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Strategies for Change

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The general strategy is familiar enough to most people: change is a process of solving problems. Something is not going right, so we diagnose the problem, set some objectives, find a solution, make a decision, implement it and evaluate its worth. Simple. It really is the Rational approach. But not if the problem is my need to have control, your fear of a change which may endanger your security, or our general distrust of one another. Then, say advocates of Human Problem-Solving strategies, we need skillful interventions. We need someone or some process which can help us confront and reduce these hidden obstacles to change. Intervention may come in the form of leadership training. It may involve building an effective problem-solving team. It may focus on the department or on the relationship of the whole organization to its environment. Some intervention tactics, such as organization development or appreciative inquiry are quite psychological in their focus. Others, such as various survey feedback interventions, are more sociological. But all aim to help us deal with the human resistances to change which we may otherwise avoid.

The Human Relations School of business administration, from Elton Mayo and Chester Barnard in the thirties to Rensis Likert and Chris Argyris in the second half of the 20th Century, to the appreciative inquiry movement and many organizational coaching strategies in the 2lst Century, has used this strategy extensively in efforts to improve the functioning of businesses and industry. In his synthesis of the literature in this field, Havelock identifies five basic tenets of this approach. First, the user world (the, person who is to adopt a new idea or practice) is the only sensible place from which to begin to consider utilization. Second, knowledge utilization must include a diagnostic phase where user need is considered and translated into a problem statement. Third, the role of the outsider is primarily to serve as catalyst, collaborator, or consultant on how to plan change and bring about the solution. Fourth, internal knowledge retrieval and the marshalling of internal resource should be given at least equal emphasis with external retrieval. Finally, self-initiation by the user or client system creates the best motivational climate for lasting change.

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