People always resist change.
This must be true if you listen to the “experts” when it comes to organizations implementing new ideas, approaches, programs, etc.. And these organizations can be anything from the place you work to your local rotary club and all things in-between.
It seems that whenever a new program is attempted to be implemented, and it falls short of expectations, that the leaders who were charged with the implementation write off the failure to the conventional wisdom that people just resist change.
But is that really true? I don’t believe we can make such a carte blanche statement. It’s not that people resist change, it’s that people resist change they are not prepared for, informed of, or had time to understand. I attended a speech by Eli Goldratt, creator of the Theory of Constraints, and he used a very interesting example:
Taking an adult, who was married with children, Eli asked a simple question, “What were the two biggest changes in your life?”
The response, after a little thought, “Getting married and having children.”
He then asked, “Did you resist them or embrace them?”
Some may find this example a bit obtuse, but it drives the point. Who can argue that marriage and childbirth are not significant changes in a person’s life? Yet most people go willingly into these changes – sometimes more than once! Why is this? Because they have had time to adjust and “come to grips” with the change. They were prepared, informed, and had time to understand.
We don’t tend to allow for this acclimation in our organizations. Here’s the way the scenario typically plays out:
Leadership comes up with an idea, and they discuss it amongst themselves – often times for months! After much debate, and deep thought, the leader decides the idea is a good one and it should be implemented in the organization. They call together their team, and lay it out. They tell them to think about it overnight and come back with any thoughts – there are usually very few. They then tell the team to implement it in the next 2 weeks (after all, this is a good idea). The organization then has 2 weeks (or less) to hear the idea, process it, prepare themselves, and understand the impact of the change. Remember, the leader had months to “get it”. The change does not go as well as planned. The leader says, “See, people just resist change.” Perhaps the leader should look in the mirror?
Change is not easy, but it is not naturally resisted – when properly communicated. Oh, and when it comes to communication, John Kotter of the Harvard Business School says we under-communicate change “by a factor of ten.” So, however much you thing you are communicating the change, it’s probably not enough.
Again, change is hard – it’s hard for the recipient, and it’s hard for the implementer.
Let me know your thoughts on this!