Five different broad approaches to effecting change were identified by Thurley and Wirdenius (1973) and summarised by Lockitt (2004).
- Directive strategies
This strategy highlights the manager’s right to manage change and the use of authority to impose change with little or no involvement of other people. The advantage of the directive approach is that change can be undertaken quickly. However, the disadvantage of this approach is that it does not take into consideration the views, or feelings, of those involved in, or affected by, the imposed change. This approach may lead to valuable information and ideas being missed and there is usually strong resentment from staff when changes are imposed rather than discussed and agreed.
- Expert strategies
This approach sees the management of change as a problem solving process that needs to be resolved by an ‘expert’. This approach is mainly applied to more technical problems, such as the introduction of a new learner management system, and will normally be led by a specialist project team or senior manager. There is likely to be little involvement with those affected by the change. The advantages to using this strategy is that experts play a major role in the solution and the solution can be implemented quickly as a small number of ‘experts’ are involved. Again, there are some issues in relation to this strategy as those affected may have different views than those of the expert and may not appreciate the solution being imposed or the outcomes of the changes made.
- Negotiating strategies
This approach highlights the willingness on the part of senior managers to negotiate and bargain in order to effect change. Senior managers must also accept that adjustments and concessions may need to be made in order to implement change. This approach acknowledges that those affected by change have the right to have a say in what changes are made, how they are implemented and the expected outcomes. The disadvantage to this approach is that it takes more time to effect change, the outcomes cannot be predicted and the changes made may not fulfil the total expectations of the managers affecting the change. The advantage is that individuals will feel involved in the change and be more supportive of the changes made.
- Educative strategies
This approach involves changing people’s values and beliefs, ‘winning hearts and minds’, in order for them to fully support the changes being made and move toward the development of a shared set of organisational values that individuals are willing, and able to support. A mixture of activities will be used; persuasion; education; training and selection, led by consultants, specialists and in-house experts. Again, the disadvantage of this approach is that it takes longer to implement. The advantage is that individuals within the organisation will have positive commitment to the changes being made.
- Participative strategies
This strategy stresses the full involvement of all of those involved, and affected by, the anticipated changes. Although driven by senior managers the process will be less management dominated and driven more by groups or individuals within the organisation. The views of all will be taken into account before changes are made. Outside consultants and experts can be used to facilitate the process but they will not make any decisions as to the outcomes. The main disadvantages of this process are the length of time taken before any changes are made, it can be more costly due to the number of meetings that take place, the payment of consultants/experts over a longer time period and the outcomes cannot be predicted. However, the benefits of this approach are that any changes made are more likely to be supported due to the involvement of all those affected, the commitment of individuals and groups within the organisation will increase as those individuals and groups feel ownership over the changes being implemented. The organisation and individuals also have the opportunity to learn from this experience and will know more about the organisation and how it functions, thus increasing their skills, knowledge and effectiveness to the organisation.
© 3T Productions Ltd. 2004
The five change strategies are not mutually exclusive and a range of strategies can be employed to effect change. Part of the skill of effective change management is to recognise what strategy/ies to employ, when, where and how to use them. Other issues such as health and safety, accessibility and union representation may also need to be taken into consideration when deciding what strategy to adopt.
You can probably already judge that some of these approaches are less likely to be successful than others in the education environment. Indeed we would take a more negative view than Lockitt as to whether the ‘expert’ approach could be applied to an IT system implementation especially where the system was to be used by, or impacted upon, the academic community.
Key to this is the issue that ‘those affected may have different views than those of the expert’. It would be overly cynical to state that we operate in an environment where ‘everybody is an expert’ because there may be very valid reasons why different stakeholders hold very different views.
Don’t try and make “one size fit all”. Teaching staff are professionals and, once engaged, will come up with a wide diversity of ideas and approaches.
Professor, Post ’92 University