Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why Change is so Difficult

Peter Vajda has an excellent post on Why People Resist Change. While I have a lot of respect for Peter, I think his argument misses some important facts. Namely the fact that people resist change because they can't see how it benefits them. In fact, often times the changes will hurt them. In those situations, no amount of involving them in the decision making process is going to persuade them to execute the decision.

Very briefly, Peter's thesis is that people resist change because they are not involved in the decision to change. While his arguments are compelling, they don't address the core reason why people resist change.

Why People Resist Change
When someone is trying to change a structure or process, by definition there is a structure and process which already exists. It's a good bet that someone put it in place because it benefits them, intentionally or accidental. In either case, they are probably the key power brokers necessary to make the new processes work. The new processes are often more efficient because they get rid of the loopholes that the power brokers currently exploit.

Everyone will often agree that the new structures and processes benefit the company as a whole. However, it's a good bet that they will not benefit the people who are benefiting today. And its a better bet, that even if those people agree in principle, when it comes to executing them, they will resist. They may resist passively or subversively, but they will resist. And it's good bet that they'll be smart enough to do it quietly.

Think of it this way. If your mother suggested changing from eating spinach to eating cake, it's quite likely that you'd implement that change easily. However, if she suggested changing your desert from cake to spinach, no matter how much healthier the diet would be, you're likely to resist. Do you really think being involved in the decision making process would change your outlook?

2 comments:

peter vajda said...

Among other notions, you say, "However, if she suggested changing your desert from cake to spinach, no matter how much healthier the diet would be, you're likely to resist. Do you really think being involved in the decision making process would change your outlook? "

Let's see...if she did sduggest that and I said no, and she said, "OK, here's what we'll do and you tell me what you think."

Since you won't eat your spinach, you can have your cake but for every dollar we spend on dentist bills for you for eating sugar and resulting cavities, we'll take that amount off your allowance. And, if you insists on eating cake and waste your spinach, we'll deduct the cost of the food you waste from the family vacation and the famil will suffer in the long run.

So, how might I then feel? I am involved in the decisison. And I know my options and that my choices have benefits or consequences, for me and for my family.

It's the same at work when we include folks in the process.

Andrew Meyer said...

Peter, I agree with everything you say in theory and if you have a ten year old child to eat their spinach or a fifty year old country manager you can get to change their billing process using this method, I'll eat my shoe.

Andy