All organizations deal in some way or the other with change. A government is to follow the changes that take place in the world and that affects its citizens. A company also follows most of the time changes in the same way by canalizing the effects of different causes. A third category of companies (institutions) however deal with change in a different way; they are more in the lead of change. They could be pictured as change leaders; empowering others to move into a new direction.
Sometimes things just happen…Unless there is someone who interferes – the intervention as it is called in change management terminology – with development that might need some (serious) attention. Awareness to start with. Recently Greenpeace signaled the massive constructional development on the Spanish coasts.
All of us who deal with change can learn from organization like Greenpeace that are to deal with resistance all the time.
The style of Greenpeace is influenced by thoughts of Margaret Mead:
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Greenpeace itself has also dealt with change over the years. Those how have followed this organization will remember that.
In 1971, motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world, a small team of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat. These activists, the founders of Greenpeace, believed a few individuals could make a difference.
Their mission was to “bear witness” to US underground nuclear testing at Amchitka, a tiny island off the West Coast of Alaska, which is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone regions. Amchitka was the last refuge for 3000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife. Even though their old boat, the Phyllis Cormack, was intercepted before it got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest. The US still detonated the bomb, but the voice of reason had been heard. Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year, and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary. (www.greenpeace.com)
The spirit of the time we live in are quite different than those in the seventies and much of these alterations have influenced this organization. Yet another change is the growth of the institution itself.
Today, Greenpeace is an international organization that prioritizes global environmental campaigns. Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Greenpeace has 2.8 million supporters worldwide, and national as well as regional offices in 41 countries.
And this is common practice for nearly most of the organizations; when they grow their style will change. If we remember Greenpeace in the beginning its style was predominant “against” and confrontational leading to an increase of resistance that did undermine its guest for change.
Today – where the organization has its own research institution and presence in 41 countries, it has moved into the direction of helping and supporting; this is less innovative than in the seventies but much more effective.
Change is about dealing with resistance. And if you really want a credible change you should stay approximate to the majority that you want to affect and influence. This can only be done by lowering the walls and barriers between your team or organization and the ones you want to influence. In such a way that your thoughts can be accepted or at least be negotiated.
© 2006 Hans Bool
Hans Bool is the founder of Astor White a traditional management consulting company that offers online management advice. Astor Online solves issues in hours what normally would take days.
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