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Posts tagged ‘change management’

Social Psychology – Minority Influence

Answers the Question

Can a numerical minority influence the attitudes of the majority?

How it Began

In many of the conformity studies described so far it was a minority group who were conforming to the majority. Moscovici (1976, 1980) argued along different lines. He claimed that Asch (1951) and others had put too much emphasis on the notion that the majority in a group has a large influence on the minority. In his opinion, it is also possible for a minority to influence the majority. In fact Asch agreed with Moscovici. He too felt that minority influence did occur, and that it was potentially a more valuable issue to study – to focus on why some people might follow minority opinion and resist group pressure.

Moscovici argues that majority influence tends to be based on public compliance. It is likely to be a case of normative social influence. In this respect, power of numbers is important – the majority have the power to reward and punish with approval and disapproval. And because of this there is pressure on minorities to conform.

Minority Influence

Since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence is rarely based on normative social influence. Instead, it is usually based on informational social influence – providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views. In this respect, minority influence involves private acceptance (i.e. internalization)- converting the majority by convincing them that the minority’s views are right.

Key Terminology

Minority influence – a form of social influence that is attributed to exposure to a consistent minority position in a group.

Behavioural Style – a correlated set of individual behavioural and physiological characteristics that is consistent over time and across situations.

Style of Thinking – the way individuals think, perceive and remember information

Flexibility – contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values

Identification – a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides

In Brief

Minority influence is generally felt only after a period of time, and tends to produce private acceptance of the views expressed by the minority.

An important real-life example of a minority influencing a majority was the suffragette movement in the early years of the 20th century. A relatively small group of suffragettes argued strongly for the initially unpopular view that women should be allowed to vote. The hard work of the suffragettes, combined with the justice of their case, finally led the majority to accept their point of view.

Moscovic made a distinction between compliance and conversion. Compliance is common in conformity studies (e.g. Asch) whereby the participants publicly conform to the group norms but privately reject them. Conversion involves how a minority can influence the majority. It involves convincing the majority that the minority views are correct. This can be achieved a number of different ways (e.g. consistency, flexibility). Conversion is different to compliance as it usually involves both public and private acceptance of a new view or behavior (i.e. internalization).

Four main factors have been identified as important for a minority to have an influence over a majority.  These are behavioural style, style of thinking, flexibility, and identification.

Behavioural Style

This comprises 4 components:

  1. Consistency: The minority must be consistent in their opinion
  2. Confidence in the correctness of ideas and views they are presenting
  3. Appearing to be unbiased
  4. Resisting social pressure and abuse

Moscovici (1969) stated that the most important aspect of behaviuoral style is the consistency with which people hold their position. Being consistent and unchanging in a view is more likely to influence the majority than if a minority is inconsistent and chops and changes their mind.

Moscovici (1969) investigated behavioural styles (consistent / inconsistent) on minority influence in his blue-green studies. He showed that a consistent minority was more successful than an inconsistent minority in changing the views of the majority.

Consistency may be important because:

  • Confronted with a consistent opposition, members of the majority will sit up, take notice, and rethink their position.
  • Consistency gives the impression that the minority are convinced they are right and are committed to their viewpoint.
  • Also, when the majority is confronted with someone with self-confidence and dedication to take a popular stand and refuses to back own, they may assume that he or she has a point.
  • A consistent minority disrupts established norms and creates uncertainty, doubt and conflict. This can lead to the majority taking the minority view seriously. The majority will therefore be more likely to question their own views.

In order to change the majorities view the minority has to propose a clear position and has to defend and advocate its position consistently.

Style of Thinking

  • Identify three or four minority groups (e.g. asylum seekers, British National Party etc.)
  • How do you think and respond to each of these minority groups and the views they put forward?
  • Do you dismiss their views outright or think about what they have to say and discuss their views with other people?

If you dismiss the views of other people without giving them much thought, you would have engaged in superficial thought / processing.  By contrast, if you had thought deeply about the views being put forward, you would have engaged in systematic thinking / processing (Petty et al., 1994).  Research has shown that if a minority can get the majority to think about an issue and think about arguments for and against, then the minority stands a good chance of influencing the majority (Smith et al., 1996).

If the minority can get the majority to discuss and debate the arguments that the minority are putting forward, influence is likely to be stronger (Nemeth, 1995).

Flexibility and Compromise

A number of researchers have questioned whether consistency alone is sufficient for a minority to influence a majority. They argue that the key is how the majority interprets consistency. If the consistent minority are seen as inflexible, rigid, uncompromising and dogmatic, they will be unlikely to change the views of the majority. However, if they appear flexible and compromising, they are likely to be seen as less extreme, as more moderate, cooperative and reasonable. As a result, they will have a better chance of changing majority views (Mugny & Papastamou, 1980).

