Six Change Approaches
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Dealing with resistance to change. Explanation of Six Change Approaches of Kotter and Schlesinger. ('79)

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The Six (6) Change Approaches of Kotter and Schlesinger is a model to prevent, decrease or minimize resistance to change in organizations.


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.


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Compare with the Six (6) Change Approaches: Change Phases  |  Contingency Theory  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Leadership Styles  |  Core Group Theory  |  Bases of Social Power  |  Organic Organization  |  Planned Behavior  |  Business Process Reengineering  |  Kaizen  |  People CMM  |  Change Management  |  Dimensions of Change  |  4 Dimensions of Relational Work  |  Levels of Culture  |  Office of Strategy Management  |  Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change


Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |   Human Resources  |   Leadership  |  Program & Project Management  |  Strategy


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