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Change Resistance is not Evil!

It’s probably something you won’t often hear… yet there is such focus in organisations on how to overcome change resistance as though it was indeed some form of evil.  That’s the view of those who don’t understand change.

Change resistance is useful.  Change resistance is what stops us from supporting actions that we perceive as detrimental to us and those we care about.  At its most base level it’s what keeps us safe and alive.

Not convinced?  Think change resistance is an illogical, emotional response?  Still think it needs to be overcome?

Well imagine a world where change resistance didn’t exist, where actions we perceive as detrimental for us &/or others aren’t resisted?  It’s impossible but let’s just imagine…

    • Perhaps the CEO suggests that working days are increased to a minimum of 12 hours.  Do you acquiesce and work longer?
    • Your manager rightly suggests half way through a project that a better methodology would have been better.  Do you agree and start over?
    • Your kids’ school wants to even out class sizes so proposes to move your child to another class.  Do you agree and put your child through the upheaval?

There’s logic behind each of these proposals and each and every one is worthy of good old emotional & logical change resistance.  Without such resistance, the flaws in the logic and the consequence of these actions would never come to light until the damage had been done.

Still not convinced?

Good.  That’s change resistance at work right there.  Doesn’t feel like an evil to be overcome does it?


9 thoughts on “Change Resistance is not Evil!

  1. I hate the use of “resistance” in all the change models, and I tell people! It’s not resistance it’s questioning, enquiry, tension.
    It’s true that’s it’s a challenge, but it should achieve a better outcome.
    Much like storming in teams it’s potentially a creative and exciting space.
    A threat to leaders, yes, and possibly why it’s been called resistance?


    Posted by Ian Perry | October 12, 2012, 6:56 AM
    • Great additions Ian – fully agree.

      Perhaps it’s time to reframe Change Resistance as a Leadership Challenge or perhaps Threat… after all, almost every aspect of organisational change is a question of leadership. Its success or failure is a reflection of leaders ability to lead change, not of an organisations resistance.


      Posted by David Goddin | October 12, 2012, 7:19 AM
  2. David,

    Great post and we need more people who are prepared to recognise ‘resistance’ for what it is. There are forces for change and forces for sameness, each is just energy in different directions.

    My post from yesterday builds on your thinking.

    Change Management and Emotional Fallout – 10 Pointers for Leaders

    Paul Cummings
    Kinharvie Institute


    Posted by Paul Cummings | October 12, 2012, 8:17 AM
    • Like that focus on energy Paul. On one side of the coin it’s the tension & challenge Ian mentions and on the other side it’s where we find the innovators & early adopters. Same coin – different energies.


      Posted by David Goddin | October 12, 2012, 8:32 AM
  3. Nice reminder, David. Change for the sake of change is just as silly as not changing because of habit, tradition, and a lack of imagination. Neither moves us forward and both are counterproductive. I once read that Thomas Jefferson had proposed early on that any new law voted on by Congress had to be voted on again a year later before it would go into effect. An interesting way of preventing knee-jerk change while still allowing for progress and evolution. Unfortunately, it was voted down.

    The concept is still good and people can do this in their personal/professional lives as well by waiting a week or a month (or whatever) before finalizing any major life decision. Helps prevent the impulsive acquisition of sports cars, oversized houses, inappropriate lifemates, and new careers.


    Posted by broc.edwards | October 12, 2012, 12:02 PM
    • Great “flip” there Broc… often when change has not been led well it can be seen as change for the sake of change… sometimes it is. The Thomas Jefferson story & concept is great way to encourage reflective practice. I believe that is a core part of leading change whether it’s for yourself or your whole organisation. Yet reflective practice seems anathema to many leaders… perhaps that’s why so many change initiatives fail in organisations.


      Posted by David Goddin | October 13, 2012, 9:39 AM
  4. Great post David; for me I see change as an opportunity to evoke passion in people. It doesn’t matter if that passion manifests itself positively or negatively, once you see the passion you can at least attempt to channel it in a constructive way. Work would be a terrible thing if no one expressed their strength of feeling and everyone trudged along being agreeable. Maybe Getting the Passion Out In The Open should be part of the way we “do change”? Maybe we would achieve the better outcomes that Ian refers to?

    Thanks for making me think on a day when I am up to my eyes in tasks! A welcome distraction!


    Posted by The Wild Phantom AKA Bev Holden | October 12, 2012, 1:04 PM
    • Hi Bev – great to have your comments here – thanks!

      It’s funny, as I was responding to Broc above I was thinking how the key to successful change is about bringing emotions & feelings into the mix to inform what we do and how we can make change stick. “Getting the Passion Out In The Open” is great language and process to use well. It’s there anyway so let’s use it well!


      Posted by David Goddin | October 13, 2012, 9:42 AM


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