Tag Archives: change resistance

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of November 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of November 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are November’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Human-Centered Design and Innovation — by Braden Kelley
  2. Four Ways to Overcome Resistance to Change — by Greg Satell
  3. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do — by Mike Shipulski
  4. 5 Simple Steps for Launching Game-Changing New Products — by Teresa Spangler
  5. Why Small Teams Kick Ass — by Mike Shipulski
  6. Crabby Innovation Opportunity — by Braden Kelley
  7. Music Can Make You a More Effective Leader — by Shep Hyken
  8. Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers — by Robyn Bolton
  9. Asking the Wrong Questions Gets You the Wrong Answers — by Greg Satell
  10. Brewing a Better Customer Experience — by Braden Kelley

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in October that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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Four Ways to Overcome Resistance to Change

Four Ways to Overcome Resistance to Change

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

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.

1. 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 succeed.

2. Identify Your Apostles

In retrospect, transformations often seem inevitable, even obvious. Yet they don’t start out that way. The truth is that it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a common purpose that drives transformation. So, the first thing you want to do is identify your apostles—people who are already excited about the possibilities for change.

For example, in his efforts to reform the Pentagon, Colonel John Boyd began every initiative by briefing a group of collaborators called the “Acolytes,” who would help hone and sharpen the ideas. He then moved on to congressional staffers, elected officials and the media. By the time general officers were aware of what he was doing, he had too much support to ignore.

In a similar vein, a massive effort to implement lean manufacturing methods at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals began with one team at one factory, but grew to encompass 17,000 employees across 25 sites worldwide and cut manufacturing costs by 25%. The campaign that overthrew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević started with just 5 kids in a coffee shop.

One advantage to starting small is that you can identify your apostles informally, even through casual conversations. In skills-based transformations, change leaders often start with workshops and see who seems enthusiastic or comes up after the session. Your apostles don’t need to have senior positions or special skills, they just have to be passionate.

3. Shift from Differentiating Values to Shared Values

People feel passionately about things that are different. That’s why the first product that Steve Jobs launched after he returned to Apple was the iMac. It wasn’t a very good computer, but its bright colors were designed to appeal to Apple’s passionate fan base, as was the “Think Different” ad campaign launched around the same time.

Yet if all Steve Jobs had to rely on was difference, Apple would have never grown beyond its most ardent fans and become the most valuable company in the world. It was the company’s growing reputation for high quality and smart features that brought in new customers. True change is always built on common ground.

One of the biggest challenges in driving transformation is that while differentiating values make people excited about an idea, it is shared values that help grow a movement. That doesn’t mean you’re abandoning or watering down your principles. It just means that you need to meet people where they are, not where you wish them to be.

For example, the Agile Manifesto has inspired fierce devotion among its adherents. Yet for those outside the Agile development community, its principles can seem weird and impractical. If you want to bring new people, it’s better to focus on shared values, such as the ability to produce better quality projects on time and on budget.

4. Create and Build on Meaningful Success

The reason people resist change is that they have a certain level of comfort with the status quo. Change forces us to grapple with the unfamiliar, which is always uncomfortable. There are also switching costs involved. So, if you want your change to take hold, at some point you are going to have to prove you can get results.

One great example is the PxG initiative at Procter & Gamble. It got started when three mid-level executives decided that they could dramatically improve a process. They didn’t try to convince anybody or ask for permission but were able to reduce the time it took from weeks down to hours. That started a movement within the company that has attracted thousands.

When Experian CIO Barry Libenson started a cloud transformation at his company, he didn’t force anybody to go along. Instead, he focused on helping product managers who wanted to build successful cloud projects. As they began to show concrete business results, the pressure for others to get with the program increased.

Perhaps most of all, you need to accept that resistance is part of change and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, skeptics can often point out important flaws in your idea and make it stronger. The difference between successful revolutionaries and mere dreamers is that those who succeed anticipate resistance and build a plan to overcome it.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Measuring Change Readiness

Measuring Change ReadinessAre you and your organization ready for change?

Too often organizations define the change effort they want to pursue without first identifying whether there are people, resources, legislation, etc. present that must be in place before the change effort can begin. We will explore the circumstances you may want to explore before beginning any change effort and the areas to explore as potential prerequisites to the change program and its eventual success.

During the course of any change initiative many different challenges will appear, and the most successful change efforts will anticipate those challenges and have a plan for dealing with them. Part of that anticipation begins with identifying how ready the organization is for change.

The Change Planning Toolkit™ is designed to assist your change planning team by making the planning process easier with its collection of 50+ frameworks, methodologies and other tools.

