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How to Implement Change… in the Face of Resistance to Change

How to Implement Change… in the Face of Resistance | Video

Let’s face it, whenever we implement change, we face resistance. So, let’s look at how to handle the five commonest forms of resistance to change, to make your change implementation a success.

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Resistance to Change

People will resist change.

That’s a given.

Unless, of course, you are proposing to halve their hours and double their salaries, with no strings attached. Even then, you’ll need to handle skepticism at best – cynicism at worst!

But in the real world…

Well, change is complex. And people will resist it in many different ways. So, let’s look at some of the commonest ways people resist change, and how to deal with them effectively.

1. I Don’t Understand Why We Need to Change

We get on with our working lives and are only aware of what impinges on us.

But leadership teams need to see everything. They become aware of the need for change.

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is a reasonable response

But if it is broke…

Your first level of resistance demands that you spend the time explaining and, more important, demonstrating the need for change:

  • Trends
  • Drivers
  • Threats
  • Opportunities

But it gets tougher…

2. I Don’t Understand Why This Change

Okay, so now they get it. We need to change. But, why has our organization chosen this route?

There are usually a lot of trade-offs and sometimes, the best solution is not the obvious one. 

But, unless you can give a good meaty because, to their wholly reasonable ‘why’, they will always feel some resistance. Be honest with them about the reason – even if the solution is not necessarily the best for them.

Be aware that there are two subtly different forms of this:

  • The simple ‘I don’t understand’, and
  • The more complex ‘I do understand’ – but in reality, they are misunderstanding

3. I Don’t Like this Change

This is not the toughest challenge you will face – but it is often the most important one.

And there are two forms it can take. It might take both!

  • The obvious
    ‘I don’t like it, because of its impact on me’
  • The objective
    ‘I’ve seen what you are doing, and how you are doing it. I think you’re about to make a mistake.’

4. I Don’t Like Change

Nobody likes change. Yet we all go through change all the time.

Two things you need to do:

  1. Give confidence
    That they can survive and thrive
    Emotional support
  2. Give knowledge and skills
    So they know what to do

It used to be…

The solution is training. Large and small training events equip people with the confidence and skills to go forward and feel good. This is particularly the case with new software implementation.


  • Large amount of material to get through. Daunting
  • Large resource implication (cost and time of trainers dwarfed by the non-working hours of trainees)
  • Memory fades – people need additional support in workplace. Still get slowdown in productivity, raised error rates, declining morale.

A better approach is to embed training in the workflow to teach users how to get the best from their new software tool. These Digital Adoption Platforms act like an ever-present coach, as the user works with their new or changed software.

That’s where our sponsor, WalkMe, steps in.

WalkMe offers a leading Digital Adoption Platform that does away with the need for extensive training and on-the-job support. Instead, it sits alongside every single user, all the time; patiently prompting, and guiding them through every interaction with the new or updated software.

And it does it for as long as they need it – or want it. WalkMe makes the adoption of new software easy for users. Giving them the confidence to work with the new software from Day 1, and the satisfaction of knowing that they can do their jobs as well as before – and maybe faster and more accurately.

And the Project Team sheds the need to plan and schedule training. For the project, allocating a team to tailor the WalkMe interface to your organization’s processes is far less to manage. And your sponsor gets to spend less money while reducing the levels of risk. 

And, better still, when you – or your software supplier – introduce new features or update the UI, your team can configure WalkMe to support users through the changes. 

5. I Don’t Like You

The rotten core of resistance has nothing to do with the project itself. But you know what? When change happens, people resist.

So, if someone has a gripe, a grievance, or is just feeling mean, what better time to air their frustration?

‘I don’t like you’ is rarely personal (though it can be. And, while you are in the firing line, it’s not likely to be about you, even if it is personal).

This is usually about some history. To them, you represent something or someone that they mistrust or dislike.

There are only two real possibilities.

  1. The employee may well have a legitimate grievance.
    If so, refer it to the relevant manager and expect it to get sorted. Then expect the resistance to stop.
  2. The employee has no legitimate grievance
    At some point, their resistance is becoming misbehavior. If so, escalate appropriately and expect the resistance to stop.

Summing up

Implementing change is difficult. But, as I said in an earlier video, it is very much part of our jobs – even if, on large projects, there may be specialists involved.

And the thing most Project Managers find most daunting is the fear of resistance.

But here is the thing: resistance is good! It means people are engaged – and no longer in denial that change will happen.

So, Follow the Golden Rule of Resistance to Change

Respect your resisters and engage with them positively and respectfully.

Deploy the tools you have at hand. And constantly check that the resistance you are seeing is still what you thought it was.

For more information on Handling Resistance, check out my Handling Resistance Pocketbook.

And, if you are implementing new or upgraded enterprise software, take a look at how WalkMe can help you save money, boost productivity, reduce errors, and improve employee experience.

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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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