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How Intervention Strategies Contribute to Change Essay

Anne-Marie van Oost, Master of commercial sciences and Innovation Management, InduTec asbl/vzw, avenue Nellie Melbalaan 73, 1070 Brussels, [email protected] Jacques Tichon, Dr. Ing., Haute Ecole Paul-Henri Spaak, rue Royale 150, 1000 Brussels, [email protected]


Change involves moving from one condition to another. Change is not necessarily innovation. But an organisation that finds a fundamentally new way to reach and serve its customers has achieved an innovation.

Organisations are changing at a record pace to keep up with an environment that demands more performance. Some organisations are doing a good job of changing to meet new performance requirements. These organisations know that change is the rule and that they will need to master change to continue to thrive.

Every manager who has tried to guide an organisational change has experienced the reality of having to run the business while changing the business.Running an organisation and changing an organisation are two different kind of jobs each requiring different mindsets and skill sets. That wouldn’t be a problem if changes didn’t come along often and an organisation could just keep doing what it had been doing and still satisfy customers and stakeholders. But today’s environment is very different than it was a few years ago, and change is now the rule and not the exception.

Employees must be able to perform as well during the change as they perform when the organisation is not changing. Unfortunately most managers and employees have been overtrained to perform in a no change, and undertrained to perform during change.

This article will give you some theoretical concepts you will need to better understand the need of mastering change.

1. How to make organisational change happen? What is the importance ‘to intervene’ 2. Are all organisations having trouble changing? Lots of organisations are not changing well enough to avoid negative consequences. Change implies inevitably resistance. 3. It is leadership that focuses the organisation on its new direction, whether that direction comes first from the leader hi/herself or from the mind of others. It is leadership that must coordinate the processes of change so that the organisation does not lose its way. It is leadership that supplies the courage for continued change in the face of the inevitable resistance and disappointment along the way.



Change has to do with ‘learning oganisations’. The concept has found favour in organisational development and management studies through the work of Senge, Nonaka & Takeuchi, and others. , who have highlighted the importance of building ‘learning organisations’. The thinking is that only organisations that can learn fast will be equipped for the period of rapid change. Heifetz and Lauria state firmly that: “Solutions to adaptive challenges reside not in the executive suite but in the collective intelligence of employees at all levels”1.

In order to improve organisational performance, there must be recognition that change and the turbulence it generates will undoubtedely affects all parts of the system.That is why it is one of the fundamental tasks of leadership to balance attention to the management of performance with attention to the management of change and uncertainty

Academic Education focuses on technical and mental competences and stresses the need to train skills required for executive functions and leadership. Public and private enterprise would very much welcome purposeful and efficient training for leadership skills, but very often cannot find properly trained applicants for managerial positions.2

Leading people means asking people to change. One has to learn how to change, one has to really want change and go for it. If people don’t really want to learn and change, it will not happen. That is why changing is so difficult.

With this paper some concepts and models are introduced from literature that offer some insight into the management of change. But keep in mind that models may offer some insight, but at the same time they show and conceal reality, because they are one-sided by definition.

“If change really is of the essence, if you really wish to see change occur at the behaviour level, for example to see managers manage changes differently or to see a greater amount of teamwork, then you have to think of something that compels such behaviour” (Eric Van de Reed, P., Extraordinary leadership, creating strategies for change, Kogan Page, UK, 2001. Pfeiffer, J.W., voorwoord in , Situationeel leiding geven, Uitgeverij Business Contact, Amsterdam, 2006 2 1

Loo).3 This article deals with behaviour interventions, topics like resistance and power as important derivatives, as well as leadership in relation to change.


Intervening as a technique and phenomenon

To intervene means that someone forces their way into an existing system of relationships, people, groups or objects with the aim of improving it. In processes of change intervening as a technique and phenomenon is an important topic.

