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Posts tagged ‘Leadership and Management Development’

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

Systems Thinking – Organization Development

It is very easy when embarking on the subject of systems thinking to begin the discussing with a metaphor about ecology or the human body.  We are familiar with the requirement to keep ecologies in balance to ensure that life is sustained.  But how often do we really think about the wider impact of our actions?

Certainly in most households in the UK, citizens now recycle because local councils have been set targets in regards to the percentage of waste that is recycles.  So we dutifully sort our waste into paper, plastics, metals, garden waste, food waste and finally general waste and hope that we have sorted it correctly so that we don’t end up with our refuse sitting on the pavement outside our house when we return from work.  But do we ever think about what happens to the recycling once it is collected?  When choosing an energy company we might opt to choose a provider who generates green electricity, and over the last ten years, with rising energy prices we have bought into energy saving devices, and yet we still put the heating on to warm the whole house, even though we are occupying only one room, possibly for the whole day.  When we eat, we may choose organic foods and even be aware of the country of origin but do we consider the lives of the people who produced the food we eat.

In reality, we know about systems, and we do change behaviours where it suits our self-interest and lifestyle to do so, but we rarely think deeply about the system in which we live.  Organizations are no different.  They may recycle their paper, and have energy saving systems throughout the building, they may even be aware of their carbon footprint, but they rarely act in a manner that shows true awareness of the holistic nature of their dealings, including the impact the organization is having on the lives of those who are employed by the organization.

Though there may be policies in place in regards to stress and absence management, very few executives will be aware of the lives of the people who work for them, they may recycle paper, and print double sided for environmental (cost saving) reasons, but they probably wouldn’t have a clue who ordered the paper for the office building in which they work.  Leadership development programmes may have coached them in regards to the personal impact of their behaviours on their peers, manager and line reports, but it is an awareness sought only in the context of increasing the performance of those around them.

In management schools, future organizational leaders are taught about PESTLE and SWOT analysis, they learn about the importance of ‘envrionmental scanning’ and being aware of future trends; but their thinking is limited to the immediate impact on the internal environment – an outside/inside perspective rather than an inside/outside perspective of considering the impact of the organization on the external environment.

It is natural to use a ecology metaphor, but the issue is, human beings only ever consider balance in respect to the impact of change on themselves.  How the stuff that happens ‘outside there’ will force us to change the way we do things, rather than the impact of our actions on the balance of the eco-system as a whole.  The singularity of our thought process, and the centring of balance on our world perspective is a direct result of the individualism and self-interest expressions of the Capitalist marketplace.

Systems are a cyclical process with many players, and a large number of contingencies.  Systems are greater than the simple reciprocal two way relationship that much of organizational efforts are focused on.  The impact of our actions are greater than that of cause and effect.  Like a stone skimmed on water, each touch point we have sends out ripples that disturb the balance of the wider environment.  It is impossible for us to know the true external cost of each and every one of our actions, but being aware that what we do has greater consequences than a simple linear effect is important if we are to successfully manage organizations in a holistic way.

What if organizations conducted a PESTLE and SWOT analysis not from an internal, but an external perspective?  What if the opportunities and threats we pose to the wider environment, both in regards to the natural environment but also politics and society were explored?  How would our analysis differ from the outside/insider perspective.

To be thinking in a systemic way, a different perspective is needed.  We must not concentrate just on the things that effect us, but what effect we have on other people, communities and the environment at large.  It means that we do become interested in more than dealing with the output of our processes but also in how our processes themselves impact the wider environment.  It is more than worrying about keeping customers happy, but ensuring that our suppliers, employees, and the community in which we reside is well cared for, and properly understood.

During the second world war, many Germans who were living in walking distance of the concentration camps had no idea what the regime was doing in their name or the suffering that occurred in the camps – they were blindly ignorant.  Following the ceasefire, the allies made German citizens walk to the concentration camps to see what was being done in their name.  We don’t have the mechanisms to force CEOs or politicians to walk among the fields of despair and destruction that their actions have caused, but we should do everything in our power to ensure that they are mindful of the consequences of their decisions.

A new perspective is required if we are to successfully adopt systems thinking, it is one that relegates self-interest to a secondary place in the priority list and instead provides an outsiders view of our actions.  We can’t always make pure decisions, since we live in a world where compromise and the lesser of two evils might be the only choice available, but there is always room for better and pursuing Doing Good.  Systems thinking forces us to raise our game, and our awareness in regards to the external costs of our actions.  It forces us to think about and confront what happens to our waste further than our street collections and consider the true impact of our actions on others.

