Pour bien gérer le changement  Prospect Gestion 

Change's perception

Change and perception

Since Lewin's works on the strength's fields acting on capacities of change for an organisation, it often was of good tone to place more emphasis on the favourable factors to the change rather than on the resistance's strenght. We thus managed to believe that it was enough to use conviction to lead the people in an organisation to adhere to a new vision. The organisations's managers are often inclined to neglect the perceptual factor in their interventions. That's mean that they take for granted that the declared adhesion of their employees to a vision proposed, will be carry out on the same basis that the proposal they advanced.

Unfortunately, those things are not occurring like this! The position that the persons take in glance of a proposed change takes three different factors into account but, by certain aspects, those factors can be directly connected:

their general attitude with respect to the change,

their perception of the motivations stated supporting the announced change,

and their usual A HREF= "http://marcaurele.tripod.com/incertitude1.html" >tolerance in regards of the ambiguity.

General attitude toward change

Any apprehended change generates an emotive reaction that sends back the persons to themselves and causes, over a less or more long period, a state that leads it to the border of chaos. For some, the fact of being found near this border presents a challenge that generate the energy in a positive way and pushes them to act towards the change. For others, this proximity of the border of chaos provokes a folding reaction, which seeks to look for past certainty.

That is, as from a change or rumor of an apprehended change is announced, the subjective positions are taken that we are able to represent like a junction due to initial perception. This is what time 1 of the diagram illustrate. This time 1 has the merit to well camp the strengths in presence, at the time when a manager mentions the change that he plans to establish within his organisation. The latter is usually in a position to determine well what he calls "his positive elements" and "his negative ones".

A good part of his actions will be directed towards the search of a way to influence the "negative ones" to accept the challenge of the change and to engage the movement. Generally, it will succeed to build the operation :

either owing to its personal skills,

or owing to the contribution of the "positive elements" and of group effect,

or finally owing to the authority role that he holds.

We will then pass through time 1 to time 2.
The perception of announced change

The passage of the first to the second time, demonstrated in the diagram, enables us to note that the change appears objectively unperceivable. This is however, to the level of perception that the distance remains enormous. Whereas "negative ones" seem to have accepted to cope with the movement and to show a sort of opening, the "positive elements" are engage on a different level of their colleagues. So that one and the other group, while giving the impression to walk on together, go in parallel


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The first group believes that in the final analysis, the envisaged change is not so different from what they pass through until there, and thus, fall the intensity its resistance without however adhering to the change. The second group believes, on the contrary, that the change is finally engaged and that even if its impact is still visually tiny, the process becomes irreversible.

The manager, on his side, will then be inclined to believe that the worse passed and that he is now able to put the application of the change in work. He will over-estimate the impact of his "positive elements" vis-à-vis what he started while believing to see a reflection of the opening of his troops in regards of the envisaged transformation. In addition, he will be misjudged on the opening attitude of those he considered the "negative ones" by interpreting the absence of open opposition like an adhesion.

We will then pass from time 2 through time 3 that leads the two groups to be juxtaposed and causes then a general astonishment. Then, the apparent consensus appears to be an immense misunderstanding which muddles everyone, included the manager. This last, notes whereas many things had been taken for granted:

the minimal impact of change for the "negative ones",

the irreversible interlocking of this change for the "positive ones"

and the adhesion of all with the change implement for the manager.

This is as well that the curve AB of the diagram illustrates, in time, the fall of the resistance intensity to change but because of the minimalist perception that have the opponents. On its side, the curve CD illustrates, in time, the rise of the positive elements' adhesion intensity. There is of course a point of meeting but it has not at all the same significance for one and the other of the groups and especially it does not engage the same future.

The ambiguity's tolerance

It is the level of tolerance to the ambiguity that will now determine what will be the future of change suggested. The usual tendency would be to try "to break" resistance by making a recall of the former stages. The manager will want to show that he was in good faith and that he trusted his troops (letting imply by there that some were not!). The "positive" elements will have the impression to have, somewhat, been ripped off and to have been too committed and too quickly. Only the "negative ones" will be usually seen confronted with their bad initial perception of a minimal change.

To carry out the change, it will thus be necessary to work on the ambiguity's tolerance of each one and to begin again, in a clearer way, the premises of the announced change (e.g. values, sharing of cultures, waitings and needs, requirements and challenges). In other words, in reference to the diagram, it is necessary to begin again at the time where the junction appears in order to reduce the intensity's variation between the two groups. It is there that all the work of the change's manager takes his sense. It is also there that the coaching can find all its effectiveness.

Here some readings:

some thinkings on learning organization.

on the meaning of organizational learning.

on listening firm according to Michel Crozier.