Tuesday, 7 August 2007

People are resistant to change = fantastic alibi to justify slow, painful and unsuccessful change

The management-of-change world is full of mythology constantly reinforced by the Big Consulting Police which understands change as something intrinsically big, painful, and...er...expensive. In my book “Viral Change: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organizations” (meetingminds, 2007) I describe how I do it, and how 15 myths, one of them ‘people are resistant to change’ need to be revisited. Top down management-of-change techniques, which I call ‘tsunami approach, understand the organisation as a mechanic-hydraulic system of bits and pieces, instead of a biological organism with ‘networks inside’. There is a short audio-visual in our website.

Let me address myth number one or, should I say, the mother of all myths: people are resistant to change. I have taken from the book these comments:

“There is nothing in our biology that makes us resistant to change! We are not resistant to change. We are change. But we can act in defence of things that can disturb our level of control over things. And this is a very different matter. We saw in an earlier chapter of the book that this is one of the assumptions that have become part of the furniture in the change management field.

However, we know that resisting behaviours, which come in lots of forms and shapes, always mean something. We need to look beyond the ‘it is human nature’ parapet and see why things are happening that way. To assume there is resistance by default is not healthy.

Viral change proves that behaviours that could be called resistant disappear when alternative behaviours are reinforced. In Viral change, we make extra efforts to lead that assumption out the door and to suspend judgement. When people see the endorsement of peers, some behaviours-of-change in other parts of the organization, the incipient tipping points...many resistances will unexpectedly disappear.

Viral change also asks you to suspend judgement until you see how the infection spreads. Some notoriously resistant people - possibly labelled like that from the start (‘Mary will never change’) - may become converted ambassadors, while some ‘safe people’ (‘John and Peter are OK, they will jump in’) might become difficult and truly ‘resistant’.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article - thanks for sharing!