Too often business process engineering concentrates on the efficiency of processes and systems in regards to technology and efficiency ratios whilst ignoring the most important part of any system, people.  Sometimes, the right way to do something won’t be the most lean or efficient way in regards to the internal system, but will have the least negative impact in regards to the system as a whole.  If we are to Change for Good, we need to boldly approach our lives, the organizational operations and our political decision with a new perspective, and a different agenda.

 

OD Theory – Field Theory

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioners must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Field Theory in Brief

Developed by Lewin, Field theory is an social science approach which explores the social environment as a dynamic field that impacts individual action and consciousness in interactive way.  By changing elements of the social environment, and in the case of OD, the organisational environment, the individual experiences particular types of psychological forces.  But the relationship is not all one way.  Field Theory also argues that the psychological state of an individual influences the environment that they inhabit.

Therefore the individual and the organisation coexist and are mutually interdependent and the behaviour of an individual is related both to an individual’s personal characteristics and to the social situation in which they find themselves.

According to field theory, if change is to take place, the organisation as a whole has to be taken into account.  If only part of the organisation is considered, only a partial picture of what is really happening within the organisation is likely to develop.

By changing one part of the organisation the intervention will affect another part of the organisation as by product of the changes that have been made.  Changes involve an interaction between the field and the state of other organisational elements.  The field effect involves a ‘force’ will transfer the energy of change in one area to other areas of the organisation.

Key Points

  • The employee and the organisation are interdependent
  • Behaviour is a product of both person and their environment
  • Both the individual and the organisation are important in determining the outcome of any OD intervention
  • It seeks to explain why change occurs in the states of some parts of the organisation that are not the focus of a change effort
  • The organisational environment (the field) is organised and its responses to change are not random.
  • The field itself is not measurable therefore its effects can only be measured by the outcomes.

Applying Field Theory in an OD Intervention

  1. Be aware that your presence and behaviour causes a disturbance in the field and make sure your involvement has a positive impact.
  2. Your diagnostic analysis should focus on the organisation as a whole from which are differentiated the component parts
  3. Ensure that your intervention design is holistic
  4. Build into your design what other elements within the organisation will change as a consequence of the intervention – remember your intervention does no occur in a vacuum.
  5. Utilise the ‘force’ in the organisation in developing your intervention, keep in mind how a small change in one area can have a ripple effect that will move the change process forward positively in other area and help ensure change is sticky.
  6. In evaluating your intervention ensure that you focus on the organisation as whole to monitor unexpected changes in state.
  7. Align the goals of the intervention with the wider organisational goals to ensure that there is congruence between the intervention and the directional forces within the organisation.
  8. Network and onboard individuals from all parts of the organisation into the OD intervention to create a disturbance in the force throughout the organisation.

 

Culture Change and HR’s Role

Organisational culture change has never been more relevant.  The environmental context in which organisations operate is continually changing, and therefore a culture which enables and organisation to be flexible, adaptable and changable is essential.

Fundamentally culture relates to the way we do things around it.  In regards to organisation development, the organisations culture probably has one of the biggest impacts on organisational effectiveness and the opportunity for sustainable performance than any other element of the organisations system.

The problem for organisations is that changing a culture which is damaging the organisations effectiveness is not easy.  If it was, then more change programmes would be successful.  But delving into the shared beliefs and values, the way people think and interact, and more importantly the why they believe and think and act the way they do takes time, effort and resource.  More importantly, there has to be a willingness to explore dark corners, to question everything and to show willingness to examine, without judgement, the shared patterns of behaviour within the organisation.

Culture change cannot be a one off development programme, or a box which is ticked as being done.  Culture is dynamic, and informs the way employees work and perform as well as informing the approach taken in decisions made by leadership teams.  Organisational structures, systems, rules, policies and the behaviour of people interacting with the organisation are all dictated by the organisational culture.

The job of HR and the OD practitioner is to increase awareness of the cultural phenomena within the organisation.  To metaphorically hold a mirror up and play back some of the behaviours that are present and question why these behaviours manifest and the consequences of such behaviour on organisational effectiveness.

By exploring various dimensions on the way the organisation does things, it is possible to understand liminalities within the system that prevent the organisation from being as effective as it could be.

Challenges the the balance of the culture, especially in regards to power, politics and purpose can help rebalance the organisation to ensure that the right influences are impacting decision making and behaviour and are aligned to what it is the organisation is trying to achieve.  In effect, navigating the cultural landscape to to ensure that the organisations ‘way of doing things’ doesn’t impinge on the possibility of success.

