At the risk of showing my inner-nerd, one of the more memorable sayings from the Star Trek series of shows (post Kirk & Crew) is: “Resistance is Futile.” This of course was the mantra of the Borg, a race of part-human, part machines that sought to assimilate all life-forms into their collective. Of course, their fatal weakness was that they were only able to operate as a collective…and lacked the many characteristics that ultimately serve as advantages and that make us distinct as humans. (OK, I suspect that I’ve gone beyond showing my true nature and nerdiness.)
Resistance to Change in corporate life is a very real force, and of course, the bane of existence of the many advocates of change challenging you to put aside your fears and embrace the new way of doing things.
H. James Harrington, writing in Quality Digest in an article entitled: Managing Resistance to Change—How to handle the inevitable, offers some insights and perspectives on dealing with this very powerful and limiting force in pursuit of a shift away from an organization’s status quo. He writes:
“Sponsors who drive change tend to think of resistance as an inexplicable but avoidable force that affects people. When resistance occurs, they believe it’s actually a result of somebody’s failure. Typical responses are, "What’s wrong with that person? What’s wrong with that group? Why won’t they support our change effort? There must be something wrong with those people." In fact, such a perspective is a major barrier to successful change.”
Most so-called change agents when faced with resistance will adopt the universal tool for breaking through…the organizational sledgehammer. Instead of finesse and psychology, resistance is often met with arguing, imploring, and something a bit more insidious…political approaches to gain compliance or eliminate the roadblocks. Alternatively, Harrington offers: “Expect resistance and manage it, either through a preventive or healing approach.”
His fine and short article reflects a “seek first to understand and then be understood” philosophy to dealing with this inevitable characteristic of organizational life. Check out the rest of the article for his prescriptive guidance on dealing with resistance.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Resistance to your agenda for change might seem futile to you. After all, who can argue with the expected benefits that you’ve so eloquently and logically outlined. As Harrington indicates, you are going to pay for resistance up-front by dealing with it, or your going to pay during the life of the initiative. Some resistance can be overcome through training and education and the rest will only be solved with accountability measures. Proper investment up-front will hopefully minimize the cost and pain as the initiative unfolds.