Power-coercive strategies are useful when a consensus is unlikely despite efforts to stimulate participation by those involved. When much resistance is anticipated, time is short, and the change is critical for organizational survival, power-coercive strategies may be necessary.
Empirical–Rational Model In the empirical–rational model of change strategies, the power ingredient is knowledge. The assumption is that people are rational and will follow their rational self-interest if that self- interest is made clear to them. It is also assumed that the change agent who has knowledge has the expert power to persuade people to accept a rationally justified change that will benefit them.
The flow of influence moves from those who know to those who do not know. New ideas are invented and communicated or diffused to all participants. Once enlightened, rational people will either accept or reject the idea based on its merits and consequences. Empirical–rational strategies are often effective when little resistance to the proposed change is expected and the change is perceived as reasonable.
Well-researched, cost-effective technology can be implemented using these strategies. In- traducing a new technology that is easy to use, cuts nursing time, and improves quality of care might be accepted readily after in-service education and a trial use. Using bar codes to match medications to patients is another example.
The change agent can direct the change. There is little need for staff participation in the early steps of the change process, although input is useful for the evaluation and stabilization stages. The benefits of change for the staff and research documenting improved patient out- comes are the major driving forces.
Normative–Reductive Strategies In contrast to the rational-empirical model, normative–reductive strategies of change rest on the assumption that people act in accordance with social norms and values. Information and rational arguments are insufficient strategies to change people’s patterns of actions; the change agent must focus on noncognitive determinants of behavior as well. People’s roles and relationships, perceptual orientations, attitudes, and feelings will influence their acceptance of change.
In this mode, the power ingredient is not authority or knowledge, but skill in interpersonal relationships. The change agent does not use coercion or nonreciprocal influence, but collaboration. Members of the target system are involved throughout the change process. Value conflicts from all parts of the system are brought into the open and worked through so change can progress.
Normative–reductive strategies are well suited to the creative problem solving needed in nursing and health care today. With their firm grasp of the behavioral sciences and communication skills, nurses are comfortable with this model. Changing from a traditional nursing system to self-governance or initiating a home follow-up service for hospitalized patients are examples of changes amenable to the normative–reductive approach.
In most cases, the normative–reductive approach to change will be effective in reducing resistance and stimulating personal and organizational creativity. The obvious drawback is the time required for group participation and conflict resolution throughout the change process. When there is adequate time or when group consensus is fundamental to successful adoption of the change, the manager is well advised to adopt this framework.
Resistance to Change Resistance to change is to be expected for a number of reasons: lack of trust, vested interest in the status quo, fear of failure, loss of status or income, misunderstanding, and belief that change.
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