Part 2. Change Management Theory

Change is inevitable, right? The only constant is change. Those are great clichés with an air of authority – we innately understand the underlying truth, but we just as strongly resist. To quote the Beatles’ John Lennon, “You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world.” Everybody wants to change the world – nobody wants to change themselves. Don’t believe me?

On this past June 9th, a NY1-Marist poll of New York’s 9th Congressional District  found that 56% of its registered voters did not think Anthony Weiner should resign from Congress, with a full 71% of his constituency having no issue at all with his “professional judgment.” It is not much of a leap to infer that, given no other choice, the 9th District constituency prefers to keep what they have rather than chance the unknown. It is a classic example of the burning platform. Jump or die? I guess we have hindsight on our side now, but you will not have that luxury if you want to successfully manage organizational change.

This leads to the theoretical part of our discussion. Any musicians out there probably remember the “theory” part of their musical training with some element of disdain: harmonic theory, scales, modes, circle of fifths, blah, blah blah. Just let me play my Led Zeppelin, will you? But to advance beyond mere parroting of others’ works and move into composition of original works requires some understanding of the theory of music; because a 1-4-5 progression of 12-bar blues has been, shall we say, done.

Change Management Theory 101: Gleicher’s Formula for Change

This formula, developed by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher states: three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
V = Vision of what is possible;
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
If the product of these three factors is greater than
R = Resistance,

If ((D x V x F) > R) then Change is possible.

D, V, and F are multiplied. If any of those factors are absent or low the product will be zero or very low. Therefore, overcoming the resistance is not possible, preventing change.
When applied to the Anthony Weiner case, it is easy to see why – despite solid evidence to the contrary – a large majority of his constituency still believed in the validity of his judgment and a clear majority was in favor of keeping him in office.

D: A substantial percentage were not dissatisfied with his judgment
V: Lack of a visionary alternative, there was no vision for what was possible
F: they faced uncertainty concerning the process of replacing a resigned congressman

In order to promote change in your organization, you will need to think in terms of how this formula applies to the specific resistance you will face.

Successful change begins before change is implemented.

You would not play a concert without practicing the music or face a football opponent without a game plan, would you? Why would you attempt to institute organizational change without the equivalent of a score or a game plan? What Gleicher’s formula provides is the framework around which you can create your game plan for approaching change.

One of the world’s leading authorities on organizational change management is John Kotter, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School and the single most reprinted Harvard Business Review author, has created an eight-step model for leading organizational change. His 30 years of research into major organizational change efforts revealed that 70% of all those major change attempts fail. His eight steps have proven to increase the chances of success in a world where failure to change leads to failure to survive. Those steps are:

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
3. Developing a Change Vision
4. Communicating the Vision for Buy-in
5. Empowering Broad-based Action
6. Generating Short-term Wins
7. Never Letting Up
8. Incorporating Changes into the Culture

These steps are well-reasoned, make perfect sense and almost seem obvious, but they are much more difficult to execute than it appears on the surface. For example, Kotter’s latest Book, Buy In, primarily addresses only step 2 – the guiding coalition. This is all-important as you delve into some of Kotter’s other case studies; one particular case study reveals a situation where three-fourths of the organization’s senior leadership was fired over an 18-month period because they refused to adopt the organizational change. Remember our initial question, why change? If the reasons behind the change are strong enough, even the senior management team is not exempt from compliance. How serious is your change? You will need a coalition strong enough to guide your change through the process.