The Wrong Idea

Monday, April 11th, 2005

A good friend just attended a workshop put on by a company that shows people how to use the ideas that appear in a very popular book on change management.

They taught people how to encourage dialogue among people who need to support the change so that they “can get their feelings out.” The thinking, I assume, is that if people get a chance to gripe and whine for awhile, they will get over their foolish resistance, and things can move along. Bad idea.

This misguided thinking puts all responsibility for resistance on the people (I’ll call them the stuckees) who need to follow the leaders. Nothing in their “get people talking to each other” addresses the reasons why people might be reluctant or resistant in the first place. Perhaps they are resisting because it’s a bad idea; or because they don’t trust that the senior leadership has the will and capacity to lead this effectively; or perhaps no one has explained the need for a change in a way that makes sense to them.

A much better approach would be to allow people to engage the leaders (face-to-face, focus groups, surveys, etc.) so that the real reasons for resistance (and support) can get identified. Then the leaders could engage people around the real issues, and even ask for their help in creating plans or dealing with critical issues. For example, let’s say that people are afraid that this change might cost them their jobs. That’s big. If their fears are unwarranted, then leaders can tell them that. However, if this could result in downsizing, then leaders could ask for employees help in designing the change so that it will result in minimal (or no) reduction in staff.
There are no born “resisters.” People resist in response to something. For more on my thinking about resistance, you can read Why Resistance Matters: (This article is in a popup, so please make sure your popup blocker is turned off.)