Enhancing People’s Awareness

A second approach to enhancing people’s awareness of the need for change is by identifying a transformational vision based on higher-order values, such as the delivery of superb service and responsiveness to customers’ needs. Transformational visions tap into the need for individuals to go beyond themselves, to make a contribution, to do something worthwhile and meaningful, and to serve a cause greater than themselves. These appeals can provide powerful mechanisms to unfreeze an organization and create conditions for change. In addition, transformational visions pull people toward an idealized future and a positive approach to needed change.

Cynics in an organization may reject these visionary appeals for several reasons. They may see them as superficial, naive, ill-advised, off-target, or designed simply to serve the interests of those making the pronouncements. If organizational members have previously heard visionary pronouncements, only to see them ignored or discarded, they may believe the most recent iteration is simply the current “flavor of the week” approach to change.

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Change agents need to be committed to following through on the actions that underlie the visionary appeals. If they are not, then they should stop rather than contribute to the build-up of organizational cynicism and alienation that accompanies unmet expectations. Nevertheless, the power of truly transformational visions should not be underestimated. How else do we understand the response to the visionary perspectives provided by change leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela?

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