But keep in mind that models may offer some insight, but at the same time they show and conceal reality, because they are one-sided by definition. Aryris defines ‘to intervene’ as follows.4 “Organisations do not perform the actions that produce the learning. It is individuals acting as agents of organisations who produce the behaviour that leads to learning. Organisations can create conditions that may significantly influence what individuals frame as the problem, design as a solution, and produce as action to solve a problem. Whenever an error is detected and corrected without questioning or altering the underlying values of the system (be it individual, group, intergroup, organisational or

interorganisational), the learning is single-loop. The term is borrowed from electrical engineering: a thermostat is defined as a single-loop learner. The thermostat is ‘programmes’ to detect states of “too cold” or “too hot”, and to correct the situation by turning the heat on or off. If the thermostat asked itself such questions as why it was set at 68 degrees, ot why it was programmed as it was, then it would be a double-loop learner.”

Single-loop learning occurs when matches are created, or when mismatches are corrected by changing actions. Double-loop learning occurs when mismatches are corrected by first examining and altering the governing variables and then the actions. Governing ariables are the preferred states that individuans strive to “satisfice” when they are acting. These governing variabes are not the underlying beliefs or values people espouse. They are the ten have, Steven en Wouter, Verandering,over het doordacht werken aan de organisatie, Uitgeverij Nieuwezijds, 2004 4 Argyris, C. ,On organisational learning, Blackwell Publishing, 2004 3

variables that can be inferred, by observing the actions of individuals acting as agents for the organisation, to drive and guide their actions. This is where intervention shows up. In case you don’t handle the double –loop thinking, you become a servant of the status quo!!

In his “Intervention theory and method: a behavioral science view, Argyris presents 3 methods of intervention: 1. To rely on knowledge and know-how already present in an intervener. Success is pretty much guaranteed as the proven methods put a client at ease. 2. To use in a creative manner a combination of different sources of existing knowledge of an intervener from previous situations. This requires more time than the first approach. 3. A third approach builds on the first two methods: to combine sources of knowledge of an intervener with those of a client. In this way, an intervention helps a client to understand a problem and the intervention contributes to the theoretical knowledge base of an intervener. This approach is less common, but should be preferred over the first 2 methods.

The joint development of conceptual models not only helps the client, but is also useful for future cases an intervener has to deal with. In this way, an intervener tries to translate specific issues of a client to generally applicable rules and views the various interventions and strategies of change as complementary. Harrison, R.5 sees the different methods and strategies for change as complementary . He does not consider the methods as different ways of doing the same thing, but rather as different ways of doing different things. Harrison contends there is a need for a conceptual model that indicates which strategy is suitable for which problem. A distinction in this regard might be the depth of the intervention at an individual, emotional level.

Harrison explains depth according to 5 strategies: 1. Operations analysis: this approach (very little depth) addresses the use of roles and functions within an organisation. The strategy is aimed at bringing about change in the relationship between the different roles. The assumption is that people are exchangeable to a significant degree. Thus, relevant skills, needs and values of people within an organisation should be discernable. Harrison, R. Choosing the depth of Organisational Intervention , Journal of applied Behavioral Science, 181-200 5

2. Management by objectives: (an approach with a little more depth) This approach addresses the individual results. The individual and the manager agree on the services to be provided. The process (how to achieve those results) remains latent. 3. Instrumental process analysis: This strategy does address the process: what is someone’s work style and what is its influence on others within an organisation? A particular person is the focus of attention: what stimulates and curbs someone’s performance and how can negotiations be conducted between groups and individuals in order to achieve better results through work behaviour and work relationships?

4. Interpersonal relationships: . (this approach exhibits a great deal of depth). The intervention focuses on feelings co-workers have vis-à-vis each other and is aimed at improving teamwork. 5. Intra-personal analysis: (deepest level of intervention). A person is hit in their core with the aim of gaining more insight into the inner self as well as into relationships with ‘significant others’.

The level of depth has different effects on an organisation: The more depth a method has, the more difficult the intervention is. The more depth there is, the more personal the result is, the less transferable it is. As an intervention becomes more personal, the amount of available information shrinks. The predictability of the outcome of an intervention decreases as the depth of an intervention increases.

Conclusion: there should not be more depth than necessary to obtain a long-lasting solution to the current problems.



Whenever there is talk of change or change is in the air, resistance is just around the corner. It is important to ascertain where exactly processes of change are bogged down and what the underlying dynamics are. Boonstra frequently attributes resistance to blocked relationship patterns. Van de Loo makes a slight differentiation and describes resistance as non-rational reactions and specifically relationships suffering from a non-open, safe and insular environment.

