No Change

It’s been a while that I published an article due to my heavy involvement in some critical change interventions, change interventions are not new for me and over past decade I have learned and understood several facts which I want to share with you all.

Psychologically we human demand change as we usually get bored and we put our best efforts towards adopting a ‘change’, as this is a self-initiated change request, we tend to accept it, on a contrary, when the change is imposed, we usually resist it. This phenomenon of ‘resistance’ is applicable for all kind of change initiatives ranging from socio-political, economical, religious and most common ‘organizational change’.

Resistance can be individual or group resistance or it can be active or passive resistance depending on the nature of change intervention, the most potent of all is ‘Group Resistance’. I have seen that all kind of change initiatives divide people into three groups; first group will consists of people who will embrace change immediately and hole heartedly, these people are usually plotted at left hand side of normal distribution curve, second group (which is the largest) will be of those people who are not decisive i.e. should they embrace the change or wait, they are usually plotted in the middle of normal distribution curve, and third group will be those who are hard-core resistant group, and they are plotted on the right side of normal distribution curve, they strongly resist change and largely contribute to the failures of all kind of change initiatives.

In many occasions the most devastating form of resistance is group resistance where resistance is an ‘active resistance’ and it is (in my view) usually is a bi-product of ‘transformation in isolation’ i.e. a group of people lead change initiatives in isolation and other group of people resist this change as there is no mutual consensus among groups, mostly organizations acknowledge this gap very late and on top of this late realization, to curtail such resistance, ineffective remedial actions are designed and implemented, resulting in organizational change initiatives ending up as a failure.

We all agree that resistance is an inevitable phenomenon, however, it is not necessarily a negative one, as defined by Pardo del Val and Martinex Fuentes that “resistance is any conduct that tries to keep the status quo, that is to say, resistance is equivalent to inertia, as the persistence to avoid change. So inertia and thus resistance are not negative concepts in general, since change is not inherently beneficial for organizations. Even more, resistance could show change managers certain aspects that are not properly considered in the change process.”

Very true in my perspective, resistance is critical and helps the change agents to understand the certain aspects which are not considered in planning phase therefore, it is essential for the change agents to change their ‘paradigm about resistance to change’, but the question is how? I am sure most of my readers holding leadership positions will agree that we are thought and trained in tackling resistance to change with conventional tools; we are equipped with usual remedial actions which are designed to tackle resistance and make the change initiative a success, how successful are we with such tools? I doubt many change initiatives are failures.

I strongly believe that we are operating in an ‘uncertain world’ which is changing with much faster pace as compare to last decade. We are faced with more uncertainty than ever before, we are roaming in an uncertain and unknown territory, as mentioned by Donald Rumsfeld US Defence Secretary in 2006:

“There are known knowns, there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

But there are also unknowns unknowns – that ones we don’t know we don’t know”.

Therefore, in this changing, uncertain and unknown environment, we need to create an organizational capability which enables us to constantly and rapidly change, not only to meet the needs of our business context in which we operate but to tackle the known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

The key to this capability in my perspective is to relook at our organizational culture, which is defined as the pattern of artefacts, norms, values and basic assumptions about how to solve problems that works well enough to be taught to others. Culture is process of social learning; it is the outcome of prior choices about the experiences with strategy and organization design. It is also a foundation for change that can either facilitate or hider organizational transformation. (Waddell, Cummings and Worley 2011).

Keeping in mind the statement of Donald Rumsfeld about the known and unknown and clubbing it with the organizational culture definition by Waddell and Cummings I am very clear that with focused modification of organizational culture we create an appetite of ‘change’ at individual level as well as group level, this will help us in tackling the resistance irrespective it is active or passive.

In conclusion, resistance to change is an inevitable phenomenon, we need to accept it, in this uncertain business environment we must focus our attention to modify our organizational culture and bring ‘acceptance to change’ is one of our core organizational cultural value, this will enable us to be more successful with our change initiatives as more and more people who are in the organization and those who are joining new will be part of our planned change initiatives and accept change as part of organizational culture.


Waddell, Dianne M., Thomas G. Cummings, and Christopher G. Worley. ” Concept of Organizational Culture .” In Organisational Change Development & Transformation, 340. Sydney: Cengage Learning Australia Pty Ltd, 2011.

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