Lessons from the Field
There are some enterprises in which a careful
disorderliness is the true method.
The central purpose of this book is to explain how change leaders handle the resistance they encounter as they undertake the transformation of their organizations. I do not want to suggest that all change begets resistance. It does not. Even so, to gain a solid understanding of how ordinary people rise to the challenges of moving change efforts forward, it is necessary to examine transformations that entail acknowledged forms of resistance. In doing so, one can then draw empirically valid conclusions about resistance, both to further the scholarship in this area and to inform change champions.
This examination of the turbulent transformations at Olivet College and Portland State University provides insight into why people resist change, what shape their resistance takes, and the strategies that can be successfully deployed to surmount resistance. The new model presented here for successfully navigating the messy change process has two intended outcomes: to advance the literature and future research, and to equip ordinary people to engage and surmount the resistance they encounter in their own organizations.
I selected Portland State University and Olivet College as sites for this study because both institutions were transforming their undergraduate curriculums over essentially the same ten-year period of time. Both transformations were fueled by financial problems and instigated by the two colleges’ new presidents. In addition to fixing troubling curricular issues, the leaders hoped that their strictly academic transformation plans would also remedy the cultural, behavioral, and economic problems plaguing the campuses. Planning committees