“'Social inertia' is a complicated way of saying that no matter how hard we try, nothing seems to happen.”
Keen identifies counterimplementation as attempts to impede "...innovation without displaying overt opposition... to prevent a disruption of the status quo. Counterimplementation is most likely to occur when outsiders bring in threatening new technologies."
"Counterimplementation suggests that, in practice, there are many valid reasons to go beyond passive resistance and actively try to prevent implementation.
"there is no need to take the risky step of overtly opposing a project. The simplest approach is to rely on social inertia and use moves based on delay and tokenism."
- Title of this posting and quoted excerpts are from Article review by Thomas Dang – Oct. 2008 [PDF] of “Information Systems and Organizational Change,” Peter G. W. Keen, May 1980 - full citation, links below.
- See also " Nov 10, 2010.
For more on institutional change, innovation, join us online Oct. 14, 2PM ET for this week's FridayLive! "Change IS Possible Despite Politics and Counterimplementation Tactics; Counter-Counterimplementation (CCI) Strategies and the TLT Group’s Fundamental Questions.""Decision-making processes are pretty simple; what has worked in the past is most likely to be repeated. Under pressure, decision makers discard information, avoid bringing in expertise and exploring new alternatives;
"...decisionmaking is multifaceted, emotive, conservative, and only partially cognitive
"...Only small increments are possible and compromise, far from being bad, is an essential aspect of the implementation process... [which] is possible but requires patience and a strategy that ...must be explicitly managed."
"The paper also discusses the causes of 'social inertia', resistance to changes, counterimplementation, the pluralistic nature of organizations, as well as tactics for managing change that rely on incremental, facilitative approaches, coalition-building and careful attention to political mechanisms."
More excerpts below from Dang's review of Keen's article, including a list of "tips" for increasing resistance to change and a list of suggestions for overcoming resistance to change.
Article review by Thomas Dang – Oct. 2008 [PDF], of “Information Systems and Organizational Change,” Peter G. W. Keen, May 1980, Communications of the ACM, January 1981, Vol 24, No. 1, pp. 24-33 pp. 27-28, 30-31.
"... human information-processing is experiential and relies on simplification, and organizations are complex and change is incremental and evolutionary, and data are not only intellectual commodity but also a political resource, etc. ... In other words, human
information processing tends to be simple, experiential, nonanalytic, and on the whole, fairly effective. The point is not that the information system is irrelevant, but that decisionmaking is multifaceted, emotive, conservative, and only partially cognitive. Political (or social) rationality looks only for feasible solutions and recognizes that utopian change cannot be assimilated by complex systems composed of individuals with bounded rationality.
"We must use a tactical approach to overcome the social inertia, as Keen suggests, as simple, phased programs with clear objectives and facilitation by a change agent or a 'fixer', an actor with the organizational resources to negotiate among interested parties. This tactical approach is 'Up-and-In' which relies on small groups, face-to-face involvement and participative management, rather than 'Down-and-Out' which is based on direction from the top, lengthy design stages, broader strategic process, and rarely successful.
"The paper also discusses Pluralism ... The more the organization is viewed as a set of loosely coupled units where joint action rests on negotiations, the more any strategy for implementation must emphasize the need to mobilize coalitions, to provide the necessary support for an innovative proposal.
"Counterimplementation suggests that, in practice, there are many valid reasons to go beyond passive resistance and actively try to prevent implementation. Many innovations are dumb ideas. Others threaten the interests of individuals and groups by intruding on their territory, limiting their autonomy, reducing their influence, or adding to their workload.
"A central lesson is that there is no need to take the risky step of overtly opposing a project. The simplest approach is to rely on social inertia and use moves based on delay and tokenism. The politics of data is the most important cause of counterimplementation.
" Managers can increase resistance by:
• Failing to specific about a change
• Failing to explain why change is needed
• Not consulting
• Keeping people in the dark
• Creating excess work pressure
• Expecting immediate results
• Not dealing with fears and anxieties
• Ignoring resistance
"Besides the incremental change suggested by Keen, other researchers have
suggested some of the way to overcome the resistance to change as follows:
• Education and communication - if people understand the needs for
change and what is involved they are more likely to co-operate
• Participation and involvement - to encourage people to feel ownership
of the change
• Facilitation and support - listening to the real concerns of people
• Negotiation and agreement - agreement and compromise if necessary
• Manipulation - e.g. “buying off” leaders of resistance
• Explicit and implicit coercion - threats where necessary but this is a
high risk strategy
(Change Management – Implementation)
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