Few! What kind of title is this?
Chris Argyris is a renown expert on Organizational Learning and he developed an explanation of change resistance as a difference existing between what he calls the “espoused theories” of people and their “theory in use”. You can read more about that on infed.org.
Espoused theories can be anything that got the interest of a manager (for the purpose of this post). An acknowledged need for change is a form of espoused theory. There may be different methods for conducting the change but I’m not going to talk about the ones where all the change management burden is shifted on some dedicated people, maybe external to the company (consultants). It’s known that few of them succeed at bringing the change to an end. I’m more interested in those (few) cases where a manager espoused the theory that he needs to lead the change himself. Indeed, although that looks like the best way to conduct a change, my thinking led me to discover what appears to be a risk of things not going that well (the so-called “change resistance”).
Argyris told us is that despite espoused-theories are numerous, the theory-in-use always is quite the same, of the Model I kind (see article on infed.org), which is governed by four main values:
- Achieve the purpose as the actor defines it (ie. “stick to the letter”)
- Win, do not lose
- Suppress negative feelings
- Emphasize rationality
The main consequences of these values (again, according to Argyris) are:
- Defensive relationships
- Low freedom of choice
- Reduced production of valid information
- Little public testing of ideas
(you can read all of that on the excellent infed.org page about Chris Argyris alongside with the Model II governing values that would prevent these consequences and benefit to the organization).
So, what is the point of view of the people impacted by the change (employees mainly, subordinates to the manager that espoused the change)?