Some researchers have gone further and suggested that it is not just the appearance of flexibility and compromise which is important but actual flexibility and compromise.

This possibility was investigated by Nemeth (1986). The experiment was based on a mock jury in which groups of three participants and one confederate had to decide on the amount of compensation to be given to the victim of a ski-lift accident. When the consistent minority (the confederate) argued for a very low amount and refused to change his position, he had no effect on the majority. However, when he compromised and moved some way towards the majority position, the majority also compromised and changed their view.

This experiment questions the importance of consistency. The minority position changed, it was not consistent, and it was this change that apparently resulted in minority influence.

Identification

People tend to identity with people they see similar to themselves. For example, men tend to identify with men, Asians with Asians, teenagers with teenagers etc. Research indicates that if the majority identifies with the minority, then they are more likely to take the views of the minority seriously and change their own views in line with those of the minority.

For example, one study showed that a gay minority arguing for gay rights had less influence on a straight majority than a straight minority arguing for gay rights (Maass et al., 1982). The non-gay majority identified with the non-gay minority. They tended to see the gay minority as different from themselves, as self-interested and concerned with promoting their own particular cause.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Social influence is key to managerial effectIveness and an integral part of working in teams and organizations. Members of organizations rely on one another to validate their views of the world, they seek and maintain norms and values about what they deem appropriate or not, and they influence one another to serve theIr personal or group interests.

As an OD practitioner very often you begin in a position of minority dissent which means you will be publicly advocating and,pursing beliefs, attitudes, Ideas, procedures, and policies that go against organizational norms or the “spirit of the times” and challenge the position or perspective assumed by the majority.

Levine and Kaarbo argued that in political decision-making groups four types of minorities may be distinguished.

  1. Progressive minorities advance a new perspective and seek to convince the majority of its value.
  2. Conservative minorities attempt to block the majorities’ tendency to adopt a new, progressive perspective.
  3. Modernist minorities try to block the majorities’ tendency to return to previously held attitudes and policies,
  4. Reactionary minorities try to persuade the majority to return to previously help opinions and perspectives.

Each of these four minority groups can be found in organizational life, and can either help, or hinder an OD intervention, and as an OD practitioner a lot of of your time will be spent as a Progressive or Modernist Minority, whilst trying to overcome the objections of the Conservative and Reactionary minorities who will try and sabotage your efforts.

If the norms of groups with which you are working are no longer effective, start a minority group. If possible, ensure the progressive or modernist minority group controls a critical resource or other form of effective influence which can be used to prevent rejection or punishment.  Minority influence is more likely to occur if the point of view of the minority is consistent, flexible, and appealing to the majority. Having a consistent and unwavering opinion will increase the appeal to the majority, leading to a higher chance of adaption to the minority view. However, any wavering opinions from the minority group could lead the majority to dismiss the minority’s claims and opinions.  An effective approach is to accumulate ‘brownie points’ by first supporting the majority, and then branching out. With applied skill, you can take a number of others with you.

A study by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret Neale (2005) shows that having the support from the majority leader could be the critical factor is getting the minority opinion to be heard and be accepted. The support of the leader gives the majority more confidence in the merit of the minority opinion, leading to an overall respect for the minority. The strength of the “key people” (Van Avermaet, 1996) comes from the reputation built from their consistency of behaviours and ideas. Involving key people will benefit the minority view because people are more open to hear from others who they trust and respect. In minority influence, a few influential leaders can influence the opposing majority to the minority’s way of thinking. In the end, having a more supportive and active minority group could lead to innovative and better decision making

You can also remain in the main group and quietly support minority groups who can be used to do things you could not otherwise perform. Where you are in the main group and have an influential minority, seek ways of either accommodating or circumventing conservative and reactionary minorities. You can also seek to divide and conquer, sowing seeds of discontent within the minority group.

Source – http://www.simplypsychology.org/minority-influence.html

Social Psychology – Conflicting Beliefs

Answers the Question

Why people have a bias to seek agreement between their expectations and reality?

How it Began

In 1954 Leon Festinger was working on a new theory of cognitive dissonance.  The theory focused on the view of the social world from the perspective of the individual.  Cognition was viewed as being any attitude, behaviour or emotion that made up a mental representation of the social world within an individuals mind.  Festinger’s research focused on how individual perceptions of other people, social groups and the physical world were cognitive representations and how inconsistency between the representation and reality causes the individual discomfort which in term drives attempts by the individual to reduce the inconsistency.

