The Theme of Resistance
NOTE: Last week, we accidentally sent the ninth edition in our series on the major themes for implementing organizational change found in academic journals. Thank you for those that emailed us about the mistake. Here is the missing Weekly Briefing for the eighth edition. Next week will be the wrap up. We are looking for clues to answer the question, “Why do some men’s discipleship programs succeed while others languish or fail?” For now, I leave it to you to apply these general summaries to your men’s discipleship program. You can also apply the themes more broadly to change your business, your church, or even your family.
People resist what they don’t understand. People resist what they don’t like. People resist because, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” People resist just to resist. People resist for many reasons. We will never successfully plant the flag for men’s discipleship ministry in our churches unless we a) understand the dynamics of resistance and b) proactively plan and deal in love with resisters.
The eighth theme in organizational change literature is handling resistance. A significant risk from a failed change initiative is the increased resistance it creates for future change initiatives (Beer et al., 1990). Identifying and dealing with sources of resistance must be an integral part of an organizational change program if it is to work. Here are the factors related to this theme I found in the literature.
Identify resistance. When implementing a continuous improvement program it was important to identify sources of resistance and develop a plan to address it (Beer, 2003). Resistance to change can come from individuals or groups within the organization, either negatively as protecting the existing way of doing things, or positively as loyalty to preserve the organization (Ansoff & McDonnell, 1990). Behavioral resistance pertains to how individuals resist change, while systemic resistance pertains to how the organization responds to the pressure created by the extra demands on its capacity (Ansoff & McDonnell). Removing resistance empowers people to act (Kotter, 1995). However, Argyris (1990) noted that management teams find it difficult to face how their organizations resist new programs and initiatives.
Process to deal with resistance. A continuous quality improvement program in Canadian hospitals found systemic resistance required the firm resolve and special skills of transformational leaders over many years (LeBrasseur, 2002). Ansoff and McDonnell (1990) proposed a flexible method for countering resistance that emphasized first building support, then making changes in phases (culture first, then competencies, finally strategy but only when the organization is ready), and controlling the resistance as the initiative is implemented.
In summary, handling resistance is a major theme in bringing about organizational change. Related factors include mechanisms to identify and processes to deal with behavioral and systemic resistance. The final theme of routinization will be explored in the next Weekly Briefing.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
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