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Opportunists, Allies, Adversaries and Opponents Published: Sunday, March 11, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

When to change, establishing the scale of change, stressing the locus of change and providing the resources for change are some of the key change management decisions facing strategic executives and leaders.    When to change referers to the urgency of the need for change.  Change efforts can be classified in terms of the magnitude of the change, whether the change incremental or revolutionary.  Locus of change is a matter of coming to terms with the reality if change is going to be led from the top of the organizations or from multiple levels, sources and domains, acknowledging that discontinuous changes are likely to require a center-led-change.  Any delay in response will probably mean it will be imposed coercively, but this presents the dilemma that change imposed from the top disempowers staff and may generate strong resistance.  The required resources must be available for change to be successfully accomplished.

Leaders must constantly and consistently communicate the vision that has been developed.  There is always resistance to change, and communication is a crucial tool in overcoming both passive and active resistance.  Leaders must also act consistently with the vision, and they need to develop a profound communication process using a range of forums and media like talks, newsletters, emails, TV and other multimedia approaches.  The idea is to control the way the message reaches employees, without any filters that operate when the message is passed through the chain of command.  Leaders have to double check if their message is being communicated in a proper manner and follow-up with direct interactions with relevant audiences.

A single leader cannot manage the whole change process.  They need to create a guiding coalition, a team to manage and oversee the change process.  Such a team is made up to people who can provide knowledge, commitment, support and example.  The team must be balance in skills and expertise, but it also needs resources, power, credibility and leadership skills. 

The members of the change team need to understand the concerns of the recipients of change (what they are interested in and how they may respond to the change).  One approach is to classify those parties (individuals and groups) that are key to the implementation of change along with two dimensions. (1) The extent to which they believe they change leaders are trust worthy; (2) The extent to which they are in agreement with the change venture.

Opportunists are in a marriage of convenience.  The recommendation here is to reaffirm their agreement with the strategy and to be open in acknowledging their caution and lack to trust.  Adversaries are the most difficult to deal, and after stating the change proposals, it is important to understand their position and making small demands to them.  Allies are those who are in agreement with change ideas, and show trust, which is formidable or the best combination.  Opponent trust but they disagree with the change proposal and the best way to cope with this situation is by engaging them in joint problem-solving to reduce or resolve the differences.  Fence-sitters have first to hear an explanation of the proposed change, and they respond with gentle pressure.

Managing change requires reshaping people’s view of the world, introducing new ways of thinking about the organization, and its interaction with the world.  Transformational change normally requires modification in people, structure, tasks, rewards, information and decision processes.

Copyright 2007 QBS, Inc.


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