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Managing Change – Part 2 (Communication)

The Relationship Model

In today’s fast-moving world the concepts of management and “change management” are synonymous terms. Adapting to an ever-changing environment in which we attempt to achieve our mission is the predominant concern of all successful organizations.

In order to manage change effectively managers must be able to manage the six core processes that allow an organization to manage change. This series of articles seeks to introduce the six core processes that allow us to manage change and then to discuss each on in more detail.

Understanding the behavioural values that will make each of these processes successful and fulfilling is as important as understanding the processes themselves. The three primary value systems that we observe in management are authoritarian, collaborative and laissez-faire. These form a continuum of values, where authority is excessive, in balance or inadequate. Where managers will anchor themselves on this continuum of values will determine their success. The articles will demonstrate the effect of each value system on the outcome of each process.

Communication is the first of six core values, perhaps the core value, since it is also part and parcel of every other core process.

The ability of a manager to communicate effectively is important because it is the means by which information is transferred. Information is one of the basic forms of resource that people need for successful and fulfilling change management. (The others are people, money, and time.)

Communication models the underlying values that a manager holds towards those who look to the manager for authority. The values that form the basis of the manager’s communication will determine whether those who receive their authority from them will receive the information they need when they need it. Thus, the expression of those values will determine whether the staff is successful, fulfilled, both or neither.

The core values of the Relationship ModelTM are affirmation, involvement and servant leadership. When these values drive the manager’s communication process, the information is generous, accurate, and matched to the staff’s own expression of need for information. The communication process driven by this value system is characterized by a staff that is affirmed in their need to know, involved in determining what information is communicated, and supported in their desire to put information to work.

However, when communication is driven by an authoritarian value system where the manager is expressing values of power, control, manipulation and/or abuse, then we observe a communication process that may deliberately withhold information or communicate information in a manner that requires the staff to come back for permission before being able to act. Having information withheld, receiving partial or inaccurate information and being forced to return to the source of authority for more approval are symptoms of the authoritarian value system. The authoritarian values system is characterized by the source of authority having or taking more power than is needed to succeed with one’s responsibility. This deliberate metering out of information will inevitably lead to less success for the organization and fulfillment for the staff. Effective management of change bows to someone’s need for excessive power.

On the other side of the values continuum is the laissez-faire value system. Communication driven by this value system will also be inadequate, but the motivation is different.

A “laissez-faire” values system tends to abrogate the authority to resource the staff with information. The motivation is not control but a tendency to shy away from giving the impression of being in control. The manager mistakes distance from the staff as empowerment of the staff. Information is not properly understood to be the vital resource that it is. Staff is left on its own to obtain what information it can.

But the “distance” created by this lack of affirmation, involvement and support is just as disempowering and demotivating. Staff is disempowered and devalued with the result that success and personal fulfillment are compromised. Effective change management yields to incompetence.

“Might is right” and “live and let live” values systems are equally dysfunctional. In other words, abusive power and incompetence in the process of communication have the same effect – the loss of effective change management.

In order to manage change effectively, a manger does well to recognize the symptoms of an authoritarian or a laissez-faire value system in one’s own communication process: incomplete, sparse, inaccurate, controlled, manipulated or false information.

In our understanding of healthy working relationships, the manager is accountable to the staff for providing the vital resource of information. That means that the recipient of authority can assist the manager by holding that person accountable for using a communication process that provides the resource of information that does produce success and personal fulfillment.

As we have said earlier, the value system that drives the communication process is as important as the process itself. Developing an awareness of one’s own value system, monitoring the active expression of affirmation, involvement and servant leadership, will ensure that the communication process will have the desired result of effective change management: success for the organization and a deep sense of satisfaction for the staff.

Les Stahlke, President/CEO
GovernanceMatters.com Inc.