Each of those "routine" changes can be accompanied by tension, stress, squabbling, sabotage, turnover, subtle undermining, behind-the-scenes foot dragging, work show-downs, needless political battles, and a drain on money and time. In short, resulting in resistance to change. Pin-pointing the source of the resistance makes it possible to see what needs to be done to avoid resistance, or convert it into commitment to change.

Most people want and need to feel in ‘control’ of the events around them. Indeed, behind the rise of participatory management today is the notion that "ownership" counts in getting commitment to actions, that if people have a chance to participate in decisions, they feel better about them.

A second reason people resist change is what is called "Walking off a cliff blindfolded"; too much uncertainty. Simply not knowing enough about what the next step is going to be or feel like, makes comfort impossible. Then they resist change, “It's safer to stay with the devil you know than to commit yourself to the saint you don't”.

A third reason people resist change is people are easily shocked by decisions or requests suddenly sprung on them without groundwork or preparation. Their first response to something totally new and unexpected, that they have not had time to prepare for mentally, is resistance.

A fourth reason people become conscious that the change will change the familiar routines and habits.

Fifth reason if accepting a change means admitting that the way things were done in the past was wrong, people are certain to resist. Nobody likes losing face or feeling embarrassed in front of their peers.

Sixth reason people resist change because of personal concerns about their future ability to be effective after the change: Can I do it? How will I do it? Will I make it under the new conditions? Do I have the skills to operate in a new way? These concerns may not be expressed out loud, but they can result in finding many reasons why change should be avoided.

Seventh reason may be connected to their own activities. Change does sometimes disrupt other kinds of plans or projects, or even personal and family activities that have nothing to do with the job, and anticipation of those disruptions causes resistance to change.

Eighth reason change is that change is simply more work. The effort it takes to manage things under routine circumstances needs to be multiplied when things are changing.

The ninth reason people resist change is negative: the cobwebs of the past that get in the way of the future. Unresolved grievances from the past rise up to entangle and hamper the change effort.

The last reason people resist change is, in many ways, the most reasonable of all: sometimes the threat posed by the change is a real one.

Change requires faith that the new way will indeed be the right way. If the leaders themselves do not appear convinced, then the rest of the people will not budge. The key to resolving the discomfort of uncertainty is for leaders to demonstrate their commitment to change.

It is essential when managing a change, to make sure that people do feel competent, that there is sufficient education and training available so that people understand what is happening and know that they can master it; that they can indeed do what is needed. Positive reinforcement is even more important in managing change than it is in managing routine situations. In addition people also need a chance to practice the new skills or actions without feeling that they are being judged or that they are going to look foolish to their colleagues and peers. They need a chance to get comfortable with new routines or new ways of operating without feeling stupid because they have questions to ask.

The leaders should make sure that people are given credit for the effort they are putting in and rewarded for the fact that they are working harder than ever before. They can recognize that the extra effort is voluntary and not take it for granted, and thank people by providing recognition. The leaders should listen to the past resentments and repair the past rifts.

Change is also a tremendous opportunity. But even in that opportunity there is some small loss. It can be a loss of the past, a loss of routines, comforts, and traditions that were important, may be a loss of relationships that became very close over time. Things will not, in fact, be the same any more.

“A philosophy professor gave an unusual test to his class. He lifted his chair onto his desk and wrote on the board simply: "Prove that this chair does not exist." The class set to work, composing long complex explanations - except one student, who took just thirty seconds to complete and hand in his paper, attracting surprised glances from his classmates and the professor. Some days later the class received their grades for the test. The student who took thirty seconds was judged the best. His answer was, "What chair?"

The leader should think out of the box… Switched on... Quick thinker...to execute the change.

MDF Training & Consultancy offers open training courses or tailor-made training which meets your  organisational needs on Change Management or Organisational Development. Please contact us at mdfasia@mdf.nl or call us at 84 (0)24 6258 4438.