Several key HR processes impact an organisations culture including;

  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Leadership Development
  • Talent Management and Succession Planning
  • Learning and Development
  • Reward, Remuneration and Promotion criteria
  • Organisation Design and Structure
  • Organisational Policy including mission statements and values

It is very easy of HR to assume that because the systems exist that there is no requirement to examine HR practices.  But exploring HR practices from the point of view of cultural investigation helps HR to understand whether their practices reinforce unhelp cultural norms that are preventing the organisation from being flexible, adaptable and changable.

Many failures in organisation effectiveness have their root cause in the people processes and practices within the organisation.  What is said is not necessarily what happens, and as a result failure becomes inbuilt into the cultural paradigm.

HR has a powerful position in transforming the cultural climate of an organisation.  But that means that HR managers, and especially OD practitioners pay attention to the ‘way they do things’ in order to ensure that they move the culture of the organisation forward.

Five Core Theories – Lewin’s Change Theories – Organisation Development

There are five core theories that provide a solid foundation for the work that OD practitioners do.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Lewin’s Change Theories in Brief

Lewin developed a unified change theory based on four distinct elements; Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research and the Three step model of Change.  All have been criticised and all are necessary to bring about planned change.

Lewin viewed the social environment as a dynamic field which impacted in an interactive way with human consciousness.  The theories are useful to the OD practitioner in understanding that by adjusting elements of the organisationl environment then particular types of psychological experience predictably ensue.  In turn, the person’s psychological state influences the organisational environment.

Lewin first introduced the idea of Group Dynamics in relation to the study of the interaction of complex intra- and inter-personal forces in the operation of group behaviour which determine the groups character, development, and long-term survival.

Group Dynamics is concerned with determination of laws underlying group behaviour and studies a group’s formation, structure, interaction and behaviourial processes while looking at the group functioning.

Lewin was well known for  “field theory”.  He was perhaps even better known for practical use of his theories in studying group dynamics, solving social problems related to prejudice, and group therapy (t-groups).  Lewin sought to not only describe group life, but to investigate the conditions and forces which bring about change or resist change in groups.

In developing the Field Theory approach, Lewin believed that for change to take place, the total situation has to be taken into account.  If only part of the situation is considered, a misrepresented picture is likely to develop.

The field theory proposes that human behaviour is the function of both the person and the environment, this means that an individuals behaviour is related both to their personal characteristics and to the organisational situation in which they find themself.

Lewin’s three step model of change is related to Field Theory.  The three step model states that organisational change involves a move from one static state via a progressional shift, to another static state. The model, is also known as Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze.

Stage 1: Unfreeze

This stage involves creating the right conditions for change to occur. By resisting change, people often attach a sense of identity to their environment. In this state, alternatives, even beneficial ones, will initially cause discomfort. The challenge is to move people from this ‘frozen’ state to a ‘change ready’ or ‘unfrozen’ state.

Stage 2: Transition

The transitional ‘journey’ is central to Lewin’s model and at the psychological level it is typically a period of confusion. People are aware that the old ways are being challenged, but there is no clear understanding of the new ways which will replace them. As roles change, a reduced state of efficiency is created, where goals are significantly lowered. The end goal of this stage is to get people to the ‘unfrozen’ state and keep them there.

Stage 3: Refreeze

The end goal of the model is to achieve a ‘refreeze’, re-establishing a new place of stability and elevate comfort levels by reconnecting people back into their safe, familiar environment. Refreezing takes people from a period of low productivity in the transitional state to that of organisational effectiveness and sustainable performance.

Key Points

  1. Organisational Behaviour is a function of a person’s personality, the group environment
  2. For change to be effective it must be collaborative and participative, and take place at a group level if individual behaviour is to shift
  3. Concentrate on individual field factors including group norms, roles, interaction and social processes
  4. Refreezing requires changes at a cultural level, to embed new organisaitonal norms, polciies and practices.
  5. Creating dissatisfaction with the status quo will provide th disequilibrium required to drive change.

Applying Lewin’s Change Theories in an OD Intervention

  1. Pay attention to group dynamics and the powerful forces within the groups
  2. Identify existing rules that create the current organisational reality and change them to create movement.
  3. Plan the mix of people involved in diagnostic events in order to shift forces and facilitate change.
  4. Diagnostic events are key learning events which lead to ‘unfreezing’
  5. Be clear about the type of ‘unfreezing’ work that is needed during the diagnostic phase
  6. Provide a safe environment in which to destablise the status quo, in order to create the motivation to learn and change
  7. Support individuals and the group in understanding what is required of them, providing a plan for the action needed to begin making the change
  8. Create psychological safety to prevent resistance
  9. Provide a desirable direction or ‘best way’ for group members to change toward.
  10. Develop congruence with the organisation environment to stablise the new equilibrium.