Setting Boundaries

Change leaders’ goals are advanced when they develop compelling messages that appeal to the particular groups of people critical to the change initiative. However, in practice, there will be tensions between the changes proposed and what other parts of the organization are attempting to accomplish. For example, the sales force may be focused on how quickly it is able to respond to customers with the products they require, while manufacturing may be rewarded for how efficiently it is able to operate rather than how quickly it is able to respond to customers’ orders. These tensions need to be recognized and managed so that the needed changes do not flounder, and various approaches for handling this will be addressed in subsequent chapters.

When change leaders develop their vision for change, they are challenged with the question of where to set the boundaries. A narrower, tighter focus will make it easier to meet the test of Jick’s characteristics of an effective vision for a specific target audience, but it may also reduce the prospects for building alliances and a broad base of support across an organization. As the need for change extends to strategic challenges and the culture of a firm, this issue of building a broad constituency for the change becomes increasingly important. Two questions must be answered: First, where, if anywhere, do common interests among stakeholders lie? Second, can the vision for change be framed in terms of the common interest without diverting its purpose where it no longer delivers a vision that will excite, inspire, and challenge?

This was a challenge that Dr. Martin Luther King met superbly. In 1963, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the 100th anniversary of the publishing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. This was a critical point in the Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. King succeeded in seizing that moment by enunciating a compelling vision that embraced a large coalition. Attention to the coalition is apparent in his words:

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