Why are organizations so resistant to change? Many point to a corporate immune system or to organizational antibodies that instantly attack change. The idea is that leaders prefer stability to disruption and put systems in place to reduce variance. These systems will instantly seek out and destroy anyone who tries to do anything different.
This is a dangerously misleading notion. There is no such thing as a corporate immune system. In fact, most senior executives are not only in favor of change, they see themselves as leading it! However, while most people are enthusiastic about change as a general concept, they are suspicious of it in the particular.
The truth is that is if the change you seek has the potential to be truly impactful, there are always going to be people affected who aren’t going to like it. They will seek to undermine it, often in very dishonest ways. That’s just a fact of life that you need to accept. Yet history clearly shows that, with a smart strategy, even the most ardent opposition can be overcome.
Ignore The Opposition — At First
The first principle for overcoming resistance is to understand that there is no reason you need to immediately engage with your active opposition. In fact, it’s something you should do your best to avoid in the early stages when your idea is still untried, unproven and vulnerable.
All too often, change initiatives start with a big kickoff meeting and communication campaign. That’s almost always a mistake. In every organization, there are different levels of enthusiasm to change. Some will be ready to jump on board, but others will be vehemently opposed. For whatever reason, they see this particular idea as a threat.
By seeking to bring in everybody at once, you are very likely to end up spending a lot of time and energy trying to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded. The truth is that in the beginning your idea is the weakest it’s ever going to be. So there’s no reason to waste your time with people who aren’t open to it.
If you find yourself struggling to convince people, you either have the wrong change or the wrong people. So at first, seek out people who are already enthusiastic about your vision for change and want it to…