A Fourth Strategy to Change Management

The first two strategies as pointed out by Bennis, Benne and Chin are not so well known, but are often used.  They are empirical-rational and power-coercive.  They are so embedded in our minds that they play like a broken record.  The empirical rational approach is to provide empirical evidence to sway the thinking of those you are trying to change or to have a rational conversation based on logic and facts.  Some view this as the “carrot” side of change management.  The power-coercive approach is to sway thinking by power and can be viewed as the “stick” side of change management.

The third strategy (still Bennis, Benne and Chin)  is the normative-reeducative approach.  Here, successful change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.  Learning is individual and subjective, and an approach that I have been using has been to allow managers and workers to change their own thinking by putting them in places where they can unlearn and learn a better way through observation and reflection.

The fourth strategy is one that I have used off and on over the past decade and was not aware someone had discovered the same approach.  It was coined by Fred Nickols and he calls it the environmental-adaptive approach.  I spoke with Fred about this approach was inspired by Rupert Murdoch and his firing of the employees and moving them to new jobs at a different location.

This doesn’t sound so great.  However, what Fred discovered was that from his experience is that people resist disruptive change, but adapt readily  to new circumstances.  Moving people from the old way of working to new circumstances that they can adapt to sometimes may be the right approach.

The key is to move workers and management to a better system.  If the existing system is wrought with waste and bloated with bureaucracy then setting up a new organization may be an attractive way to approach change.  However, this requires different perspectives and building blocks to be embraced or you will quickly make the new into the old.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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