Change Management – dealing with resistance

Change management means being able to work with resistance. It’s crucial how you understand, accept and constructively deal with it.

Let’s get straight to the point – as consultants change is our core business.  That’s how we earn our money. However, I personally don’t just deal with change because I earn money assisting organisations change and to deal with the usual resistance, but because I have always found change attractive and interesting. According to popular opinion, I belong to a minority.

But back to the topic. Especially because I have a lot to do with change, I think a lot about it – and talk about it a lot with people.

Change management also means allowing a review of the past

Change is something difficult. It has many aspects but in brief, it brings the chance for new experiences and at the same time there is an inherent criticism of the old ways; they are outdated, redundant, ineffective etc and sometimes people are attached to these and unhappy to let them go.

And old experiences are usually not old, not outdated; they have carried us through life and presently still do so. That may sound a little weak, but to be honest it is meant to be quite practical. Everything we do, all our actions, our day-to-day tasks, our routines in the office and at home, are based on our experiences. Within the concept of experience is the truth that somewhere or somehow in the past we have lived something unpleasant. Thus, to have had a bad experience from which we then drew practical conclusions that worked for us. Then we get attached to them!

What works, what doesn’t, who we can trust and when will we be careful – and finally, what is expected of me and what is not. This is how our life works. Especially when we walk around with that pleasant feeling of having our life under control, it has a lot to do with the fact that we are convinced that our actions and our existence are based on the right conclusions. We have had the right experiences to bring us where we are today.

By the way, that is a damn good feeling! When was the last time you felt that? Enjoy it! It is valuable! And sometimes it isn’t that common!

Change creates resistance because experiences are devalued

And right then, feeling secure and in control… is when change hits you. What does it do? It questions the bundle of beliefs and experiences each one of us has. Okay, questioning the reasons and methods might still be all right but far more seriously, changes devalue our experiences. Parts of our life (hard work and suffering included) that we have mastered and which we have transformed into behaviour and everyday competence is no longer worth as much. It can even become an obstacle and if we are very unlucky it can become ridiculous looking back.

Our recipes for life suddenly belong in the museum or in the bin. That is when we question ourselves – without having something new in our hands, something that we have already integrated into our lives and can tell as an experience-based story. Usually it’s not only about  a slightly changed role in the team, a new process and task or learning a few new skills it goes much deeper – it’s about ourselves, our life balance and devaluing what has gone before.

Of course, not everyone feels that way. Some people see the change as a chance to leave the unfinished things behind them or get away from something they didn’t enjoy or value. Others have found out that they are simply good at acquiring new experiences, and so change is new and interesting for them. Their attitude towards life is stimulated by these new influences. They see opportunities everywhere and hope to use them. Such people are pleasant to work with when it comes to developing organisations and changing things.

Change management – understanding resistance

How can you work with others in change situations? There is no patented method unfortunately, but it is more about having an attitude or orientation towards it: loving and caring! Maybe this is too forceful and emotional, but it is also practical.

Being loving and caring means to face others, turn towards them, notice them and to be respectful. Being loving also means appreciating their past and allowing them to accept their own past as being incredibly valuable. The past is valuable but well, it’s also the past!

When I have achieved that, then I can tackle the change itself. With a light heart, with appropriate self-confidence and with a cautiously developing enjoyment of the new.

by Joachim Karnath – Founder CONTRACT