Critical Insights (8) - Too often resistance to change is created

“Too Often Resistance To Change Is Created”

I recently saw a Change Manager’s slide pack that he was using on a road show ‘selling the project’.

The pack consisted of 58 slides of which 46 were about resistance to change! That resistance was natural; that it was expected; that they were prepared for it, etc. This Change Manager had just trained his organization to resist the change that was coming.

The nonsense behind this thinking is obvious if you think back to how you adopted your mobile phone. Did you go through intensive training sessions? Did your ‘resistance to change’ have to be overcome? Or, did you see the benefits and value of owing a mobile phone and just get one? More probably the latter.

When I was making my first public speech in Australia many years ago, I used the cliché “People resist change”. A man in the front row spoke out with an objection. (Just what you want on your debut speech!)

He argued “People resist poorly thought through, poorly communicated, poorly managed, poorly implemented change.”

And he was right.

Unfortunately too much change is poor on at least one of these dimensions.

And yet the solution is simple. When we involve staff in the design of radical change they ‘own’ the results. They want the results. They can’t wait to make the changes to achieve the results. They can ‘sell’ and convince their peers. Even hardened union officials can see the value in the change and recommend it.

It’s not change that causes resistance, but how we do it.

People want reasons, to see value in the new outcomes and be confident in the change process. If they can see real benefit from the changes and can see that they’ll be effectively implemented (and this part is important as they’ve all been burned by poorly implemented change that promised so much but delivered so little) they’ll support it. We’ve even had teams of people some of whom will lose their jobs as a result of the changes pushing for the changes to be implemented.

Resistance to change is created by poor change management practices, mostly implemented by change managers guided by poor change models. And, so long as we continue to see ‘change management’ as a subset of project management, this will continue.

When we recognise from that from Day-1 that every project is a change project and think, plan and execute it as a change project using effective change planning and execution techniques and involving the incumbent staff we can achieve radical change quickly with minimal resistance. 

As they say "many hands make light work" and the more you include as many people as possible contributing, planning and implementing change the more successful you will be. 

What’s stopping us being Eliminating resistance to change?

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Topics: Change Management, Fifteen Critical Insights


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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Mar 2009) as "Critical Insights (8) - Resistance To Change Is NOT Inevitable"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections