Do people resist change |
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Many of us say, there is resistance to change. It is because, we have been told so and many of us have experienced the resistance ourselves. Looking at it a bit more closely will show us a different picture.

If all of us resisted change, the ruling party in a democracy will never lose the elections, a child will never go to school, we will never change our phones and so on. And we also know how difficult it is to implement a new policy, how tough it is to adjust to a new climate, a new boss, a new company, a new time zone, a new home and so on. So, it is not fair to say that each and every change is resisted.

Firstly, it is our social need to be acceptaed by the others and hence, we welcome certain changes. At times, we initiate some changes ourselves because we have an innate need to conform to the customs, expectations and norms of the others who we care for. In all these cases, we drive the change and be the change that we seek to see. Clearly, these situations are far from resisting a change. For a leader to evoke this kind of a situation, one needs to know what is valuable for his team nd the norms that are prevalent for them. The moment the leader is aware of this, one can either align to the norms or make a lot of efforts to develop a new set of norms. Some times, it could be feasible for the leader to align the change along the social norms for his team. Then the adaptation to the new system will be easy. Think of the time when Steve Jobs said, ipod is a device to carry 1000 songs in your pocket and how ipods sold like hot cakes. Everyone valued listening to music from a wide collection of songs and ipod did exactly that! The change was welcome by the consumers.

In the cases where the new norms are to be established, it’s a long struggle and painstaking process for the leader. This process can get a bit easy if the target customer sees something valuable in it for him. Like Apple Computers did not talk about the technical specification of ipod and rather, focused on the possibility of listening to good music from a huge collection, the leader needs to talk about what’s in it for the team if they adopted the change.

Last but not the least, it is the evolution process that matters. The process determines if the outcome will be resisted or not. Let’s think of the LPG subsidy in India. Our Govt did a multimedia campaign prompting the people to give up the subsidies and publicised the results through a follow-up campaign. While many people gave up, several others were under pressure to give up the subsidies because they knew, they could do without them. And finally, the change was announced that the families with an income higher than a certain value will not be entitled for the subsidies. I think, this process was designed and executed in a superb manner. The process evolved slowly and the people were involved in it, though passively; the change seemed imminent and people were prepared. Finally, the rubber meets the road and all is well.

Change is resisted when people do not know what’s in it for them, are not involved in the evolution process or the it is undesirable by the people who matter to them. So, a clever leader designs the change in such a way that the stakeholders get involved in it, know what is in it for them and see their influencers liking it. An easy formula for the change agents!

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