When the Right People on The Change Bus Fill Only Two Rows

A Receptivity to Change Scale

Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom created a scale that categorizes individuals in an organization according to their receptivity to change initiatives: Sponsors, promoters, indifferent fence-sitters, cautious fence-sitters, positive skeptics, and negative skeptics.

One of the values of this scale is that it provides a framework from which to categorize each stakeholder per his/her potential receptivity or reluctance to a specific change initiative. It provides a rough measurement for the level of difficulty that lies ahead.

Once an institution identifies a change initiative, one can use the scale to determine where stakeholders stand according to receptivity. Receptivity to change is not necessarily an immutable or static personality trait. Sure, there are the consistent nay-sayers and those that truly fear change, but more often, someone’s reaction to change depends upon the features of the specific change.

For all types of political, intellectual, and emotional reasons there are normally far fewer sponsors and promoters than one would hope for, regardless of the scope and promise of the change.

Change and The Pareto Principle

The appeal of the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, is found less in its scientific accuracy and more in its flexibility. The principle can be used in science, economics, quality control, sports, and management to name a few.


  • Quality Control: 80 percent of the problems with products were caused by 20 percent of the production defects
  • Sports: 20 percent of the members on your roster determine 80 percent of team’s success
  • Home Life: 80 percent of the mess is created by 20 percent of my family (he knows who he is)

When it comes to managing change, a great goal to aim for uses the Pareto principle: For 80 percent of change to occur, 20 percent of the workforce needs to enthusiastically endorse change.

In other words, 20 percent need to be believers. They need to embrace, own and advocate for the change. Therefore, to implement a successful strategic change initiative, one must make believers out of the company’s true drivers. I lump sponsors and promoters together; I call them ambassadors.

Ambassadors are the stakeholders, who over time, motivate most of the doubters and the skeptics, or to use Auster and Ruebottom’s terms: The indifferent fence-sitters, cautious fence-sitters, positive skeptics, and negative skeptics.

Get on The Bus

Ambassadors are one of the driving forces behind change. So how does one assure the ambassadors jump on the bus? By employing these three vital change management concepts.

  • Engagement

Change initiatives have a greater chance of failure when they are imposed. Ambassadors, to be truly effective, must draw their own conclusions. As the director of a change initiative, I must communicate clearly and provide ambassadors the opportunities to interpret, question, and integrate the initiative. It’s important to bring in ambassadors at the start of the initiative.  They need to understand the details and background to be fully engaged.

  • Vision & Trust

I was recently asked which change management asset I believe more valuable: Vision or trust. I responded by saying they are symbiotic. Trust enhances and facilitates vision and vice versa. One can undertake visioning all day, every day. Trust is required to put vision into action.

Vision in change management is defined by aligning the numerous perspectives across an organization. To do so, one must promote the change’s end goal. This end goal must be crystal clear and easy to comprehend. Those inevitable growing pains? That is where the stakeholder consumption of one’s supply of trust becomes important. The team must believe that if they keep their eyes on the prize, you as leader will defend them and “have their back.”

  • Be the First to Make Changes and Show Commitment

One frequent mistake of change management occurs when executives demand change of others and none of themselves. Team members, when faced with the challenge of change and the insecurity it provokes, look to the top for direction. When change leaders do not model change behaviors and display effort, many will doubt the veracity or benefit of undergoing change.

A Long Ride

I am fortunate to part of a company that consistently remakes itself with new products, new markets, process and manufacturing innovations to guarantee successes long into the future. We identify market changes and actively adjust to address these changes by the way we conduct business.

Change always takes longer than anticipated, but with the proper vision, trust, alignment, and empowerment the chances for change increase. So, don’t mind that your bus isn’t standing room only, make certain your ambassadors are on, make sure the leader is driving, and then it may be just a matter of time.

Jane Boyce is President of Tru Vue, maker of the world’s best glass and acrylic products for the use in art and photography applications. Tru Vue products are used in 80 percent of the world’s top art museums, as well as the homes of art and photography collectors around the world. They include Museum Glass ™ and Optium Acrylic for framing as well as TruLife Acrylic, their new innovative anti-reflective acrylic for face mounting and printing.

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