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Festinger’s interest in a headline regarding a group, called the Seekers led by Mrs Keech.  The group believed the world would end on 21st December 1955, as a result of messages received by Mrs Keech through Automatic writing.   Festinger predicted that the failure of a space ship to arrive to take them to safety would create a condition of cognitive dissonance, resulting in the group members experiencing an tension which was unpleasant and that they would find a way to reduce it.  Festinger predicted that because of the commitment to the belief the Seekers would persist in their belief, becoming more evangelical than before.

The events of the night 21st December 2013 are described in Festinger’s paper When Prophecy Fails. He describes the reactions of the group to the failed prophecy.  The result was that Mrs Keech was ‘summoned’ to receive another message.  The message confirmed the belief system of the group.  The group was being tested and their goodness of the group had prevented the cataclysm from occurring.  A second message commanded the group to spread the message, which they duly did, phoning the newspapers and other news services that they could think of.

Therefore the discrepancy between the original belief that the world would end, and the cognitive dissonance caused by the world not ending was therefore overcome by the belief that the small group of believers had saved the world from destruction.

The impact of the study was enormous and a decade of research following the original study showed that dissonance theory was substantially correct but there were some limitations to the theory which meant that the theory had to change.

Key Terminology

Cognitive Dissonance – the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel “disequilibrium”: frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, etc. Festinger, L. (1957)

Belief disconfirmation paradigm – happens when an individual is presented with information which conflicts with their beliefs. If the individual is unable to change their beliefs the conflict experienced could result in a rejection or denial of the conflicting information. A person unable to resolve the conflict will seek others sharing a similar belief to restore agreement of thoughts.

Induced-compliance paradigm – The induced-compliance paradigm is when a person internalizes an attitude that they were encouraged to express because they had no other justification.

Free Choice Paradigm – When making a difficult decision, there are things about the choice we don’t make that we find appealing and these features are dissonant with choosing something else. By choosing X, you are dissonant about the things you like about Y.

Effort Justification Paradigm – Dissonance occurs whenever individuals voluntarily engage in an unpleasant activity to achieve a desired goal. One way of reducing dissonance is by the individual exaggerating how desirable the goal is.

In Brief

Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and we make efforts to avoid disharmony (or dissonance).

Cognitive dissonance refers to any situation which involves conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. This conflict in turn produces a feeling of discomfort which results in an alteration in one of the held attitudes, beliefs or behaviours to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

The mismanagement of cognitive dissonance is a root cause of many problems in the workplace, especially when it comes to conflict management, bullying and performance management. What we think and do when confronted with two or more conflicting beliefs drive behaviour within the organizational setting. For example, we all make mistakes and therefore have to confront the conflict – I am a good person but I did something bad. And we get plenty of mixed signals, especially in change settings where there is a need for individuals to take more creative risks but the support system and environment embeds the belief that the risks won’t succeed.

Cognitive dissonance is especially powerful, and can make the workplace extremely uncomfortable for individuals and teams when the conflicting beliefs are about ourselves. To relieve the discomfort we may self justify or rationalize, which may involve making excuses for our bad behaviour or shifting blame rather than owning up. This behaviour can lead to good people falling into unethical or unwanted behaviour patterns which have far reaching consequences in regards to performance.

As Organization Development practitioners we need to be able to spot when cognitive dissonance sits at the root of organizational problems and then find productive ways to vent the discomfort associated with it.  This may included focused conversations, open space technology or game storming to open up communication and create space for perceptions to be aired and explored.

In general an OD intervention will need to promote and help individuals to own mistakes, and create a process to manage the discomfort associated with cognitive dissonance by role-modelling and advocating honesty, openness, feedback and a ‘no blame’ culture as positive and necessary components of a healthy workplace.

 

Organization Development – The Humanistic Approach to Change

Human resource theory, which is the foundation of organization development and behaviour dates back to the 1927 Hawthorne experiments.  The experiments set out to investigate methods in which organizational efficiency could be improved through the use of scientific principles to redesign the organizational environment.

Using a mixture of technology, work flow rational, and work performance applications the experiments developed an early foray into open-systems theory and organization design, but also led to further work in the area of socio-psychological factors that contribute to effectiveness in performance.  As the social sciences became more sophisticated a greater understanding of factors such as leadership style, attitudes, situational and group dynamics and motivational relationships contributed to a growing body of work regarding the alignment of individual and organizational needs and the impact on resulting performance.

OD emerged from the 1950s as a distinctive discipline of change management which focused on the human elements of the planned change process that progress from problem identification, intervention and evaluation.  The process demands the application of a variety of techniques designed to deal with the organizational problem through utilising the power of the individual employee.

