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Conditioned to Resist Change


Drawing by Johan Majlov

This article is about the habit of resisting change. Habits are created and often require some consistent work to be sustained.

Not too long ago I met a Vice President of a company, let’s call him Bob, he told me that he had an exit interview with a person a retiree, let’s call him Mike. Mike told him, “you have disappointed me so many times”. Bob said “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that”, Mike said “not you personally, but the company has”.

Bob started to ask more questions to understand what he meant and Mike said, “you started so many programs, interesting things where we could get going and learn more, develop, take more responsibilities, etc. and I really liked that. I wanted to learn and do more of that and I got engaged. I put my heart into it and tried to get going. Suddenly you stopped it, for unknown reasons. It just disappeared and sometimes it was because you didn’t have time, but we had time and the will but we’re not allowed anymore. Then Time goes by and you started another program and another program and another program, the only thing that’s common between them is, that they all stopped. I put my heart into the first ones, but after a few of them I got hurt because I wanted to do something good and liked it but as soon as I let myself get into it stopped. I started to protect my own feelings.

In my own passed I find this is very common, people get trained into resistance. When they were hired, they weren’t resisting at all. They just become resistant to change, to protect themselves from the pain they feel when they tried hard and then something stopped even though they liked.

This is a key part for successful change leadership, to think about why people don’t change. Maybe they are more than willing, but it might take time and real leadership where you walk the talk to convince them that you are serious about it.

What about your organization, have they been conditioned to resist to protect themselves?

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Johan Majlov, CEO Lean Dimensions International