicate. With such a vision, the organization can easily identify the direction to follow. According to Kotter, if the vision in this case can't be communicated to another person in a period of less than five minutes in such a clear and concise format that it is readily understood by that person to whom it is being communicated, then there is a need to revisit this phase of the change process.
The fourth step or phase suggests that the vision should be communicated. In Kotter's own opinion, change agents should first determine the level of communication needed and multiply this by a factor of ten. Hence in that regard, the communication of the vision must not be limited to a single occasion. Effective communication of the vision helps people to perceive the same as being rather important. In this case, every channel of communication should be utilized to communicate the vision.
Next, Kotter (1995) is of the opinion that obstacles to the new vision must be removed for the change process to be successful. In this case, Kotter identifies the obstacles to the new vision as comprising of organizational structure, individual perceptions, compensation issues etc. He further goes ahead to note that the vast majority of organizations do not have the ability to eliminate obstacles during the first half…