Planning For Change By Measuring Resistance


One of the roles I play as a project manager is to introduce technology changes into the organization.  I will refer to the person leading the change as the Change Agent.  The amount of change varies from project to project.   One project could implement a large change to a user’s role while another project has just a minor change to the user’s application system.  When I plan a project I always need to factor in the amount of change that is being introduced into the organization.    


In order to implement “Planned Change” into an organization requires some planning and preparation.  The Change Agent will need to understand the natural human reaction to change is resistance.   Each person that is impacted by a change will also transition through four steps before they accept the change into their life.

In order to “Plan for Change” you need to understand the following two elements:

·         Resistance –  What is Resistance and What is its Value

·         Change And Transition Model – Four steps that individuals move through

Resistance – What is it?

One definition of resistance is the following:  It is an act or instance of exerting force in opposition to change.  We have all been on projects where we have had those feelings shared with us as the PM or we had them ourselves as team members.  We need to be sure to remember that resistance is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong.  It is more that is a natural response to change.  We are after all humans.

Resistance is a sign that people have an understanding that something is happening and that is something they care about.  It is important to understand the definition resistance so that we can recognize the resistance and put together a plan to manage the resistance.  We will strive to minimize the impact of the change to the individual(s).  We can help the team adjust to the change through the use of various tools and methods.

Source of Resistance

In order to help your team avoid some of the resistance you can take action based on what are three common sources of resistance.  The following diagram outlines the three sources of resistance:

The following are some additional pieces of information to help you plan for Resistance:

  • Not Knowing
    •  Your team members will resist change when they do not know what the change is
    • Common Questions/Statement will be the following:
      • What is the impact to me?
      • What is the impact to my team?
      • Will I keep my job?
      • Why change now?
    • Change Agent Action Steps – be sure to communicate what the change is and the impact to each person, their group.  It is equally important to tell them what is NOT changing.  During the implementation of the change you can’t over communicate!
  • Not Able
    • Your team may feel they do not feel they are able to do the new changed job
    • Common Questions/Statements will be the following:
      • I have never does this before.
      • This is going to be harder than the old way.
    • Change Agent Action Steps – be supportive of your team,  reassure them that through training they will be able to do the job, be sure to tell them that you have confidence in their ability to acquire the needed skills for the job
  • Not willing
    • Some of the team may be unwilling to change.  This will be the most challenging group.
    • Common Questions/Statements will be the following:
      • I am not sure I buy into the changes.
      • This will never work right.
      • Quality is going to suffer with these changes.
    • Change Agent Action Steps –  You will need to be creative in figuring out how to influence them to change by possible rewards or other mechanisms for changing.

Value of Resistance

As the Change Agent it is important to understand the value of resistance.  The following is a list of some of the criteria of the value of resistance:

  • Learn about our blind spots
  • Identify areas for implementing change more effectively
  • Create something that never existed before and that could not have been created alone – creativity through collaboration
  • Make agreements about change that stick
  • Sustain the change – it may be only through resistance and conflict that full commitment is achieved


The resistance can help to foster creativity through a collaborative effort of others.  By collaborating with team members for a Win/Win we can create a new solution.  And lastly it allows us to sustain the change because we can gain commitment from the team to implement and sustain the change.

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