Rewards are possible when accepting change. Accepting change can lead to new perspectives on life and becoming stronger.
Terry Paulson, quotes an uncle’s advice on resisting change: “It’s easiest to ride a horse in the direction it is going.” In other words, don’t struggle against change; learn to use it to your advantage.”
Article: Change Management Definition
Peter de Jager refers to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion to explain the Law of Resistance.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When Peter de Jager translates this law in terms of Change Management, he explains it this way.
When we try to change people, they’ll resist.
The justification behind this translation is simply this, people do not passively move forward to a new situation. If you push them towards something new, they will naturally push back. They ‘push back’ by wanting to know ‘why’ the Change is necessary. To expect people to Change, without a valid reason, is like expecting rocks to roll merely because we want them to.
RESISTANCE: Some see it as natural, others see it as unnatural.
There’s a key learning here, something we’ll come back to again and again, it is:
Resistance is Natural
This is not what most managers responsible for implementing a Change want to hear. What management usually wants to hear is that people who resist change are the problem, and there are more than enough books on the market that will reinforce the idea that…
Resistance is unnatural
Consider the following hypothetical case
“Imagine for the moment we’ve figured out a way to erase all resistance to Change with the wave of a magic wand.
Someone comes into our office and tells us that if we stopped using all our computerized accounting systems, and went back to a totally manual process, we could save a lot of money.
Without our inherent natural tendency to resist Change, we’d immediately follow their advice. We’d have no choice. We’d toss out the accounting systems and hire several hundred accountants and purchase an ample supply of pen and paper. We’d be bankrupt within a month.
Too contrived an example? Let’s look at something less drastic.
This same person comes into our office and tells us that upgrading our accounting system will save us a lot of money. Without our natural resistance to Change, we’d follow his direction and upgrade. By the way, he was the salesperson for the company who sold us the accounting system in the first place. What a coincidence.
Is blind acceptance of Change really what we want in our organizations?
These types of scenarios play out every day, in every company around the world. Without a strong, well entrenched natural tendency to resist Change, we’d be at the mercy of anyone with a product or idea to sell.
Even wild ideas like the one I’m trying to sell you… “Resistance is not only natural, it’s good and necessary.” I do not expect you to accept this without thinking about it. I don’t expect you to accept it just because I say so… I expect questions. I expect that you’ll think about the examples given and come to your own conclusion. That is, I expect and hope you will recognize that by ‘resisting’ this idea that ‘resistance is natural’ you’ll notice that there is nothing wrong with questioning the validity of any proposed change… and that applies to your staff as well, when they ask… “Why should we change?”
Whenever we’re presented with a possible change, we’re faced with a choice between staying where we are or moving somewhere else. It does not seem logical to automatically move, just because a choice is presented to us.
It seems reasonable to compare the two choices, “here” vs. “there”, and ask ourselves if moving makes sense. It is natural to ask for information to help us decide between “here” and “there”. “Resistance” is what happens when it doesn’t make sense for us to move.
In the first proposal to throw out the accounting system, it was blindingly obvious to everyone that resorting to manual processes is a bizarre idea. It is immediately rejected and I don’t think you could find any business manager anywhere, who would suggest that resisting such a suggestion is the wrong thing to do. We’d all agree that “resistance” in this specific, grossly exaggerated circumstance is a “good” thing. It’s not only “good”, it’s necessary.
The other situation is not so clear cut. In some circumstances, upgrading the system is the correct business decision, but in other situations? Upgrading is the wrong choice. The decision to upgrade depends greatly on the circumstances surrounding the issue. To decide properly we need information. To get information, we must ask “Why should we Change?”
Here’s an important question… When someone resists the move to upgrade, do you think of them as “blocking the progress of the company” or are they “protecting the processes that made us successful”? Is “resistance to Change” in this case a good or bad thing?
Stated more generally, do we perceive people who resist change as “obstacles to progress”, or as “protectors of what is valuable in the past”?
If we see all resistance as “obstacles to progress”, then we’ll manage with a heavy hand, i.e. “my way or the highway”. We’ll see every “Why should we Change?” as a direct challenge to our right to “Manage”. We’ll steer the direction of our organization by giving orders rather than creating an esprit de corps.
If we see resistance as “protecting the process that made us successful”, then we’ll know that our role is to explain why the change is necessary. We see every “Why should we Change?” as nothing more than a desire to understand why the Change is necessary. We’ll steer the organization by getting the input and advice of those closest to the problems which need fixing.
Sir Isaac did not have people in mind when he formulated his Laws of Motion, but the notion that things need a reason to move is as applicable to people as it is to rocks.”
The message: If we see change as unnatural, then we don’t see resistance as a desire to understand why we should change.
© 2005, Peter de Jager – Peter is passionate about change, how it affects both individuals and organizations and allows them to grow and prosper. To contact him, and host internal seminars on Change Management visit www.technobility.com
How we adapt as part of the Change Management Process
Adapting puts you on the road to thriving.
“Successful adaptation to change is as crucial within an organization as it is in the natural world. Just like plants and animals, organizations and the individuals in them inevitably encounter changing conditions that they are powerless to control. The more effectively you deal with change, the more likely you are to thrive.”
– Margaret Rouse, searchcio.techtarget.com