The ultimate goal for every project manager is the stakeholders' satisfaction. I have learned over time that if my stakeholders are happy, I am happy.
In psychology, the concept of resistance to change refers to people experiencing emotional anxiety caused by the prospect of a transformation or change that is taking place. Therefore, eliminating this resistance was enough to motivate people to accept the change as an opportunity for improvement & development. However, to do this change, there are several problematic areas related to the person's personality, life experience, or the current situation.
Let’s start from here...
We want to change without changing (or continue doing the same things). This dichotomy generates resistance, often at an unconscious level. From this perspective, the solution is by understanding the resistance cycle of change to define and eliminate the blocking factors that keep people trapped in the past.
Resistance cycle of change:
This presented cycle is inspired by the Kübler-Ross model (or the five stages of grief).
- The Frozen Phase: In this phase, people usually do not react, and they appear that they are ready to accept the change. But in fact, their emotional system has frozen, and their rational mind has not yet processed the change to the extent that we can’t experience an anxiety crisis or other physical reactions.
- The Denial phase: People close their eyes to reality with the naive claim that the need to change disappears as if nothing happened.
- The Struggling phase: In this phase, people start accepting the fact of the change, but they did not accept the change itself, and they try to find the “way” to avoid it.
- The Depression Phase: People finally accept that the coming change can not avoid, and they start blaming themselves and feel that they are fighting a losing battle.
- The Experiment phase: The resistance to change finally disappeared, and the people realize that we have to react. They start looking for realistic solutions by experimenting with different coping models that fit reality and bring them closer to the change.
- The Accepting phase: People start discovering the advantage of the change, and they try to find the balance from the loss resulted from that change. They start implementing new models of adaptive behaviour to rebuild their identity in line with the circumstances.
Blocking factors that drive the resistance for a change:
There are too many blocking factors that drive a person to resist a change. Some of them are very common, while others are specific and case-oriented.
- The necessity: Everything starts with why? And people need to understand the "necessity" of the change before moving from their comfort zone.
- The fear: In general, people fear the "unknown", and they try to avoid the uncertainties. Besides that, they also fear failure, especially the ones having lack expertise.
- The power: Most people do not like the imposed changes, and they respond minimally to the changes they are not consulted about. A change force new rules to the current state and people find themselves weak with no power to reject the new rules.
- The habits: People are attached to habits, and they find it difficult to change models in doing things for a long time, and they have no tolerance for changing the routine.
- The Motive: As humans, we always seek to get more & more advantages with every change that occurs to us. With no benefits, people don’t have the motive to accept the change.
- The Timing: Sometimes, the change happened at the wrong time, where people have the intention to change, but not today! They are not READY to change.
- The instability: Too many changes exhaust people and lead them to resist a change. If the tolerance level for change exceeded the limit, people start to resist any change to ensure stability.
- The Beliefs: In some cases, change is a breaking point with some of our beliefs or opinions, which creates a cognitive dissonance that we are unwilling to assume.
- The Behavior: Some people have a personal predisposition to change, and they intend to resit for any change, and they try to find reasons to justify their resistance.
In the end, and as change drivers, we have to expect and accept some changes to our strategy (without changing the objective) to align our plans with the uncovered change resistance factors.
Finally, and back to project management, we have to remember that without stakeholders, that will not be a project to work on; and If you can't turn a stakeholder from a negative to a positive one, at least try to neutralize it.