Battle Between Change Agents and Status Quo Interests in Every Organization

The Battle between Change Agents and Status Quo Adherents

Every organization has its change agents who seek to take risks, disrupt the status quo, and introduce changes to steer the organization in a particular direction.

On the other hand, there are also those who advocate the Status Quo and want the organization to treasure stability and safety as well as predictability and order who are opposed to the change agents.

Indeed, the running battles between these two opposing forces are the hallmark of all organizations whenever they try to change direction or let go of the old ways of doing things. How well organizations navigate the undercurrents of tension between these two sets of individuals determines the success or failure of the organization.

Who is a Change Agent and who is a Status Quo Adherent?

To define a change agent, he or she is an individual who is not afraid to take risks and who is prepared to venture into the “unknown” and step beyond the comfort zone and thus, make the organization ready for the future.

On the other hand, the status quo proponents are those who want the organization to change albeit gradually and without taking too many risks.

Further, even the change agents do realize that sudden and disruptive changes can wreak havoc on the organizational fabric and hence, they sometimes take the slower route to change.

Thus, both change agents and those who prefer the status quo have to be understood in a nuanced manner wherein nothing is in black and white, and there are shades of gray all around.

Change is necessary and inevitable, but, there is a way to change

Having said that, one must also consider the possibility that when organizations are at an inflection point where they do not have to be ready for the future and must indeed leap into the disruption, they do face existential crises wherein the battle lines get drawn very sharply and the top leadership and the board members divided along the divisions of the change agents and those who favor the status quo.

In these times of extreme disruption and chaotic change, this is when the resilience and the inherent strength of the organization are tested wherein even the fence sitters, and the moderates have to take sides between the change agents and the status quo adherents.

The Example of Infosys

Take for instance the example of the Indian IT (Information Technology) bellwether, Infosys. Once the founders left and brought in an outsider, Vishal Sikka, who was not afraid of experimenting with change and venturing into unknown futures and disrupting the organization and its ethos, the battle between the old guard and the new and brash group became bitter and spilled out into the open.

Indeed, the recent skirmishes between the board and the founders which led to the latter ensuring that the former steps down is a typical example and instance of an organization wherein the war between those who seek radical change and those who do favor change, but not in such a rushed and disruptive manner.

Change must not tear the Organizational Fabric

In other words, while not all changes are bad, it is also the case that in large and diverse organizations, it is better to change things slowly and glacially instead of blindly rushing through changes that can tear the organization apart.

Indeed, it is not like that the founders were averse to change or that the new team was averse to ensuring stability and predictability. Just that, the new guard felt that Infosys had to change its staid ways whereas the old guard was put off by the brashness and the style of the former which they said would result in the demise of the organization.

Apart from this, change agents who seek to push through changes must also be cognizant of the fact that each organization has a distinct organizational culture as well as ethos and an organizational DNA that constitutes the fabric of the organization. Thus, they must ensure that whatever changes they are introducing do not rupture the basic fabric and disrupt the essence of the organization.

On the other hand, those who prefer the status quo but also welcome changes must be willing to give the change agents some leeway and “cut them some cloth” meaning that they must be ready to tweak the organizational fabric a bit without completely tearing it apart.

When the Moderates and the Fence Sitters have to Intervene

Thus, in any organizational battle between these two groups, it is necessary for the moderates and the fence sitters to mediate between the change agents and the status quo adherents and try and see how best the organization can succeed without losing its way and at the same time, not be trapped in the past.

It is clear that organizational battles are inevitable in these times when change is the only constant and the extreme disruption and the exponential acceleration of business trends mean that organizations must reform or perish.


Lastly, it is also the case that change agents not tinker too much with the spirit of the organization.

In other words, each organization has a particular way of doing things and some values and traditions that it cherishes and no matter how urgent the change or how necessary the change, it is better for the change agents to try and bring everyone on board whenever there are fundamental shifts in the way the organization operates.

Instead of ignoring or brushing away those who have been with the organization for years or even decades and are used to defining themselves in the particular ethos and culture of the organization, they must listen to them.

To conclude, change is inevitable, but at the same time, change must not lead to the demise of the entity in which changes are being introduced.

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Change Management