Re: Resistance to Change LO1222

John R. Snyder (
Mon, 15 May 1995 12:44:06 -0600

Replying to LO1192 --

Bernard Girard (LO1192) wrote:
>In my experience as a consultant working in the management of change,
>there is a lot to learn in what we call "resistance to change". Those who
>resist usually have "good motives" to do so. Understanding these motives
>often say more on a company, its management and its flaws than long
>academic studies. [...]
>Listening to these resistances to change may change the planned change for
>the best.

Bernard, this is very well put and matches my own experience. It is
fascinating -- and more than a little sobering -- to think about the
assumptions underlying the rhetorical framework we have for organizational
change. I recently reviewed a number of papers on innovation that had
been submitted to a major academic journal. I was amazed at how
uncritically they adopted the language of "overcoming employee
resistance." Here's the mental model, as best I can reconstruct it:

-> Change must start at the top of the org chart
-> Managers act / Employees react
-> Managers push / "Targeted employees" resist
-> Managers should give convincing arguments in support of adopting
an innovation. They should listen to employees' objections
so that they (the mgrs) can give more effective arguments
in favor of their position (not so they could learn how
to improve the innovation).

One of the papers went on for pages about how important it was to have a
good fit between the innovation and the leaders' worldview. (I agree.)
Not a word about the fit between the innovation and the employees'
worldviews. Apparently that didn't matter, since the leaders could always
say "my way or the highway" if there was too much "resistance." The same
paper saw (truly a blinding insight!) that the greater the organizational
benefits of an innovation, the more likely the leaders were to continue
their support of it. It was not contemplated that the same might be true
of the employees. Apparently, leaders are personally committed to the
good of the organization and employees are only looking out for

Friends, we can do better than this.

John Snyder
Innovation On Demand                "Understanding is an adventure,and
Round Rock, TX                       like all adventures, is dangerous."                                     -Hans-Georg Gadamer