Why change resistance is created, not given


I don’t believe in change resistance. Maybe I am quite the only one, as there is a strong belief living out there, that people don’t like (to) change. When resistance occurs within change projects, there is an unchallenged conclusion: “oh, people resist, because they don’t like change, to change, or this change. They are afraid to lose something, that’s why they are opposing”

I would like to challenge that thought, because I don’t believe that people cannot deal with or don’t like changes:

1. Human beings are highly adaptive to changes, otherwise they would not have survived so successfully. Everyone knows and experiences changes every day, our body is changing, we all are subject to change. We know, change is the law of life.

2. Research shows that people adapt to new situations quickly and it becomes the new normal. Of course there is a phenomenon that people don’t want to give up on their regular habits, but once they get used to new condition exactly that mechanism helps to adapt to the new situation.  Their level of happiness adjusts after a short down- or uptown to a personal average.

3. People embrace or at least accept changes, when they understand the reason why, when they are properly informed and when the change is implemented clear and without hesitation.

So this is my conclusion after working in and with organizations for 20 years: Most of the time it is not change per se, but the unclear and undecided future situation, that is lingering around and creates insecurity, rumors and all kind of interpretations. And resistance.

I had some eye opening experiences and I would like to share the following story from a client. We were called in, when the whole transformation project was about to collapse, because of a huge resistance from middle management, with no trust basis and a poisoned atmosphere. Top management informed me, that the middle management does not agree with the planned reorganization, that they defeat all changes and thats why they are resistant.

We started to work with the Team and found out, that middle managers absolutely saw the need for a new system, they even supported it. They even desired things to change! The problem was, that the rough concept was presented two years ago and since that people waited for more details, to understand, what really happens. So it was not the change, but the unclear and blurry situation that induced them to dismiss the whole project after all. We needed a few interviews an one workshop to transform the elephant into a fly and the project started all over.

You have to know: when is the moment to involve and ask people about their opinion and when is to moment to take clear decisions and execute them without hesitation.

And this is what happens in most organizations: the projects are poorly and slowly managed, people are kept in a vague state of information for too long time and this is what creates  resistance.  So don’t fight resistance but manage your projects properly: be clear, don’t hesitate, don’t procrastinate decisions, don’t leave room for hopes, that they change will not happen, burn down the bridges. And, more important, use the magic word: “because”. There is nothing more important than the answer to “why” questions. People need to understand the why, the reason behind, otherwise they will stay resistant.