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The Change Management Myth: Resistance is Futile

        posted by , March 29, 2013

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
~ The Borg, Star Trek
It's well known that people tend to resist change.

The big change management myth is that resistance has no value. That it's always driven by irrational motives.


The Value of Resistance

Humans have evolved to value stability, tradition and culture. This is almost certainly part of our success as a species.

When individuals within a community have ideas to change things — they find resistance. People challenge ideas, approaches and priorities. They may also challenge the notion that certain things need to change at all.

Resistance is a way of validating change. It's a way of rejecting changes that don't make sense to a community. It's a fundamental part of the change process that can add value.


Change Management & Resistance

Change management is most effective when it accepts resistance as an inevitable part of the change process. Resistance can be leveraged as an opportunity to validate, assess and improve change strategies, requirements, priorities and plans.

Organizations can take advantage of resistance by establishing a culture of open feedback — a culture that encourages stakeholders to voice concerns. This activity is more than a process of reducing resistance. Feedback and concerns should feed into change improvement and prioritization.

After a sufficient period of review and feedback the change strategy is finalized. Those who still resist the change are overruled and asked to accept the change.

At this point, a realistic assessment of remaining resistance should be conducted. If most of your organization is strongly resisting the change — it's unlikely the change will be successful.

Either you need to transform your culture to be more accepting of the change or you need to transform the change to be more acceptable to your culture.

A change that's widely resisted isn't going anywhere.


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