Us vs. Them – Perspectives on leading change

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To successfully lead change we must view change from the eyes of the front-line employee. At a high level the front-line employee can view the impact of organizational change based on the actions of two groups, Us and Them. The concept of US vs. THEM is used to show the two sides of change leadership rather than imply a confrontational attitude. The concept of US vs. THEM is useful to show the perception of change and how it is dealt with based on individual, local (US) control of reactions to change as well as how change is introduced by the organization (THEM).

For successful change implementation, leadership should provide tools and techniques that address both sides of this equation. The table below illustrates these two perspectives and ideas for addressing both.

Us Them
The Local Level The Corporate Level
This perspective on change is personal and relates to the local work area and what is happening directly around the front-line employee. This side of the equation considers how the individual and their area adapt to change. This perspective on change is organizational. What is the corporation doing to us and how? This side of the equation considers how the organization introduces, manages, and leads change initiatives.
When thinking of change from the ‘US’ perspective the following questions can be asked:

  • How do I deal with the changing environment?
  • What personal tactics for reacting positively to change can I use?
  • How does my direct supervisor/manager deal with the changing environment and support me?
  • What tactics are used by my direct supervisor/manager to help me react to the organizational change?
When thinking of change from the ‘THEM’ perspective the following questions can be asked:

  • How is the change rolled out?
  • How are the projects organized?
  • How are we, other lines of business, and clients, notified and trained, impacting how I can do my job?
  • How fair is the organization in anticipating my needs – compensation, position changes, facilities, etc
To address the ‘US’ questions the organization should provide tools that can be used to adapt well to change personally and that prepare supervisors/ managers to support the front-line employees in their change efforts. To address the ‘THEM’ questions a cohesive change methodology applied to each change initiative and solid in the following disciplines is required:

  • Communication
  • Workforce Readiness
  • Skill Training
  • Human Resources
  • Project Management
A customized training program followed up with individual coaching on an ongoing basis that provides the front-line employee with tools that can be applied in the daily work environment can address the US issues. Too often the missing ingredient is a consistent effort from these various disciplines.

The two perspectives on change can and should support each other as they are integrated into the organization. Together the educational programs and a cohesive change implementation methodology contribute to a “change ready” culture for the organization.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On March 11, 2010

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