Many words have been written on the subject of ‘overcoming’ and ‘dealing with’ resistance to change. Much of the literature takes the view that
change is good and resistance to change is bad (Huy and Mintzberg, 2003), with those who resist change being described in a way that suggests they are self-serving or dysfunctional (Huy at al, 2014).
But perhaps we should take a different perspective on resistance to change?
Rather than treating it as a problem to be solved (by fair means or foul), maybe we should instead welcome it as a blessing in disguise?
Perhaps those who are brave enough to speak up and challenge the groupthink should be respected and listened to rather than being manipulated or ignored?
In this article I want to argue that resistance to change is a useful – sometimes essential – part of achieving the best possible outcomes for an organisation.
Useful because the challenges being levelled against the change are a fantastic opportunity to further inform and validate what is being proposed, both in terms of the change outcome and in terms of the approach to implementation. Only when all possible inputs are received into the change process can you be confident that the best outcomes will be achieved; and that is what resistance to change really is – a part of all the required inputs.
Articles on change management often assume that arguments being presented against change are driven by self-interest or emotion rather than the broader interests of the organisation and those that it serves. But to assume that someone else’s argument is invalid is both risky and hubristic.
What if the arguments against the change are driven in greater measure by the interest of the organisation than the arguments of those proposing the change?
What if the people proposing the change are less well informed, less well connected to customers, and more self-serving than ‘the resistance’? That must happen sometimes.
Eg if someone is paid to only do change then they will only do change. If a consultancy only gets paid if it delivers the change project then it will do everything it can to deliver the change project – including ‘overcoming’ resistance by whatever means possible.