Profoundly research exposed that it was not enough for organizational leaders to give orders, and assume that change starts from a place of stability and consensus.  Rather, that people are active agents within an organizational environment which is characterized by conflict, fluidity and change.  Therefore the capturing creativity through social means is a key to driving organizational change.

The unique ability of the human mind to create new out of old, through dialogue, interaction and activity is central to the concept of creativity.  The characterisation of a great idea being the result of a light bulb moment, dismisses the level of interaction and subsequent ruminating that leads to the connections being made.

Making assumptions that any change is as a result of a neat linear set of processes and interactions, dominated by a strategic plan managed by senior leadership cleanses the truly holistic and messy nature of change as a social phenomenon.

OD therefore can be summarised as a synthesis of systems thinking, founded and entrenched in behavioural research and dedicated to humanistic principles.  The OD process is informed and enlivened by a number of methods, including; Organizational Diagnosis, Action Research, Group Dynamics, Process Consultation and Change Theory. Central to the OD intervention is the idea of planned change through people, focusing on consensus building and participative methods of management.

 

The Development of Culture Change

It’s interesting working in the arena of organization development. All to often managers are confounded by the fact that the employees resist any form of change whether the changes are better for the organization, will secure their jobs, and will most probably make the employees lives better.

Organizations spend thousands of pounds and many hours putting together information packs and communication plans to explain the changes, but no amount of information, no matter how rational, will seeming move those who chose not to be moved. What is more frustrating is that those who refuse to toe and line, and who engage in acts of corporate terrorism will be able to justify their bad behaviour with a perfectly rational and logic line of reasoning– even if the rational remains unreasonable. Further investigation will also unveil the truth, which is that the most reluctant will invent fabrications about the real motives of those trying to push for change, even if those reasons are nothing more than lying to ourselves.

Human behaviour, the mind and each individual’s personality are nothing if not curious and fascinating.

You see we don’t like to consider ourselves as being irrational. We need to deceive ourselves into believing that our bad behaviour is rational. If we are unable to cope with a current situation we may begin to regress, acting out like a petulant teenager, or we might use a displacement defence where we know we have to be strong, so we take out our frustration on a process of change that makes us feel fearful. Finally we might take hide from, and refuse to acknowledge the change that we are experiencing by repressing that which we are finding intolerable from our conscious mind and continuing as if nothing has changed at all.

Social Psychologist Leon Festinger described the discomfort we feel when we modify our beliefs so that we can make two contradictory ideas compatible as ‘cognitive dissonance.’ The more we believe that we are right in our belief that the change is bad, the more effort we will put into proving that we are right – and any information is used to confirm the rightness of our beliefs. If we are lying to ourselves we must in someway justify our lie to continue believing that we are a good person. (Rosenburg, 2011)

Culture or rather ‘the way we do things around here’ exacerbates the cognitive dissonance that individuals develop during a change programme.  The effectiveness of an organization can be seriously compromised if efforts to make changes conflicts with an organization’s norms, standards, working practices and values, potential creating conflict and toxicity around the change efforts.

Take for example the current context of the environmental peril that our planet is in. If we don’t change the way we do things then our grandchildren will quite possible face extinction. The problem is that we have accepted the truth of ‘plenty’ and of not having to count the external costs of our actions for such a long time that the rules and expectations of 21st Century human culture, especially in the Western World is currently stopping us from acting rationally in the best interests of our long term survival.  Organization’s can face similar problems in areas that are in obvious need of change, possibly where the way things are done around here is causing the organization to lose business or damage its reputation and yet still change efforts are met with resistance.

Since we are social creatures, doing things differently, changing to such an extent means that we have to go outside group norms. For example the terms Tree Hugger, eco-warrior and nature loving hippy have for a long time been used as insults and denote that the person acting with a belief structure that puts the environment first is in someway uncivilised. Even those organizations that are pursuing green and environmentally friendly agendas wrap their actions up in more acceptable business language of sustainability, Plan A and corporate social responsibility, it goes against our culture that these organizations should say that they care about the planet.

If you are trying to implement a change programme, it is important to consider how people are acting as a group, not just individually. When individuals are unsure how to behave they will look to the community of which they are part to understand what the norms are, which are usually driven by their peers. If there is someone who strongly represents the group displaying signs of cognitive dissonance, then that will determine what reaction the group will have as a whole to the change situation.

Individuals who have a lot lose and in the current hierarchy are in a privileged position will seek to maintain the traditions that keep them in a position of privilege, regardless of the expense to others. Destructive behaviour in a change situation will always be strongest where individuals who fear change the most are in a position of influence within the wider community.

