Friday, 16 May 2008

There's no such thing as resistance to change

It took me a while to work it out but after I did I was more able to help the process of implementing changes within teams and in enabling individuals to find new ways of working. What I discovered was it was not the other person who was resistant to change, but rather it was me who was labelling them as resistant. This revelation occurred one day during a debate about sustaining changes and "the resistant person" explained that he was actually sustaining what he thought was a better practice than the one being proposed. Then it dawned on me. Of course, he doesn't think he is resistant to change - it is me that thinks he is. (The whole paradox about sustainability we'll leave or another blog post!)

In my experience I encounter more of what I perceive to be resistance when I am proposing that someone take on an existing idea. It is less of an issue when they have the opportunity to be innovative and creative and can come up with something that is their own idea. There is something about buy in and commitment in the process. So I've been working for some time to come up with some of the "how" for this connection, commitment, buy in, communication - whatever you want to call it, process. So often I find high level management type language is used to explain what is happening but little is said about how to then fix the problem.

What I find helps for me is to use the concept of learning styles or personal preferences. The more I understand about the individual's personal preferences and the way they prefer to take on new behaviours, then more I am able to find a way to assist them in adopting this proposed new change. There are many different learning style frameworks. I use Honey & Muford's LSI Instrument and also the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and methods to help me understand the person I am working with.

Not only do these instruments help me understand, they also provide ideas on how communication materials need to be different for different styles. For instance, a more theorist style will require detailed materials providing the facts behind the business case and what may be useful is an electronic copy of the document with hyperlinks to other sites which can provide background infomration. In contrast, a pragmatist may require a single sheet of paper, folded in a clever way so that it is designed like a small book and in this booklet is all the information required, in bullet point form, including some space for them to make a few notes as they go. They should also be able to open up the booklet, photocopy it for someone else and then fold it up again.

It sounds like a mission to have to find out the types of people you're working with, their styles and preferences and then to design materials to and interventions to suit them. In my experience, I know of no other way to appropriately help them take on existing knowledge in a helpful and meaningful way.

Creative Commons 2008 Sarah Fraser Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derviative

1 comment:

Malcolm Gabriel said...


Great post! Your reference to personality type or personal preference is very helpful. I worked with the MBTI, as well as other behavior based instruments in the past.

People generally do interpret information or more easily adopt a change initiative based on the way it was delivered. Marshall McLuhan (Canadian author) once said: "the medium is the message".

When the communication delivery (same message) is structured to each personality type, it greatly enhances adoption.

However, there are some challenges: It is hard to find out individuals personality type to gain a general profile of a team or organization. When asking individuals to complete a MBTI questionnaire, it is normally for developmental purposes and could not be used for any other purpose.

On the other hand, experienced consultants / industrial psychologists can easily diagnose individuals personality types or personal preferences simply by observation.

Once diagnosed, a message can be written or communicated in multiple ways so that it resonates strongly with each personality type.


Malcolm Gabriel