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Power Analysis

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 49: Power Analysis


Implementing any form of change, as any quality manager knows, can be an uphill battle. Quality is generally quite simple – it’s the people stuff that makes it difficult. This year, we will look at a few tools to help in the management of change, the first of which is Power Analysis.


What is power? In the context of change management, it takes two forms: the ability to make a change happen (positive power) and the ability to block or subvert a change (negative power). There are many types of power, the most commonly used set being described in 1960 by French and Raven  (see Table 1).


Table 1.  French and Raven’s five sources of power


Type of power

Source of power

Coercive power

The ability to punish, to something that is feared

Reward power

The ability to reward, to give something that is wanted (often through control over a desired resource)

Legitimate power

The power than comes from a defined role (such as a manager or a policeman)

Referent power

The power that comes from another person liking you or wanting to be like you (this is the power of charisma and fame)

Expert power

The power of superior knowledge or skill (such as an R&D engineer)


Specific uses of negative power that get used in change management include:

§       Open refusal to cooperate.

§       Dragging heels, having constantly to be chased.

§       Agreeing to your face, then stirring resistance behind your back.

§       Withholding information.


Uses of positive power include:

§       Open support, for example speaking up in favour of the change in meetings.

§       ‘Going first’ to lead the way.

§       Acting as a reference, providing information on real successes.


A good place to perform Power Analysis in a change project is up front when you are planning the project detail. You can also revisit this along the way, for example when implementing sub-plans and specific items. The steps are as follows.


First, identify the people or groups which can wield power, both in support and in resistance of the change (and many are capable of both). These are likely to include senior managers, groups of workers as well as individual charismatic social leaders and those who have control over key resources.


Then for each person or group, get closer to them, understanding their basic needs, their overall goals and their general working style (for example are they quiet and conforming or aggressive and loud?). From this identify (using interview and discussions as appropriate):

§       The reasons why they may support and/or resist the change.

§       The actions they may take in support or resistance.

§       The likelihood (given your plans) of them taking these actions.

§       The impact on the change project, should they take these actions.


Also consider your influence with these people or groups. First, consider the degree to which you are able to influence their support and resistance decisions, for example with your own expert or referent power. Also think about what you can do to neutralise any resistance, should they try to derail the change (can you bring in the big guns at a moment’s notice?).


Finally consider what implications the understanding you have created here for the change plans. Should you increase communications in any are? Are they potential supporters lurking in the woodwork? How can you develop their support? Can you prepare for surprise resistance?


Table 2 gives a simple format you can use for this analysis. Use as many rows as necessary to explore the potential resistance and support. You may also like to use a landscape format to make more space in some of the columns.


Table 2.  Power mapping


Person or group

Support or resistance to the change

My ability to …

Implications for change approach



How likely?


influence them

neutralize them










































The bottom line of any change program is that power is the basic method by which the change is enabled and resisted, and you must be able to use and control it. The first step to this control is to understand it, where it lies and how it may be used.


Next time: Cultural analysis


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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