"Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm." — Peter Drucker, in "Management Challenges for the 21st Century" (1999).
Try to get any new programs or initiatives started in an organization and you are likely to run into some resistance. In fact, I have never known anyone who has not encountered at least some friction with an organizational change. What is it about change in our companies that leads to opposition?
People often think what they currently have is perhaps more valuable than it is. In the classic change book, "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, the characters (Hem and Haw) could not comprehend that anything could ever be better than what they currently had. As Johnson pointed out, "the more important the cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it." It became difficult for Hem and Haw to even think about exploring the maze for new cheese.
Getting people to go along with a new program often depends on how the change is communicated. I once consulted for a sales firm undergoing a large-scale organizational change. The senior vice president responsible for the initiative went to each work site to not only let the employees know what was changing, but more importantly — to let them know what was staying the same. This was incredibly helpful for employees to hear so that they could feel some level of comfort in knowing that not everything would change.
People want control over the change. As organizational change expert Peter Senge noted: "People don't resist change. They resist being changed!" Employees may actually be positive to a change, but if the change is imposed on them, their reaction is often more obstinate. Leaders have to help employees feel a sense of ownership in the change process and outcomes.