(Complaining About) Resistance is Futile
It's such a common complaint when any program struggles or fails in an organization. Leaders often bemoan the supposedly undeniable fact that “our people are resistant to change.”
It's such a simple statement – and one that doesn't get challenged nearly enough. I'll do so here…
I know many of you are skeptical about Twitter (follow me). There's a lot of noise on Twitter and you can always find someone to just argue with, if you want. But, it's possible to have thought-provoking exchanges, even in a 140-character format.
I saw a tweet from Stephen Parry (@leanvoices), the author of the book Sense and Respond: The Journey to Customer Purpose. I've recently met and gotten to know Parry and his work within the past year.
And the real pithy wisdom came from Parry:
Ouch, right? That nails it right there… and in far fewer than 140 characters. I nominate that as “Tweet of the Year.”
I'm sorry to say but “there's resistance to change” is an excuse. We blame others instead of asking what we haven't communicated properly. Or we don't examine to see if we're just pushing our own ideas on people instead of engaging them in mutually-developed solutions. Maybe people think the leaders are “solving” the wrong problem in the wrong way.
I took LEI to task a few years for their survey about lean challenges that was pretty much the blame game:
Of the top five lean challenges, THREE of them blamed people at different levels:
- Middle management resistance (36.1%)
- Lack of implementation know-how (31.0%)
- Employee resistance (27.7%)
- Supervisor resistance (23.0%)
- Lack of crisis (17.7%)
Read more: Survey Blames Blame for Lean Struggles
So much resistance, huh? Does that probably mean, instead, that we have a leadership crisis in our world, rather than saying we have a “resistance crisis”? It's sort of harsh to say to a leader that the resistance is probably more your fault than it is the fault of those being resistant.
I don't believe the statement that says “people are resistant to change.” That becomes an excuse, as we can sit back and blame others for not doing what we want. I think it's more true to say “people don't like to be told what to do.” I've been thinking and saying this for many years now (and I included this idea in my book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction – see page 85 via Google Books).
To be a high-performing high-quality organization, I think we need to quit telling people what to do.
When we face “resistance” or when we find ourselves talking about that, let's let that moment inspire us to be introspective and to go listen and learn from those who are “being resistant.” Why are they being resistant? What's the root cause of this resistance? Don't say “they're bad people.”
Don't just blame and complain. Be a leader.
Your thoughts? Is there validity to “resistance to change” or is it just a cheap excuse that gets tossed around too easily?