Organisation Dynamics

Designing Organisation Performance

Best Practice Note

Tools for Defeating Denial 1

Change guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter outlines that whenever a change agent is involved in bringing about that change, confronting denial is essential. Kanter suggests some tools that organisations should use in dealing with that denial.

i. Unassailable facts. Change advocates must make sure the evidence they marshal is beyond reproach, which often means from multiple sources.  Small flaws discredit the case for change.

ii. Counter-arguments. Supporters watch how leaders handle sceptics and critics. Each counter-attack must be answered. Change advocates must know the other side as well as their own.

iii. Big Picture. Significant change rests on beliefs, not just facts; the future is inherently uncertain and facts are only a starting point not the answer in themselves. Change leaders must cultivate fired-up stakeholders by identifying long-term benefits valuable to many. Leaders must inspire belief that they stand with and for stakeholders’ values and goals.

iv. Pressure and repetition. When pressure for change is in deniers’ faces every day, they often succumb.  Staying on message and communicating often can sometimes defeat denial.

1. Four Tools For Defeating Denial, Kanter, Harvard Business Review, 2009
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