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Consulting Essentials - Resistance

Posted by guest on October 11, 2016

This “Consulting Essentials” tackles something that you will encounter on all your business transformation or change projects, as sure as night follows day….and that is Resistance.
Now resistance is too large a topic to cover in detail in these short emails. However I would like to suggest an exercise for you to try with your project team. This will put the subject on the table and will help you identify how to spot resistance.

  • Introduce an agenda item on resistance at a team meeting.
  • Give people a few minutes to reflect upon instances on the project, or elsewhere, where they personally have had difficulty in getting individuals to become involved or to show support; where there has been a clear objection or even where there has actually been hostility.
  • Ask them to make a few notes to describe:
  1. The situation – i.e. when did it happen (e.g. stakeholder meeting, workshop, casual conversation)?
  2. The subject of the conversation, i.e. what was the business issue or proposal?
  3. Their sense as to the underlying cause of the objection. So was it rational (e.g. a disagreement with the business logic) or something else (e.g. a political or emotional motive)? If it’s something else then ask them to be as specific as possible (e.g. emotional – threatening to job security).
  4. The actual words used that indicated the objection was taking place (examples could be “we’ve tried this before”, “that’s just not the way things are done here”)
  • Ask the team to then write down on one post-it note the underlying cause and on another, the words used...and to repeat for each objection.
  • While they are doing this, title up a flipchart with “underlying cause” on the left hand side and “words” on the right hand side; separate with a vertical line.
  • Then ask people to stick up their post-its, with causes on the left and corresponding words on the right.
  • Then review as a team. Maybe group common underlying causes together.

Agree that objections where underlying causes are not rational are likely to be types of resistance. You will probably conclude that the words used often do not reflect the underlying causes of resistance.

I think you will find this an enlightening discussion and it really will get you into the area of identifying resistance on your project.


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