There are three broad approaches to change in human systems: coercion, rational and normative.

Coercion is best described as threatening sanctions.  Typical of ISO9000 and public sector reform, coercion obliges compliance and punishes failure to comply.

Rational is best thought of as communication and training; I explain – you do.

Normative is best described as changing thinking through action.  So, for example, you might believe in managing people’s activity, but by studying the system you realise it’s pretty much a waste of time and you’d be far more productive if you acted on the system, rather than the worker.

The Vanguard Method is based on a normative change strategy. It starts from the assumption management thinking has to change. If this change is tried through rational methods (explaining) it runs into tricky ground – people ‘hear’ what is said from their current point of view and it is the point of view that is the problem.

Leaders of change using the Vanguard Method sometimes use coercion as a tactic, for example: ‘where is your demand data? You don’t have any? Well it is important so, here is the method, get it and I’ll be back’. But coercion is no more than an occasional tactic; it is no use as a change strategy.

Be aware! Many people who have learned something through a normative process often make the mistake of thinking ‘because I’ve got it, if I explain it to someone else they’ll get it’.

It is to forget how you learned it. Often when people explain such counterintuitive things to others it creates resistance, they can even label you as nuts.

Rational approaches work well with the converted.  If somebody already knows for example that managing activity is dysfunctional and they want help with how to act on the system instead, they are more likely to listen, understand and act on what they are told.