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Study Notes

Change Management - Overcoming Resistance to Change (Kotter & Schlesinger)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

How can senior management overcome the inevitable resistance to change when change is required? This study note outlines the six approaches suggested by Kotter & Schlesinger.

Education & Communication

The starting point for successful change is to communicate effectively the reasons why change is needed!

Honest communication about the issues and the proposed action helps people see the logic of change

Effective education helps address misconceptions about the change, including misinformation or inaccuracies

Education and communication are unlikely to achieve very short-term effects. They need to be delivered consistently and over a long-period for maximum impact

Participation & Involvement

Involvement in a change programme can be an effective way of bringing “on-board” people who would otherwise resist

Participation often leads to commitment, not just compliance

A common issue in any change programme is just how much involvement should be permitted. Delays and obstacles need to be avoided

Facilitation & Support

Kotter & Schlesinger identified what they called “adjustment problems” during change programmes

Most people (though not all) will need support to help them cope with change

Key elements of facilitation and support might include additional training, counselling and mentoring as well as simply listening to the concerns of people affected

If fear and anxiety is at the heart of resistance to change, then facilitation and support become particularly important

Co-option & Manipulation

Co-option involves bringing specific individuals into roles that are part of change management (perhaps managers who are likely to be otherwise resistant to change)

Manipulation involves the selective use of information to encourage people to behave in a particular way

Whilst the use of manipulation might be seen as unethical, it might be the only option if other methods of overcoming resistance to change prove ineffective

Negotiation & Bargaining

The idea here is to give people who resist an incentive to change – or leave

The negotiation and bargaining might involve offering better financial rewards for those who accept the requirements of the change programme

Alternatively, enhanced rewards for leaving might also be offered

This approach is commonly used when a business needs to restructure the organisation (e.g. by delayering)

Explicit & Implicit Coercion

This approach is very much the “last resort” if other methods of overcoming resistance to change fail

Explicit coercion involves people been told exactly what the implications of resisting change will be

Implicit coercion involves suggesting the likely negative consequences for the business of failing to change, without making explicit threats

The big issue with using coercion is that it almost inevitably damages trust between people in a business and can lead to damaged morale (in the short-term)

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