Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves -The Transformation of Human Systems

I got an opportunity to read an article authored by Robert E. Quinn, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, and Mathew V. Brown. It appeared on the Journal of Management Inquiry in June 2000. The authors claim that three-quarters all re-engineering, total quality management, strategic planning, and downsizing efforts failed because the organizations failed to successfully alter the human system. It is a common problem in many organizations that the leaders want to change others but have no plans to change themselves. I completely agree that changing other requires changing ourselves first. This article explores the limitations of traditional change strategies and introduces a new advanced change theory aka ACT. Authors points out the life and influence of Gandhi, Jesus and Martin Luther King to introduce the ACT.

Chin and Benne categorized the traditional change strategies into three namely empirical-rational, power-coercive, and normative-reeducative. Empirical-rational strategy makes logical arguments for change, but usually people are not willing to take pain full changes. Power-coercive strategy uses a leverage to force change, but usually evokes anger, and resistance. This method is commonly used in political arena through sanctions against countries. In my observation, this approach never succeeded. Normative-reeducative strategy use participation and pursue win-win situation. This strategy comes close to the ACT, but ACT is more comprehensive.

The authors describe ACT in a set of ten principles. All the principles often require the person to make a painful adjustment away from self-interested behavior. Three great human beings on the earth Gandhi, Jesus and King are referred throughout the article. They always involved personal sacrifice and transformation. They put their life in jeopardy. In my opinion, it is really hard to adopt ACT for an ordinary human being or for a common leader. In my case, I have no intention to become Gandhi, Jesus, or King. I have any plans to become a spiritual leader. All I want is to be a better person for my colleagues in the office, friends around me and others who involve with me. I don’t think that ACT is an ideal change therapy for me.


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