Approaches to Change

Axelrod discusses in his book titled: Terms of Engagement, four approaches to change: i) Leader-driven approach, ii) Process-driven approach, iii) Team-driven approach, and iv) Change Management approach.

Leader-driven change is more suitable for small and medium enterprises with owner-managers. This approach works well when the manager or leader has all the necessary information and knowledge. Leader-driven changes tend to be directive and non-participative. Therefore this approach is less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Process-driven changes are led by experts or outside consultants and supported by the leader; these changes are more common in large, bureaucratic organizations. This approach works well when the change requires technical or specialized expertise. Also being directive and non-participative, as in the case of leader-driven approach, this approach is therefore less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Team-driven approaches are most common in large, manufacturing enterprises that have skilled and educated employees. Change management strategies—such as TQM, Quality Circles, and Six Sigma—exemplify this approach. These are highly participative change efforts that empower employees and provide them with involvement, participation and ownership of change. Team-based approaches that are properly executed can unleash enormous levels of employee energy and motivation. This can, in turn, lead to innovation and productivity gains. However, using this approach can also cause some discomfort for managers in an organization because they may not be used to sharing their power and authority with workers. Moreover, this approach requires managers to shift from a directive, authoritarian style based on power and expertise to a participative style based on persuasion, coaching and helping. More importantly, the team-based approach to execute change requires the establishment of a ‘parallel organization.’

The fourth approach to change is called the Change Management approach. This is a combination of expert-driven and team-driven approaches. Whereas the former provides a business and technical focus to change, the latter generates ownership, involvement and commitment. So as to gain this commitment, most specialists, experts and change management consultants have incorporated the parallel organization concept in their process-driven approach. The Change Management paradigm is the approach to change that most organizations use today. Although it seemingly seeks to integrate ownership of change with practical business focus, the Change Management approach has shortcomings. Instead of involvement and commitment, this approach breeds cynicism, bureaucracy and resistance. It actually disempowers employees, by reinforcing hierarchical top-down management.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

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