One of the keys to change planning success is carefully identifying the prerequisites for change, including:

  1. What must we know? (Knowledge)
  2. What must we have? (Tools)
  3. What must be completed? (Foundation)

This information is captured in one of the worksheets in the toolkit.

One other concept we should stop and discuss briefly is the idea of change saturation. This concept captures the idea that organizations in general, and certain individuals in specific, can only absorb so much change at one time. One frequent occurrence with change efforts is the situation where more than one project or larger change effort may require the same human, financial, physical, information or other resources at the same time. To become aware of this situation and to enable you to work to mitigate the effects of change saturation, you will want to build a heat map identifying the different timing, duration, and intensity of the different requirements all of the different projects and change efforts will place on the different types of resources within the organization. This too is a prerequisite.

Another prerequisite for change is having a deep understanding for what the current state looks like, including having answers for the following:

  • Who is feeling the pain? Pushing for the change?
  • What is the pain caused by the current state?
  • Where is the bulk of the change likely to take place?
  • When did the current state start causing pain?
  • Why is the change being pursued

These questions can be asked and answered during your change planning session, but they must be asked and the answers must be integrated into your examination of your readiness for this change BEFORE you actually begin the change.

An additional prerequisite for change is also having a deep understanding for what the desired state will look like, including answers for the following:

  • Who are we making this change for? Who will feel the greatest benefit from this change?
  • Where will the resources and support come from?
  • When do we need/want to complete the change process by? Is there a legal deadline?
  • What solution would we like to see in place?
  • Why is this solution better than the status quo?

Finally, to be ready to pursue a change the organization must have people in place to look after each of the Five Keys to Successful Change and should be familiar with both the Architecting the Organization for Change framework and my PCC Change Readiness Framework (these are three of the free downloads from the toolkit).

My PCC Change Readiness Framework focuses on the psychology of key groups surrounding the identified change, the capabilities needed to successfully execute the change, and the organization’s capacity to tackle this change effort (along with everything else).

PCC Change Readiness Framework

You will notice that I don’t speak about organizational psychology or culture in my PCC Change Readiness Framework. The reason I don’t highlight culture in the same way that many other people do is that in today’s more social, customer-centric business, we must look more broadly than the typical inward focus of company culture when it comes to identifying the readiness of not only employees, but leaders, customers, and partners too. Inevitably many of our change efforts will have some impact on one or more external groups (possibly even non-profit entities and one or more governments).

You will notice that within the PSYCHOLOGY box there is a common focus on the mindsets, attitudes, beliefs and expectations of the individuals. Culture is incorporated into the psychology realm by focusing on what the shared understandings are around the potential change, but more broadly too. And, finally you will notice that my PCC Change Readiness Framework highlights the need for successful change efforts to move towards gaining commitment to the change from leadership, acceptance of the change by employees, and a desire for the change from customers and partners.

Within the CAPABILITY box of my PCC Change Readiness Framework we must investigate whether our change effort has any regulatory or statutory implications and whether we are ready to adapt, adopt or influence the changes necessary in this sphere. We must also ask ourselves a series of questions:

  1. “Do we need to get permission from anyone to do this?”
  2. “What knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for this change do we already possess?”
  3. “What knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for this change do we need to acquire?”
  4. “What relationships do we possess that will be useful in advancing the change?”
  5. “What relationships do we need to build to help advance the change?”
  6. “What are the enablers of making this change successful?”

Within the CAPACITY box we have to look at where our resources are approaching, or have already achieved, change saturation. This means they are unable to productively participate in any more change efforts or adopt any more change. But we also have to look at the availability of our resources:

  1. Human
  2. Financial
  3. Physical
  4. Information
  5. Executive Sponsors
  6. Space in our desired communication channels

It is easy to take for granted that the organization will have the capacity to undertake your change effort, but often there are capacity constraints that you will run into, especially as the pace and volume of change increases inside an organization. The one that is easiest to overlook and fail to plan for, is making sure that you’re going to be able to communicate your change messages in your desired messaging channels (they may already be full).

There is a worksheet that goes with the PCC Change Readiness Framework that will help you capture information around the:

  • History
  • Capability
  • Capacity
  • Partners
  • Context
  • Leadership
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Shared Understanding
  • Strategic Alignment (Commitment)
  • Cultural Alignment (Acceptance)
  • Brand Alignment (Desire)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve gone ahead and created a free downloadable flipbook PDF for people to grab. It was inspired by Braden’s article titled Change the World – Step Two, which was the follow-up predictably to Change the World – Step One.