To make the change your organization seeks, it is essential that you first understand those who are key stakeholders, and help them to transition their thinking prior to any change programme happening. That way the individuals who have most impact on cultural norms can help the group express their reaction to change, which in turn will help make the change journey smooth.

Organization Development offers an alternative to the ‘information centric’ approach to change management.  Rather than a top down change that tells people how to think and act, organization development takes the organization on a journey of discovery.  Leaders are taught to role model, coach and teach so they can reflect the change that is being asked for.  For individual employees, OD interventions create safe places for them to consider the areas of thinking and belief structures that might need to change, and provides the tools for the individual to make that change themselves.  For groups it helps transition the change through careful facilitation of groups dynamics to help the group help each other make the transition.  Finally, OD considers the reinforcement mechanisms within the organization, processes and systems which will support the culture change going forward, and removing barriers to the successful change.

OD Practitioner considerations for Culture Change

  1. Know the business beyond an organization chart and what the leaders tell you.  Investigate, question and discover;  How are things done? What makes the organization tick?  What is the underlying rhythm of the business?
  2. If you don’t know find out, and use the right OD tools for the situation.
  3. BE the change, coach, mentor and position yourself as a conduit of change.
  4. Ensure Change goals are relevant, and focused on people relationships and behaviour especially in regards to how processes and systems within the organization reinforce or inhibit people processes.
  5. Support leaders to create the climate for change
  6. Develop plans that reward behaviours that reinforce the desired culture change but also manage areas where there is reversion to old behaviours.
  7. Handle uncertainty and ambiguity with confidence.
  8. Use methods that work on both the mind, in regards to intellectual stimulation but also the heart, in regards to emotion.
  9. Create experiences and opportunities for people to explore new behaviours within a positive framework
  10. Always develop methods that reinforce new ways of working.

The Relevance of Power and Politics to OD

Organization Development at it’s heart is a collaboration process which encourages each individual within the organization to make decisions that affect their own future and that of the organization, to #bethechange.

Power and the politics that affect who wields power within the organizational setting therefore has the ability to help the OD change programme achieve its aims or derail the work of the OD practitioner.

There are four key approaches to power that an OD practitioner must incorporate within each phase of the OD cycle;

  1. Build an OD power base that gives access to the OD practitioner to those in power within the organization
  2. Influence key stakeholders in a transparent process, addressing key issues in a way that is creative and efficient than traditional organizational politicking.
  3. Assist the transformation of the existing power structures to make change sticky
  4. Champion and uphold the interests of those affected by changes who don’t have the power to protect themselves.

It would be naive to expect the OD practitioner to enter the organizational system without addressing power and politics.  Any organization is part of a system which relies on an exchange of mutual dependence to achieve results.  This requires the OD practitioner to understand and interact with the complex structures of social exchange which exist within the organizational setting in order to help release the talent potential, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

Within each organizational setting their are core people who are involved in critical activities that need to be challenged and supported throughout the OD process. In order to develop mutual understanding throughout the organization the OD practitioner must carefully negotiate the power positions and brokers in order to enlist their help to lead the change whilst at the same time diminish the existing power base in order to develop a holistic interdependence required for organizational success.

In addition to addressing the existing power bases, the OD practitioner will need to deliberate create and develop their own centres of power throughout the organization to orchestrate the impact needed to create success within the client system.  In addition the OD practitioner must develop a positive framework  in order to role model the ethical use of power and politics going forward.

 Key Points

  • Power is a key element of organizational life
  • Knowing how power is distributed will help you get things done
  • Organizational morale may be impacted by feelings of powerlessness, OD can create a context in which permission is given for the disenfranchised to be empowered
  • Authority of knowledge is just as important as the authority of role in organizational decision making
  • OD practitioners are perfectly placed to help shift the organization from negative to positive forms of power, building a healthy and effective organizational system

Applying the use of Power in OD

  1. During the diagnostic stage investigate and understand how power works in decsion making, resource allocation, conflict and sponsorship.
  2. Map the proportion of the workforce who are disenfranchised, have positional power and where the power centres (informal and formal) exist
  3. Explore the operation of the informal power network and power sources and tap into the networks that can effectively support change.
  4. Build and maintain alliances with key stakeholders and power brokers to drive through and sponsor the change efforts, whilst sharing power with those who are disenfranchised in the current power structure.
  5. Show people how to make things happen and coach them so that they can support themselves and make a positive impact on the organization’s performance.
  6. Help move the organization towards greater levels of collaboration and interdependence by positively demonstrating the effectiveness of greater cooperation in making things happen.
  7. A key part of the OD programme will be to develop healthy and positive power use which contributes to a work environment which nurtures and releases the potential within the organization.