receptivity to change

 

About 12 years I ago I finished my PhD studies in organisations that undergo continuous change. As is the case with every doctoral student there is usually a whole raft of stuff that you are interested in and you try and jam in to the thesis.

 

One of the things I was really curious about was how people respond to change, and particularly when that change is relentless. It struck me from my work life, that continuously communicating change doesn’t make things better – it drives anxiety and fatigue.

 

So that was part of my interest. The other was a conscious rejection of the term resistance – it seemed to be just blaming people for not liking the change, without any consideration as to whether that was valid or not. It felt like resistance was a catchall phrase that you could bundle up every response to change that was not overwhelmingly positive.

 

I was really excited to come across Kristin Piderit’s article about Rethinking Resistance and Recognizing Ambivalence in 2000 and her plea for a broader consideration of responses to change. Further exploration in the critical management theory area offered more reassurance that I was not alone.

First contact

I believe it was Pettigrew, Ferlie and McKee in 1992, who first used the metaphor of receptive versus non receptive with respect to strategic change in the health system and thus the term change receptivity was proposed as a more value neutral way of looking at how people receive change.

 

In their research, they found eight features of receptivity that are accompanied by an acceleration of change.

 

  1. Quality and coherence of policy analytics and process
  2. Availability of the key people leading change
  3. Environmental pressure
  4. Supportive organisational culture
  5. Effective managerial – clinical relations
  6. Co-operative inter-organisational networks
  7. Simplicity and clarity of goals and priorities
  8. A good fit between the locale and the change agenda

 

(Side note: Anyone want to run the political elections of UK, US and Australia  through those 8 features to analyse the public’s receptivity to change?!)

 

In later work Huy (1999) defines change receptivity as an interpretive, attitudinal state (both cognitive and emotional) to accept the need for proposed change and notes that it is both a state and a process. The notion of change receptivity being a process highlighted the challenges for those in the change management field – how quickly one can shift from a state of opened to change to change cynicism.

 

And so enamoured with the concept – I snuck change receptivity into the title of my thesis.

To now

And promptly forgot about it until recently this little gem of an article – The Resistance Retirement Party popped up in my feeds. It was great to see Gilbert Kruidenier resurrect the concept – and I wonder if it will have more purchase now?

So quicksticks – head over to Gilbert’s blog and have a read and let us know your thoughts on the topic!

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Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.

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