Gaining Support for Change

Posted on Posted in Change Management, Leadership, Learning, Project Management
By Erik Van Slyke, Managing Director, www.erikvanslyke.com

I'm sentimental

So I walk in the rain

I've got some habits

Even I can't explain

I go to the corner

I end up in Spain

Why try to change me now

Whether voiced with the fragile anguish of Fiona Apple or the charming cockiness of Frank Sinatra, these Cy Coleman lyrics express the unapologetic resistance we often face when managing change.  Overcoming resistance is an essential capability required of change leaders. Here are a few techniques for gaining support as well as the pros and cons of using them.  An adaptive change leader may deploy multiple strategies throughout a project:

  1. Education and communication are used when there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis.  Advantage:  Once persuaded, people will help with the implementation of the change.  Disadvantage:  Education and communication can be very time-consuming if lots of people are involved.
  2. Participation and involvement are used when the change leaders do not have all the information they need to design the change and when others have considerable power to resist.  Advantage:  People who participate will be committed to implementing change, and any relevant information they have will be integrated into the plan.  Disadvantage:  Involving others in the change process can be very time-consuming, especially if participants design an inappropriate approach to change.
  3. Facilitation and support are best when people are resisting because of adjustment problems.  Advantage:  No other approach works as well with adjustment problems.  Disadvantage:  Facilitation and support can be time-consuming, expensive and still fail.
  4. Negotiation and agreement are used when someone or some group will clearly lose out in a change, and when that group has considerable power to resist.  Advantage:  Negotiation has proven to be a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance.  Disadvantage:  It can be too expensive in many cases if it alerts others to negotiate.
  5. Manipulation and co-optation are used when other tactics will not work or are too expensive.  Advantage:  It can be a quick and inexpensive solution to resistance problems.  Disadvantage:  It can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.
  6. Explicit and implicit coercion are best when speed is essential, and the change initiators possess considerable power.  Advantage:  Coercion is speedy and can overcome any kind of resistance.  Disadvantage:  It can be risky if it leaves people angry with those who initiate the change.