INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF CHANGE

The word “change” often provokes perceptions of ambiguity and insecurity, ultimately leading to feelings of anxiety and fear.  The concepts associated with the resistance toward the changed condition can be identified in many of the classical readings connected with social behavior (Follet, 1926; Lewin, 1947; Maslow, 1943).  It is interesting to note that after all this time only a small percentage of change efforts actually succeed.  This fact has led to an entire industry of fad change models and organizational development techniques. The repeating theme of many of these processes has been the lack of sustainability in the organizations that have attempted implementation.  A more disturbing trend may be the post mortem finger pointing by management, placing blame down through the organizational hierarchy for the failed implementation.

In an article written by Eric Dent and Susan Goldberg they argue that this accusatory behavior propagated by the phrase “resistance to change”, has become an inherent management practice.  They espouse that the concept of resistance to change has digressed into an excuse used to assign fault for the organization’s ability to successfully achieve their objectives.  Their argument has a surprisingly close, yet reversal to the circular logic provided in the appreciative inquiry theories of Cooperrider and Srivastva.  Appreciative inquiry suggests that by focusing on the positive potential an organization will generate positive results.  Sandy Piderit from Case Western Reserve University and a former professor of mine presents a good alternative to the argument; “How can we balance the organizational need to foster ambivalent attitudes toward change and the individual need to minimize the potentially debilitating effects of ambivalence?”    During my research conducted on identifying critical team success factors, the level of participation of the individuals involved in the organization’s decision-making processes associated with the change had the largest positive impact on reducing the resistance to the change initiative.  This automatic perception that “resistance to change’ is a bad thing and something that must be overcome can prevent an organization from discovering the opportunities for improvements in developing a more effective and sustainable change process.  It might even suggest that dealing with resistance to change in a positive way may have a larger impact on accelerating the change in order to provide even greater organizational performance.

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