At its core, facilitating organizational change is about energizing the right people to design and execute smart strategies. As sociologist Philip Selznik says: “Strategies take on value only as committed people infuse them with energy.”
Simply put, all organizational change is envisioned and enacted by committed, engaged, and at times, adventurous people. While energized people are required for change to happen, more often than not, people don’t start out that way. At the onset of any given change initiative, approximately 10% of the target population will be energized supporters, another 10% will be staunch resistors and the remaining majority will take a wait and see approach. While these bystanders are not active saboteurs, they are not energized to exert the necessary effort to make change happen. This too is resistance.
And so, for every planned change effort, small or system wide, we should expect resistance. It is a normal and natural human reaction to change. In fact, people resist for good reasons. People simply may not have enough data and information to understand the why, what and how of the change; this is informational resistance. Alternatively, people may resist for personal reasons; they may feel a sense of loss of familiar work patterns and relationships, or fear that they may fail or lose power, control, and status. Or the resistance may be more culturally based; people may believe that the change can’t possibly work in their organization; they may fear that the leadership are not capable or committed to the change goals or they may see the norms and culture rooting people to the status quo. Whatever the possible causes, people are more invested in spending time and energy preserving the status quo and the devil they know.
If we as change agents forge ahead and try to make the change happen, and fast, we feel its full force. When the going gets tough, and it always does, it is we who must solve all the problems, configure all the workarounds, and remove all the barriers. While we expend much energy, just like the mythical Greek king, Sisyphus, we never make any real headway.
A Better Way: Dannemiller’s DxVxF>R
Building on the pivotal work of Richard Beckhard (1969), who recognized that for change to occur, people must experience a greater pull towards the change than the pull they feel from the status quo, Dannemiller and her associates (1994) created a change process designed to energize a critical mass of stakeholders to accept and create change. Her change process is built on the notion that for change to occur, people must have a deep appreciation for the why, what, and how of the change, or DxVxF as they describe as follows:
Our version states that for change to occur, the product of dissatisfaction with the present situation (D), a vision of what is possible (V), and first steps to reach the vision (F) must be greater than resistance to change (R). If any element is missing, the product will be zero. Since we all resist change to some extent, if the product is zero we will not overcome resistance and no change will occur. In other words, if people are able to absorb new information, they will see the world differently (paradigm shift) and, once their paradigm shifts, their behaviour will change as a result.1
What is the best way to create DxVxF?
There is no substitute to engaging people in critical conversations with colleagues, customers, suppliers and experts to explore and identify the many reasons for change, the desired possibilities for the future and the paths to getting there. Building a critical mass of support through DxVxF creates leverage. It is a strategy that enables change agents to join with people, to make them all smart about why change, to what and how.
Working with change leadership teams over the years, one of most compelling insights that I’ve had, is that if you spend time creating D and V, you will create the spark for working at warp speed when you reach F – or implementation. That’s because when people have a deep appreciate of why change is necessary (D), and what the ideal solution encompasses (V), they know what to do; the right actions (F) are embedded in their DNA. That’s why a brilliant diagnosis made by a select few may be a waste of time if it does not resonate with the people who need to make it happen. In many ways, change is all about learning, and doing the diagnosis is a critical step. You need to think carefully about who needs to be engaged in real learning for the change to succeed.
The simple truth is that energy for change is a product of the process that we use to lead change. When our process enables the right people to embrace the big questions about why change and to what, and to stay in a place of uncertainty and confusion while we collect data and sort out the answers, we create the basis for real learning, sound decisions and speedy implementation.
1 Dannemiller Tyson Associates, Inc. Real Time Strategic Change: a consultant guide to large scale meetings. Page 6.
Maurer, Rick. Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Unconventional Strategies That Build Support for Change. Bard Press, 1996