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

Political Aspects of Organizational Change


There is a large number of individuals who are undecided about change—they need to be influenced or persuaded to support the change. How can a manager motivate employees to change? Most of the change management literature overlooks the fact that people are largely motivated by self interest. In the 90s, popular writing in Change Management exhorted managers to develop ‘vision’ statements to appeal to people’s hearts. While there is some merit in this proposal, change managers who ignore people’s minds (and by that I mean self-interests) will find it quite difficult to garner support for their change efforts. Individuals are not solely drive by self-interests but these interests are important. In some instances, change may involve relinquishing one’s self-interest. The first thing people are likely to ask when informed about change is: what is in it for me?

There had to be a number of decisions to be made at every stage of the project involving large financial outlays—quickly and without political or bureaucratic interference. The decision-making process ensure this. Public support is critical for land acquisition and later for smooth execution. A number of contractors would be involved, and their effectiveness had to be ensured for the corporation to be effective. The community would be concerned about possible environmental degradation. Though the project would ultimately benefit the community, no cost could be unilaterally imposed on any stakeholder. The project owes its success to effectively managing such political aspects too.

If the organization’s change agenda matches self-interests of employees and other stakeholders, it has little problem in gathering support. On the other hand, if the change agenda requires employees to give up at least some of their interests, then mobilizing support is a more difficult task. More importantly, even if the change agenda is aligned with employees’ self-interests, they have to be convinced that participating in change will advance their self interests. Therefore, mobilising support is largely about influencing people to change despite—or because of—their self-interests. This aspect of influencing people’s self-interest is what makes change management ‘political’; it requires close attention to the science and art of persuasion. In other words, we need to understand the psychology of persuasion before we can devise effective ways of influencing people.

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, Line of Sight