Stage 5.4.4  Person-To-Person Contact


It is important for the change agent to make personal contacts with leaders, opinion leaders, potential resisters, and other key people. Such contacts have several advantages over the one-way approaches discussed above. First, they give you feedback on the reactions of the client system, including some idea of the kinds of resistance which you are likely to encounter, and which you must plan to overcome. Second, the personal contact is very helpful in increasing the "reality" of the innovation. It forces the persons contacted to start thinking about it seriously. Furthermore, it gives them an opportunity to express feelings of doubt and difficulty; it allows them a chance to talk about their own needs in personal terms. Personal contact with the change agent is probably most vital at the time when the potential adopter is about to make a trial. Your presence is required then

  1. to legitimize and reinforce the decision to try;
  2. to provide needed information ­and help in the trial itself; and
  3. to applaud and otherwise reward the trial effort, once made.   This last is especially important when the results of the     innovation trial effort are not immediately visible.


 On the other side, it should also be said that person-to-person contact is a very slow and costly method if you plan to reach each and every member of a large client system. It is therefore sometimes necessary to restrict these personal contacts to key people and therefore, wherever possible, you should try to multiply yourself by training and encouraging insiders to take on the direct contact task. Furthermore, personal contacts from insiders are probably more effective for legitimizing innovation, especially if these insiders have some degree of opinion leadership. They help get the innovation around what is sometimes called the "NIH syndrome," for "Not-Invented-Here." Resisters to change commonly invoke the NIH on the grounds that "we are unique, our situation is unique, our needs, concerns, and problems are unique-therefore, no solution ideas developed elsewhere have any relevance to us and can be rejected out of hand." Because "uniqueness" can always be claimed with a certain amount of validity for any situation, the NIH cry has a certain ring of legitimacy, but it is a false ring and it shuts down innovative thinking.