It seems that every week someone posts a discussion in Linked In about how to manage change resistance. Sometimes these threads are posted to promote a model or tool that will ‘ensure’ resistance gets managed. Other times it degrades into senseless intellectualism, which is fun to read, but not helpful! Other times the thread evolves into arguments over which method/tool/model is the best. I’m guilty of that too. So what’s different for me this time? Well, Nancy Coles recently reviewed my book and had something lovely to say via email:
review-from-nancy

“You come across as a very nice and humane person in the book”

That helped me think about the fact that most of the friction I encounter in organizations is dealing with a change team or management and trying to get them to understand that complex change cannot be scheduled and budgeted for. The people affected by the change seemed to like the approach I would take with them. They knew I was there to help and that I’d push sometimes, but most importantly, their happiness always came first. That comment from Nancy also started me thinking about what it’s like to have change inflicted on me, which I wrote about here. I’d have smelled having a model used on me a mile away. I suspect most people would recognize when they’re being played by a model or “being coached” as well. I know my wife does. If she is asking me for help with a problem and I put on my coaching hat, she’ll say “stop that!”. What helped me through that change was having a boss who let me complain and who listened to me and provided good advice, not as a boss, but as a person. The same is true for the last “real” job I had. In that case I didn’t leave on the best terms, but I was frustrated with what was happening in the company and it was just time to go. That was a bummer because I enjoyed the work, but oh well, it is what it is. To quote Doc Holiday from the movie Tombstone, “it appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds” so here’s my one and only piece of advice for “managing resistance to change”

Stop focusing so much energy on it!

Chances are there are plenty of innovators and early adopters that want to participate in the change. Build their capability and the “resisters or laggards” will opt-out, meaning they’ll leave the company or be pushed out if they don’t come along at some point. Treat people like people, talk to them, get out of your comfy change office and hang out on the floor to see what it’s really like.

Most importantly, remember the last time change was pushed on you and remember what that felt like. That’s what people are going through and sometimes the only thing that will help is to give it time.

Jason Little
Author, Lean Change Management at Leanintuit
I began my career as a web developer when Cold Fusion roamed the earth. Over the following years, I moved into management, Agile Coaching and consulting. The bumps and bruises I collected along the way helped me realize that helping organizations adopt Agile practices was less about the practices, and all about change.
In 2008 I attended an experiential learning conference (AYE) about how people experience change and since then, I’ve been writing, and speaking, all over the world about helping organizations discover more effective practices for managing organizational change.