Tag Archives: resistance

What was that about turkeys and Christmas?

In yesterday’s Sunday Times [9th October 2011], Rod Liddle wrote a short piece about the difficulties faced by BBC Director-General, Mark Thompson, in his attempts to reduce costs by slimming down the middle management of the organisation. Liddle, suggested that Thompson was facing a losing battle as those charged with making the change were those most likely to be negatively affected.

What’s new?

As Liddle commented, some of  Thompson’s predecessors have tried and failed.

This highlights an issue faced by most change agents in this type of situation.

Change Effort and Reward Balance

When I’m guiding change, I use this matrix to help me assess the likely attitudes and motivations of those involved in the change, it helps me to assess the likely sources of resistance and points me to possible avenues to ease these concerns. Having significant numbers of people who can expect low or negative rewards from the process but who are charged with making significant contributions to the process should set the alarm bells ringing.

Issues which might need to be addressed are whether:

  • The scope of the change can [and should]  be adjusted to remove the worst of the negative impacts or to add additional benefits for the this group.
  • The make-up of the group can be modified to take account of motivations.
  • It is possible and / or feasible to bring in temporary support.

and how to improve the messages to actively engage other groups.

Despite the clear motivation issues, resistance from these groups can be quite difficult to identify as it is usually passive. The participators are likely to agree with the objectives and proposed actions, they are likely to be supportive in meetings and agree to handle a reasonable proportion of the necessary tasks – they just never [or rarely]  get round to doing anything. This passive resistance can also be difficult to deal with as the reasons for any delay will seem plausible.

This group has the “advantage” of having significant workloads outside the change initiative and being aware of the key priorities in the current scheme of things to find pressing tasks to fill their time. The question for the change managers  is to decide whether to work round this group or to confront the issue, with the potential for further disruption. A solution must be found if the change process is not to stagnate.

Change agents must also be aware that they are unlikely to get more than grudging support from even those groups with something to gain [see matrix above].

This is succinctly explained by

“there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Niccolo Machiavelli 1469 – 1527

This emphasises the need to communicate effectively with all groups and making the benefits of the proposals clear to all concerned.

If you are contemplating changing anything in your business look here first.

Me, myself and I – understanding stakeholder perspectives

If you have read any of my earlier posts, you will know that I do my best to avoid “management speak” and jargon. I make no apologies, however, for using the term “stakeholders”. It means anyone who has an interest in, can affect or be affected by the business. I find it particularly useful to consider stakeholders in planning and implementing change programmes. Effective consideration of stakeholders and their needs, desires and motivations can go a long way to helping you sell your ideas, gain support and minimise resistance – but you have to do it carefully and put some effort in.

Standard Stakeholder Map

Standard Stakeholder Map

The figure above shows a typical “first pass” mapping of potential stakeholders – this is a useful start but may not be adequate for your needs. In many cases, you will need to break these top-level groups down into smaller subgroups. For example:

Customers: Do they all have the same needs?

Managers: Are specific individuals or functions affected in different ways?

Employees: Are all groups affected equally, are some better organised than others etc?

You will need to break the stakeholders down into smaller sub-groups and possibly consider some people on an individual basis.

Multiple perspectives

It is also worth noting that in today’s more complex environment, some people will fall into several stakeholder groups and that will affect their overall perception. For example, an employee may also be:

  • A shareholder
  • A neighbour
  • An investor – through pension funds etc.
  • A customer

    An individual's perspective

    An individual's perspective

So, their view of any proposed change can be quite complex.

Also bear in mind that the various stakeholder groups are likely to interact with each other.

Mini Case Study

I was discussing this issue with a client who is a third-generation director in a successful family run business [SME]. He said that on any given topic, he can have several different views and that the balance between these might change through the day. So he can have different thoughts about the issue as:

  1. A functional director
  2. As an owner of the business
  3. As a member of the extended family
  4. As Husband / Father in his own family
  5. Himself!

    Case Study

    Case Study

For him to be happy with any decision or change, it has to be right [or at least bearable] from each perspective! No wonder it can be so difficult to get support for your ideas!

What does this mean for you?

Thinking any idea through from stakeholder perspectives will help you to:

  • Sell your ideas by giving you a better understanding of each group / individuals
    • Needs
    • Desires
    • Motivations and
    • Fears
  • You will be in a stronger position to gain support by fine tuning your proposal
  • You will be better able to anticipate and respond to any resistance and
  • You will be much better prepared to engage in a sensible dialogue with any of the interested parties and that could lead to an even better idea!