Overcoming Resistance to Change

Apathy. Ignorance. Skepticism. Cynicism. Passive Aggression. Guerilla style sabotage. Outright resistance to change.

Has the irresistible force of your change effort run into the immovable object of organizational resistance?
You’re the leader. Fix it.

Does this sound familiar…?

You’re leading the introduction of some sort of change. It might be a new business process. It might be a new IT system. It might be a new sales territory structure. It may be a new supply chain management methodology. It may be a new approach to performance management and/or compensation. Or it’s something else. But people sense that your motives aren’t pure. Or, your motives aside, you’re messing with their rice bowl, moving their cheese.

If you’re lucky, your metrics tell you that you are in trouble. More often, however, because people are smart enough, and when they are motivated to do so, they can fabricate the results they know are desired, your metrics will make it look like everything is progressing per plan. And it may be, except the effort is going to fall far short of delivering the benefits upon which it was justified. If you’re seasoned enough, you’ll see the fabricated metrics as the head fake that they are.

Stay the Course (Not)

Whatever the case, staying the course is not a winning strategy. You’re the person on the hook to ensure that the change effort does produce the benefits upon which it was justified. And when it doesn’t, there will be consequences for both the change effort and your career…

There is a critical difference between that which is technically possible and that which is culturally doable. It is a fact of organizational life that people can make work that which they want to see work, and they can make fail that which they want to see fail. They can also be content letting the chips fall where they may for those things about which they genuinely don’t care.

When the irresistible force of any program’s facts and logic meets the immovable object of people’s feelings and the organization’s culture, feelings and culture wins.  And you don’t change people’s feelings by throwing facts and logic at them. Confronting irrationality with rationality only serves to exacerbate the irrationality.  If you throw facts and logic at someone, you’ll generally just deepen whatever feeling they already have. If they are apathetic or passive-aggressive to begin with, you’ll just cause them to sigh and roll their eyes behind your back. If they are skeptical or cynical already, you’ll just cause them to bunker-in, or go underground, and/or to just get plain pissed off.

So, what can be done?

It turns out that quite a lot can be done when you look at the problem the right way.