Kotter & Schlesinger6, Readings in Managerial Psychology, 1989, 664-678, lay out a strategic approach to organisation change. Major changes and a low tolerance level in coworkers cause resistance. Managers are aware of the role played by resistance but few take that into account in defining the approach. The 4 most common reasons for resistance are: 1. Parochial self-interest: employees believe they are losing something valuable. Self-interest is placed above the company’s interest. This type of resistance often is reflected in subtle, political behaviour that is exhibited before and during a change if the interests of a co-worker or of a group of co-workers do not match the organisation’s interest.

2. Misunderstanding and lack of trust: If co-workers do not understand the consequences and believe there will be more downsides than upsides to a change, they may also fee resistance. It is therefore key to clarify ambiguities as quickly as possible and to inspire as much trust as possible. 3; Different assessments: This situation often is created when different groups have different information available. Employees may get the impression that a change will have more drawbacks than benefits, both for themselves and for the entire organisation. 4. Low tolerance for change: This type of resistance stems from uncertainty and fear over not meeting the demands in terms of new skills and behaviour, even as co-workers realise change will be beneficial. There is also the fear over loss of face if change is perceived as doubt over previous activities.

Major changes and low tolerance for change on the part of co-workers breed resistance. Kotter & Schlesinger identify roughly 6 ways of dealing with resistance (strategy): 1. education and communication: especially in cases where resistance is caused by wrong or insufficient information, education and communication in advance can help reduce the level of resistance as well as the amount of time and effort put in. 2. participation and involvement: involving potential opponents in change can help prevent resistance. Participation leads to commitment.

3. support (training, time off after a heavy period, listening and providing emotional support,..: if it is fear and concern that cause resistance, support is the best medicine. 4. negotiation and agreement: offering incentives to active or political opponents can also reduce resistance. This method is effective if co-workers are losing position. The drawbacks are the high costs and the fact that a manager weakens his position once it becomes apparent that he is open to negotiation. Kotter,J.P. & Schlesinger L.A. , Choosing strategies for change, Readings in Managerial Psychology, 1989, 664-678 6

5. manipulation and co-optation: manipulation boils down to selective use of information; cooptation is to appoint a co-worker to an important post at the time of design or implementation. However, if co-workers feel like they have been misled, this will give rise to even more resistance than had no action been taken. 6. explicit and implicit coercion: to coerce co-workers into accepting change, for instance by threatening dismissal or transfer.

The selection of the method for implementing change depends on the desired speed, the level of planning in advance, the involvement of co-workers as well as the alternatives. To increase the level of success, a manager may do the following: 1. perform an organisation analysis representing the current situation, the problems and their causes. Also, such an analysis provides insight into the speed at which problems should be solved as well as the type of change needed. 2. draw up a list of factors that are important for the change needed.

This will increase the insight into who may put up resistance, why and how much, who has the necessary information, whose cooperation is crucial for the implementation and what the relationship between initiators and co-workers is like. 3. select a strategy of change, based on the analyses set out above. This strategy determines the speed of change and the level of planning and participation. 4. monitor the process of change in order to anticipate unexpected events during the process of change in a timely and adequate manner.

1.3 Leadership

It is becoming more and more evident that the way the human potential is made use of, is the standard to judge the success of an organisation. The outcome of our striving for excellency depends upon the way we manage to offer leadership. Our own staff and employees will decide if our organisation will prosper.

It was Paul Hersey’s challenge to develop a model of leadership that is both practical and based on clear, universal and logical concepts. The model he has developed is called ‘Situational Leadership’7.


Hersey, P., The situational leader, Uitgeverij Business Contact Amsterdam, 2006

In this model first the dimensions ‘Guiding’ and ‘Supporting’ as instruments to influence people have been entered on the two-dimensional chart. By ‘Guiding’ Hersey means actions that instruct people what to do, how and when to do it, and who specifically has to do it. ‘Supporting’ contains listening, encouraging, creating conditions, showing appreciation and empathy. Then the 4 quadrants are entered into the model to show the 4 different styles or manners of leadership.

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