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7 Feb 2011

Why Resistance to Change Is Natural and Healthy

All change is not good change, so resistance to change helps us determine between the two.

Resistance to change ensures that good ideas with good support get done by nixing the bad ideas with poor support.

People do not like change. It creates many problems for our organizational culture and office politics. Leaders often see resistance to change as bad. Understanding why it is natural and good helps us deal with it better.

The Natural Basis for Resistance to Change

Just think what would happen if everyone could change with flick of a switch. The instant a leader got an idea it was done. Sounds good?

No, if change were easy, this leader would likely change his mind every month maybe every week. That will not happen? Think again.

Look at how often we change channels on our televisions? Look at how fast surf the net. When architects could first digitally render their drawings, I said to a client, “Gee, you must be able to save a lot of time now.”

“Not really,” he replied. “Our clients know we can change things easily so they ask for more changes, more versions.”

Not All Change is Good Change

Resistance to change serves four purposes:

  1. Raising the cost of change
  2. Preserving stability and continuity
  3. Forcing the selling of change
  4. Ensuring there is strong motivation for change

The net result is that only the really good ideas with good support get done. It prevents knee-jerk reactions in the form of “idea of the week.” Resistance to change helps to make sure we do not experience constant change.

People cannot handle that. They need change in steps. That is why we climb steep grades quicker and better with steps than with ramps.

Another net result of these four purposes is that resistance to change preserves quality. If we were always changing things quickly quality would suffer. We could never master anything. Once we did it would change.

Resistance to Change Stabilizes Organizational Cultures

It would not just be processes that would change. People would too. If resistance to change did not exist, cultures could change overnight. The customer experience would change every day.

This would happen because change would not need work. All the work would be in trying preserve some kind of stability and continuity.

Yes, without resistance to change, we would change all the time. Resting would be as hard as change is now. There would be no rest if there were no resistance to change. We change with the wind.

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