For really managing change  Prospect Gestion 

Change and ambivalence

Ambivalence to change's service

In a recent article, published in the Revue Française de Gestion ", the author pointed out to which point the management of change takes care of ambivalence and leads sometimes the managers to paradoxical attitudes. The latter would like to introduce the change into their organisation but very continuously to maintain the former attitudes that made the change necessary !

If we take an organisation or a company as a system, we should know that we can not introduce a change into a system without changing the whole system ! ! Otherwise, the organisation or the enterprise will be able, in the last analysis, to integrate any changes into its working arrangement and will reject all that will not be assimilated by it.

In period of relative stability, the change's management can be made while introducing the modifications that the individuals, inside the systems, can absorb. Time plays then in favour of the organisation by allowing it a gradual and incremental adaptation.

In period of strong turbulence and major transformation of the enterprise or organisation's environment, this is now worthless. Or the individuals are incited to modify their usual paradigms and, therefore, their vision of the organisation, or they become increasingly unsuited to their environment. The work of the manager can then look like the work of readjustment. It becomes at the same time a disturbing agent and a rassemblor agent that must necessarily accept the reactions that this ambivalence brings to those which make the organisation.


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What can manager do ?

If he is completely impotent vis-a-vis the way that each one will compose with the change, he is not as for the beacons and reference mark that he will sow throughout advance to provide to each one the opportunity to find their way.A clear vision of what the organisation must be in a turbulent universe, a ceaseless work of modelling and concrete representation (within the meaning of an image) of the organisation to come, an opening to the tests and to the groping, an acceptance of the common's learning rate, the constancy and coherence in the control of the advance represent the tools that should be used by him for the passage towards a new state.

The impossible to circumvent ambivalence that such a passage causes will be used not as brake but as an engine to the creativity and efficacity by supporting not the installation of a change prescribes by the top but a change built by the bottom and emerging from a step which makes the treaning a constant state of adaptation and not a precise moment. What is then aimed, is not so much a precise change to reach but a state in which each one is invited to grow and to progress towards a continuous training, which ensures to the organisation, the means to escape from a new crystallisation.

In such a context, the most significant factor with which the manager will have to compose will be the anxiety generated by the process. It is to this anxiety that he will have to answer by supporting the passage from a security based on the exterior (collective agreement, description of tasks, etc.) towards a security based on the interior (encouragement to the autonomy, feeling of doing a useful work, etc). It is then a major challenge in the current context of uncertainty.

Some readings suggested


Perret, Véronique. La gestion ambivalente du changement in Revue Française de Gestion, sept-oct. 1998. pp. 88-97.