SME article suggesting that participants in change will follow a Gaussian distribution which can be divided into 3 categories:
2-4% who actively support the change
2-4% who actively resist
The rest who are “fence sitters” and will basically follow whoever wins
The article goes on to say that conventional management causes us to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources on the resisters; when in fact we should be focusing on developing the active supporters since they will be the ones needed to drive change forward.
I think this is wise advice and has served me well, but it occurs to me that we can’t simply ignore active resisters. “Get on the bus or get run over” is fun to say, but I think that active resisters demonstrate something important about the change that is taking place. And understanding them a bit better will lead to greater long term success. So here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. They almost always have a point. Resisters tend to channel all their creativity into imagining impossible scenarios that will cause the change to fail. It can be time-consuming and exasperating to debate these things. But if you carefully mine the complaints there’s usually some very useful information that may have been overlooked or unknown. Addressing it up front can help mitigate risk.
2. They usually tip their hands. Active resisters will often deliberately block success in a sort-of “I told you so” gesture once the change has been implemented. If you know what behaviors to expect ahead of time it can help you prepare for the inevitable roadblocks later. Know what they’re going to do, and be prepared to counter it.
3. They often reflect the organizational culture. You have to ask yourself if being a cement head is a people problem or a situation problem. Are there cultural elements at work that encourage resistance to change (or at least fail to reward embracing it)? If so, then you may have more of an uphill battle than you expect.
I’m sure there’s more, but I think the important thing is to resist the temptation to simply dismiss those who are obstinate and unhelpful, no matter how much we might want to.