PCC Change Readiness Framework Flipbook

You will find these companion tools for the PCC Change Readiness Framework in the Change Planning Toolkit™ to download for printing and use in your collaborative exploration of your change readiness.

Get Your Copy of Charting ChangeIn my next book Charting Change we will investigate additional aspects of change readiness and have a special section from one of my invited guest experts in the book, Beth Montag Schmaltz of PeopleFirm looking at several topics including change fatigue, where the change threshold lies, why people resist change, how to reduce change fatigue, how to build change capability, what change capable employees look like, and how you can embed change behavior into the very fabric of your organization.

The book is available for pre-order, and has received several strong endorsements, so I hope you’ll pick up a copy (or one for each member of your team). You can find more information on the Charting Change book page.

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Change Resistance is Not Inevitable

Change Resistance is Not InevitableThe idea that people always resist change is a lie, and it is extremely damaging to organization’s seeking to increase their organizational agility.

The truth is that people only resist changes that they either do not understand or for which they do not interpret there to be benefits great enough to offset the costs of their participation.

The truth is also that the natural response to a potential change in an organization is greatly impacted by the level of trust in an organization.

While it is a lie that change resistance is inevitable, it is true that executing change is hard. If it wasn’t, 70 percent of change efforts wouldn’t fail, but they do. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that most change efforts are communicated not explained.

Let’s look at definitions of both words from Dictionary.com to see the root of this difference:

Communication: A document or message imparting news, views, information, etc.

Explanation: A mutual declaration of the meaning of words spoken, actions, motives, etc., with a view to adjusting a misunderstanding or reconciling differences

You’ll notice here a big difference between the two mindsets – seeking to communicate versus seeking to explain. When you focus on explaining the change, you are focusing on ensuring UNDERSTANDING, and when people understand the change, and the purpose for the change they will be more likely to support the change.


One great way for increasing your ability to explain change is the use of a tool like the Change Planning Canvas™ to involve more people in the planning of a change, which increases the number of people capable of explaining the change and its purpose, plus it provides a visual map of the change effort that explains the change at a glance.

This is not say that even when people completely understand a potential change and the purpose for it, that they still might not not fight against it, but they will be more likely to support the change.

Change Planning Canvas

(For Illustration Purposes Only – Get the toolkit or the book for a clear copy)


The Change Planning Canvas™ is one of the more than fifty tools that make up my new Change Planning Toolkit™ that is now available via individual licenses for educational use and site licenses for professional and commercial use. It helps you move away from the incredibly counter-productive practice of planning change in isolation.

Organizations that do a better job of explaining their changes and the purposes for them, not coincidentally also tend to build up a higher level of trust over time, and organizations that do a better job at change explanation and maintain higher levels of trust are able to change faster!

But some people may still resist, why?

Some people may resist your change effort for a number of different reasons, but you need to identify up-front not only why people resist but also who will likely resist. Change Planning Toolkit™ users will want to capture the group’s thoughts on who will resist in the middle box of the People Worksheet from the toolkit and the corresponding box on the Change Planning Canvas™.

Some of the typical reasons why people will resist include:

  • inability to see the need for change or relevance;
  • loss of certainty (includes fear of job loss);
  • loss of purpose, direction, or status;
  • loss of mastery (includes loss of expertise/recognition);
  • loss of control or ownership;
  • loss of connection or attachment;
  • lack of trust or clarity;
  • fear of failure (feel unprepared);
  • see proposed change as irrelevant or a bad idea;
  • feel overwhelmed by thought of change.

You’ll want to identify the individuals or groups who have one of the above reasons for resisting change, and you will want to plan from the start to overcome that resistance in the same way that any good salesperson plans for objections, learns to hear them, and practices how to overcome them (for example, by developing and sharing strategies with coworkers).

Overcoming Resistance Worksheet

(For Illustration Purposes Only – Get the toolkit for a clear copy)


In the Change Planning Toolkit™ I’ve provided space in the Overcoming Resistance Worksheet for your team to brainstorm both the groups and individuals likely to feel any of these reasons for resistance, together with space to capture some ideas for overcoming these objections (aka resistance).

The Change Planning Toolkit™ also provides the Five Change Reactions Worksheet which allows you to identify which groups and individuals tend towards each of the five change reactions highlighted in this worksheet and explained in my book Charting Change.. These five change reactions typically occur in a standard distribution (aka bell curve) and you can increase the chances of your change success by shifting enough people to the left along the curve.

So, there you have it, a quick look at The Big Change Management Lie about the inevitability of change resistance and some ways that it can be avoided or at least mitigated, and an introduction to how some of the tools from the Change Planning Toolkit™ can provide even more help.

Accelerate your change and transformation success

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