Change Approaches

The Six Change Approaches of John Kotter is a business framework to prevent, decrease or minimize resistance to change in organizations.  Kotter is a former professor at the Harvard Business School, an author, and now Chief Innovation Officer at Kotter International. He is regarded as an authority on leadership and change.

Reasons for resistance to change

According to Kotter and Schlesinger (1979), there are four reasons that certain people are resisting change:

  1. Parochial self-interest. Some people are more concerned with the implication of the change for themselves and how it may affect their own interests, rather than considering the effects for the success of the business.
  2. Misunderstanding. Communication problems; inadequate information.
  3. Low tolerance of change. Certain people are very keen on feeling secure and having stability in their work.
  4. Different assessments of the situation. Some employees may disagree with the reasons for the change and with the advantages and disadvantages of the change process.

Six approaches to deal with resistance to change

Kotter and Schlesinger have set out the following six (6) change approaches to deal with change resistance:

  1. Education and Communication. Where there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis. One of the best ways to overcome resistance to change is: to inform and educate people about the change effort beforehand. Preceding communication and education helps employees see the logic in the change effort. This reduces unfounded and incorrect rumors concerning the effects of change in the organization.
  2. Participation and Involvement. Where the initiators do not have all the necessary information to design the change, and where others have considerable power to resist. When employees are involved in the change effort they are more likely to want change rather than resist it. This approach is likely to decrease resistance of those, who merely acquiesce in the change.
  3. Facilitation and Support. Where people are resisting change, because of adjustment problems. By being supportive of employees during difficult times, managers can prevent potential resistance. Managerial support helps employees to deal with their fear and anxiety during a transition period. The basis of resistance to change is likely to be: the perception that there will be some form of detrimental effect occasioned by the change in the organization. Typical for this approach are special training and counseling, outside normal office premises.
  4. Negotiation and Agreement. Where someone or some group may lose out because of a change, and where that individual or group has considerable power to resist. Managers can combat resistance by offering incentives to employees not to resist change. This can be done by allowing people who are resisting the change to veto certain elements of change that are threatening. Or the people who are resisting the change can be offered incentives to leave the company through early buyouts or through retirements. In order to avoid the experience of the change effort. This approach will be appropriate where those resisting change are in a position of power.
  5. Manipulation and Co-optation. Where other tactics will not work or are too expensive. Kotter and Schlesinger suggest that an effective manipulation technique is: to co-opt with people who are resisting the change. Co-optation involves bringing a person into a change management planning group for the sake of appearances rather than their substantive contribution. This often involves selecting leaders of the people who are resisting the change, to participate in the change effort. These leaders can be given a symbolic role in decision-making, without threatening the change effort. Note this: if these leaders feel that they are being tricked, they are likely to push resistance even further than if they were never included in the change effort leadership.
  6. Explicit and Implicit Coercion. Where speed is essential. And to be used only as last resort. Managers can explicitly or implicitly force employees into accepting change, by making clear that resistance to change can lead to: jobs losses, dismissals, employee transfers, or not promoting employees.

Yale Attitude Change Approach

The Yale Attitude Change Approach is the social psychology study of the conditions under which people are most likely to change their attitudes in response to persuasive messages. This approach to persuasive communications was first studied by Carl Hovland and his colleagues at Yale University, and thus was known later on as The Yale Attitude Change Approach.

The basic model of this approach can be described as “who said what to whom”–the source of the communication, the nature of the communication, and the nature of the audience. There are many factors and effects that come into play in each of the components of a persuasive communication, according to this approach. For instance, the credibility and attractiveness of the communicator (i.e. source), the quality and sincerity of the message (i.e. nature of the communication), and the attention, intelligence and age of the audience (i.e. nature of the audience) can all influence the effects of the audience’s perceived attitude change through a persuasive communication. Independent variables would include the source, message, medium and audience with the dependent variable being the effect, or impact of the persuasion.

The Yale Attitude Change Approach has generated a great deal of research, and insight, into the nature of persuasion. This approach has helped not only social psychologists to understand the process of persuasion, but also companies in making their marketing and advertising strategies more effective. Like most other theories about persuasion and attitude change, this approach is not perfect. Rather than being a systematic theory about persuasive communications, this approach is more of a general framework within which the research was conducted.

Business frameworks like Change Approaches are invaluable to evaluating and analyzing various business problems. You can download business frameworks developed by management consultants and other business professionals at Flevy here.

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