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Why Resistance to Change is a Big Problem

        posted by , April 02, 2013

Resistance to change isn't a single business problem — it's 3 distinct business problems.

All 3 rank amongst the most critical strategic problems that businesses face. All three are commonly referred to as "resistance to change". However, they have different causes and different solutions. It's helpful to break them out for what they really are:


1. Resistance to Reality

He who rejects change is the architect of decay.
~ Harold Wilson
Resistance to Reality occurs when your strategy ignores external realities that you have little control over.

resistance to reality

Examples of external factors that commonly change include business models, competition, technology, best practices, standards, customer preferences, compliance rules, ethics, language, fashion and aesthetics.

Definition: Resistance to Reality

Resistance to Reality occurs when a business strategy attempts to resist external forces over which an organization has little control.


Ideally, business strategy should lead market change or at least move in the same general direction.

Example: Resistance to Reality

The classic example of resistance to reality is the music industry's early reaction to MP3 technology. Popular MP3 devices were on the market for many years before most music was legally available in MP3 format.

Instead of using their content to lead a digital revolution, the music industry initially resisted the MP3 format with every means available to them. They focused on preserving CD sales long after most customers preferred MP3.


Resistance to reality is resistance to change at the strategic level. When your industry changes, you need to innovate. It's generally not possible to rollback external change.


2. Resistance to Organizational Change

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Resistance to organization change occurs when executive management sets strategic direction that's resisted by their organization.

resistance to change

It's common for organizations to resist large changes. The culture of your organization makes a big difference — some organizations are more accepting of change than others.

Organizations can reduce resistance to change with change management practices that focus on communication and socialization of change.


3. Systemic Resistance to Change

The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Systemic resistance to change occurs when a large system of many firms (such as the global economy) is unable to change in response to a threat to the system.

systemic resistance to change

Systemic resistance to change is a hard problem.


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