The Tempest and Managing Resistance to Change

The Tempest and Managing Resistance to Change

Shakespeare’s The Tempest is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation. He conjures up a storm, to lure his usurping brother Antonio to the island. One of the themes explored by the play is how all the people stranded on the island adapt to the new circumstances they find themselves in.

In our scene, Prospero and his daughter Miranda are senior executives in the wealth management division of a bank. Prospero’s brother Antonio has big plans to change the business software of this division. He persuades the board to make him the new managing director and he decides to introduce his ideas for change. He soon learns that changes can’t be imposed. There is a process to be followed if changes are to be accepted by staff.

Sample extract from Shakespeare in Business training
to be acted out by training participants

The scene opens as Prospero, Miranda and Antonio leave the board room after the meeting with the shareholders. Antonio is jubilant and the other two look worried and upset.

Antonio

(Arrogant and over confident.) Well the board have made up their minds. I am in charge now. I am going to make this division more efficient. I want our developers in the IT department to get on to it right away.

Prospero

Antonio we are going to need a good SCM tool.

Miranda

We need to warn you. The end users, in other words the operations personnel will resist any change and they could ruin the whole plan.

Antonio

But these are positive changes for them as well.

Prospero

People don’t always see it that way. They have a particular mindset which is very difficult to change. They hate any change to their system.

Miranda

There are ways of introducing change. They have a routine, a method that works. It will be difficult to explain why we want to change that. Employee buy-in is crucial for successful information system implementation.

Prospero

Old habits are hard to break. And they will present a united front. It will be a difficult force to reckon with.  Very seriously  There will be a war at the bank. Dramatic pause as Miranda takes sharp intake of breath!

Antonio

Nonsense! Anyone would think you were afraid of them! I’m not afraid of them. No team is that united or stuck in its ways! Tell them I want to meet them.

Miranda and Prospero exchange knowing looks then Miranda goes to tell the waiting team to come in. They march into the room in step like an army of robots. Then stand shoulder to shoulder facing Antonio.  Antonio steps back in fright.