Managing the Politics of Change

Organisations across the globe are in a constant state of change. The ability of firms to reinvent their strategies, structures and metrics is essential to growth and survival and yet the failure rates of some types of change can as high as 90%. One reason is that firms don’t adequately address the “soft” sides of change. Politics and emotions tend to take a backseat or are dealt with in an ad hoc, unstructured way.

September 2013

Although companies should be wary of rigid best practices for managing change, research on hundreds of major corporations offers a number of “good practices” that provide blueprints for navigating the human, political and emotional sides of change. Without sufficient attention paid to these issues, companies risk creating disengagement and resistance; performance will suffer; and innovative ideas may get lost:

1. Map the political landscape – the key external and internal, formal and informal stakeholders who will be affected.
2. Identify key influencers within each stakeholder group.
3. Assess influencers’ receptiveness to change – are they sponsors, promoters, indifferent fence-sitters, cautious fence-sitters, positive sceptics or negative sceptics?
4. Mobilise sponsors and promoters – their social networks and acumen to make a compelling case for change are critical to success.
5. Engage influential positive and negative sceptics early on: this is time well invested and may reveal overlooked vulnerabilities in change plans.

Leaders can’t afford to ignore the human side of change – particularly any underlying resistance from sceptics.

Sources: Auster, E. R. and Ruebottom, T. (2013) Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change; and Burnes, B. (2009) Managing Change, Prentice Hall, Financial Times.

Referenced techniques


Change Leadership

The concept explains why successful and sustainable organisational improvements depend on effective change leaders who know how to create and disseminate a vision, overcome resistance to change and manage conflict. The concept provides examples that illustrate how change leadership has been successfully used in the industry.


Change Management

Planned change management allows managers and practitioners to incorporate specific tasks and events into each stage of the change process. The concept explores how to face highly dynamic and complex environments and how to make the most of an organisational change.


Change Agents

Irrespective of the magnitude of a change that takes place within an organisation, there needs to be a change agent. Learn about the roles and attributes that change agents can adopt and consider the case study evidence and practical application steps provided.


Stakeholder Analysis and Management

The purpose of the concept is to explore the ideas and experiences in developing and applying stakeholder analysis. The concept sets out the benefits of stakeholder analysis and provides indicative guidelines and recommendations for its implementation.

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