Tips for Resisting Change Projects
By Vesa H Autio
Change is scary, so it should be resisted. A successful change may mean that you have to change the way you work. Your current skills may become obsolete. You may have to learn something new. A successful change may bring someone else glory. This calls for resistance! Here some tips for you who are there in the front line of resistance. Here some advice on what to say.
‘It is not possible.’
The classical change resistance sentence. ‘It is not possible’. When you say this. Make sure your voice is firm and loud enough. Make sure you sound convincing. Have a zip of water to make sure your throat is not too dry. Make sure you say and pronounce ‘not’ clearly. If you say that too silently you blew it. Then say it. ‘It is not possible’. If the proposer is a bit unsure. If others don’t yet know what to think about the proposed change. Then there is a good chance that this is all you need to do. If there is a moment of silence after your sentence you can continue with something like ‘could we continue to the next point in the meeting agenda because we are late ( if you usually are late) or because we don’t want to miss lunch (if you usually are hungry) or because we don’t want to miss our flights (if you don’t usually want to miss your flights).
But, It might be that the meeting participants don’t accept this comments as such. The presenter may be confident. The participants may be interested. They may even see the benefits. They may ask why is it not possible. Be prepared for this question.
‘It is not possible because earlier change was not possible.’
Organizations fail in their change projects sometimes. In every organization there is a change that was tried but didn’t succeed. Pick the one that failed most badly, or the one where the reasons for the failure were not studied. Pick the one that someway caused troubles to someone in the meeting and you’ll get an ally. Pick the one that no one knows much about and you can claim about anything. Here you don’t have to sound extremely confident. You may show weakness. You may show the mental wounds the failed change projects have given you. You may show the real fear you have against change. Become psychic. Bring the ghosts of the failed change projects to the meeting room. Dim the lights and light some candles. Make love not change, you may say. Or maybe the last two points are a bit too much. In most cases the change stops here anyway. The ghosts of the failed change projects are scary. Even the top management will think four times, spit over their left shoulder and mumble something like ‘…I am a strong leader…’ in an ancient language before continuing with the change project, and probably not even then.
But, it might be that in your organization all projects are analyzed when they are closed. In may be that in your organization you make improvements to your project management practices according to the findings from the earlier projects; both successful and failed ones. It just might be that the organization knows why some earlier projects have failed. There are no more ghosts in the twilight zone, but they all have peacefully walked into the light. Organization’s ghost whisperers have done their job well. If this is the case in your organization, then this sentence may not work.
‘It is not possible because there are other change projects to be done’ (and I resist those too)
Organizations oftentimes have too many projects going on at the same time. Bringing those, as well as all the ones that have been proposed lately, up may make the differences. The weight of the current projects and proposals just may push this new change project to the swamp of too many projects. Remind everybody how many tasks they currently have in other projects and see them sink. Let them feel all the project monkeys they have on their back. Ripping their hair. Twisting their nose. Biting their ears. Demanding to be fed. Internally; sit back and enjoy. Externally; be frustrated. List all the projects you are involved in any way.
But, it might be that in your organization the project portfolio is managed well. There are just as many projects as actually can be done. The projects are in a priority order and this new one has been carefully positioned there. If there is a need to terminate another project because of this then that is done. If your organization is especially wise it just might have built dependencies between all projects, which means that you then have to resist the whole portfolio in order to get this one cancelled. That would be quite a fight.
Be deviously positive
Even if the previous tips fail to help you all hope is not yet gone. You can also try some positive kind of sentences. ‘Yes, we should do this by the end of this month or not at all’ (knowing that this is not realistic).’I want to be in a (non-visible but) key role in this’ (and will not do my share). ‘This is great; we must invite everybody to this change project’ (knowing that that will sink the ship called Change).
Or just embrace change…
…if all these tips fail. Maybe because your organization’s ability to resist your resistance due to proper project portfolio management. Maybe because they have read these tips and know what to expect. Maybe because of management commitment or clear strategic objectives. Then consider ending your resistance. Maybe change is good. Maybe it brings improvement. If you, after a proper neutral evaluation, think that this change is useful, then embrace it. Instead of focusing on the possible disadvantages it brings (or may bring), focus on the possible advantages. Instead of focusing on problems, focus on possibilities. Join the change. Motivate others. Support others. Do your share. Smile at the ones who say that ‘this is not possible’. Have a chat with them and say that ‘I was like you once, but now I know that it takes a boy to resist change but a man to embrace it.’
Vesa H Autio is a solution manager in Consolis, and a senior advisor for a project management consultant company Arito-tsm offering JaVePro training and research services. He has over ten years of experience in managing IT, R&D and business development projects. You can read more from Vesa on his blog. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.