Resistance to Change: a resource to effective change

Change Agent: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

published by Rutencja Cengu

I hear you say ‘Why?’ Always ‘Why?’ You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not? ― George Bernard Shaw

In this fast paced economy one thing that is inevitable in order to strive is change, yet change is the most difficult thing to accomplish, especially in a large organization. We live in an age of uncertainty with complex problems that span many boundaries, in which change is constant and fast- paced.

Change is constant and fast-paced

There are many change management frameworks and a vast amount of leadership resources out there; however, my favorite framework is the one proposed by four MIT faculties (Ancona et al.), which I have adopted and have proven through my experience to be the most effective framework.

This blog has three building blocks. First, it describes the leadership framework proposed by Ancona et al. Second, it modifies this framework and proposes the change framework by adding resistance to change as a feedback mechanism to the change process. Lastly, it summarizes some lessons learned while executing change initiatives.

Leadership Framework

This framework has 4 Key leadership capabilities and it adds ‘Change Signature’ – Your unique way of making change happen:
Leadership Framework


Coined by Karl Weick in 1995. Understand the current state by using many sources of data and involving others to map current state.


Developing key relationships within and across organizations via engaging in inquiry, advocacy and connecting.

Inquiry is the ability to listen and understand what others are thinking and feeling by trying to understand their position but also the data they used, the processes they applied and the interpretations they made in reaching that position.

Advocacy involves ability to take a stand and try to convince others of its merits, while maintaining an open mind that good inquiry might throw up viable alternatives.

Connecting is the ability to build collaborative relationships and create coalitions for change.


Create a compelling vision of the future. Visioning is the map of the future state. Visioning answers the question: Why am I doing this? Therefore, it is very important to emphasize its importance and the key dimensions.


This is about developing new ways of doing things and for people to work together to achieve the goals that have been set. This stage is especially crucial when dealing with adaptive challenges, where current skills and experiences aren’t going to solve the problem. We need to find new structures and processes to make our vision a reality.

+ Change Signature

The four capabilities, like the compass that they form, are only a tool. It is the change signature that determines how and what the tool is used for. While the capabilities focus on what leaders do, the change signature is about who a leader is. It develops slowly based on experience and skills. It is a key part of the leadership model because it represents who we are as leaders.

Change Management Framework

Change agents should possess characteristics of great leaders and entrepreneurs. I found the above framework to serve as an excellent Change Management framework, as well. My experience has shown that the above framework needs some feedback mechanisms to make the framework responsive and dynamic to the challenges faced by an organization. For example, one important feedback mechanism that helps both on Sensemaking and Visioning is Resistance to Change.

Acknowledge resistance as part of the change process and use it as a resource to effective change (Ford – Resistance to change: The rest of the story). Keeping conversations active with the change recipients will help you to objectively understand the current state. In addition, you can use it to draft the future state of the process by eliminating unnecessary waste.

I have led two offshoring projects, which are characterized by significant change, including change in roles, skills, knowledge, perspective, alignment, and process. For example, the resistance came from group leaders, who were skeptical to place work thousands of miles away when the norm was work to be completed by team member’s located onsite; employees, who feared that the change will be associated with job losses; managers, who were concerned with the quality of the services. Integrating them as a resource to the change process ensures implementation effectiveness of the change initiative.

Lessons learned: How to be a great change agent?

I would like to share with you important lessons I have learned over the last 10 years, while leading process improvement initiatives, on How to spectacularly succeed as a Change Agent in today’s economy?. Change agents need to adopt with the amorphous concept of leadership, thus change agents should be adaptive, great motivators, self-confident, influencers, etc. The change agent’s goal is to make change happen, contingent on a context; therefore, the change agent needs to identify the need for change, create a vision, specify the desired outcome, and make it happen. The following lessons will help you navigate the dangers of leading change without getting scapegoated.

Understand the context under which the industry where your organization operates

What are the business models that are mainly used? What are the controls: Regulators, other?

Show clear and immediate benefits of the change initiative

Begin with end in mind. What are we trying to do and what the overriding goal is? What do I need to do today to reach there? There are many great change initiatives the company can do, but which change initiative(s) should we focus for now? For example, I use the following factors to prioritize: Quality, Innovation, & Sales.

Create an environment in which team members are empowered to act

One of the main tasks as the change agent is to help people to develop commitment and feel a sense of ownership; therefore, as the change agent you need to provide clarity and trust. Providing clarity will ensure that the team member’s efforts are aligned with the change management initiative’s goals. Another very effective empowerment method is establishment (enforcement) of policies. Policies give employees the parameters they need to be creative, productive, successful and happy at work. (Clara Lippert Glenn, president/CEO, The Oxford Princeton Program)

Build trust

Gaining the stakeholders and project member’s trust is one of the main factors that will make your change initiative succeed. One very effective method to build trust is to build systems / structures to enable you to build the trust. For example, if your company uses business intelligence software to manage your business processes and operations, e.g., Laboratory Management Information System, than the first step to build trust in your change initiatives is to build people’s trust on the system.

Systems drive trust, not people – Henry Doss

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