20.9.2015 — No resistance - no change. Use yourself as an instrument to recognise resistance.
The conversations about change resistance seems to be reopened regularly.
Change resistance is an everyday phenomenon. It is integral to all new; change, learning and doing my work now. You work with it when you wake up in the morning. Some people tend to resist more some less.
Many find resistance frustrating and would like just to get rid of it. That is like wishing for a physical world without friction. I sometimes hear about breaking the resistance by force. To me it sounds amusing - such an attempt would only make the resistance change shape.
The term resistance is easily taken as judgmental or offending. In reality it is a neutral defensive reaction, not targeted against anyone. When resistance happens in organizations, it has an effect on different players' interests and becomes subjectively good or bad.
In organisations you find change resistance especially when you touch personally important things:
Conscious resistance is easy to work with - it is fair challenging. Be happy when you encounter it! Unconscious resistance is delusive, undermining resolution, draining energy, dizzying, distracting, causing emotions, manifesting in strange actions.
Possible manifestations of (unconscious) resistance:
Obviously it is easier to work with the unconscious resistance, when you first recognise it. But how?
Human beings have delicate mechanisms to share mind states with each others (mirror neurons and so on). Use yourself as an instrument: Whenever you feel strange, wake up and observe carefully!
Leadership constantly works with resistance, in oneself and others. The forms of resistance change and develop while the work progresses.
The guideline is to return to the principal task. Again and again. Just like meditation... finally leading to flow.
It is best to point out observations how the work is (not) progressing and ask how to continue. You may offer observations like "For the last 10 minutes we have talked about Y, while we agreed to talk about X." Maybe there is resistance because X is too threatening. May be Y is actually more important. Or that we have not yet spotted the really scary roadblock Z.
When time is ripe, you may talk about the phenomenon of resistance, and let people themselves find out their own typical behaviour. Usually it is wise to use a separate occasion for learning about the resistance phenomenon. It is very useful to have the word "resistance" in the organisations vocabulary.
Resistance transfers from the team to the leader. The leader needs to observe ones own resistance in order to be able to function. Ability to tolerate separation from the team is very important for leaders.
Resistance is a very strong and contagious force. It is useful for the situational leader to prepare and have productive antidotes against resistance:
Before finding Agile, Ari built software for embedded distributed fault tolerant software for seven years. For the next decade he worked as an organizational therapist with cultural change, teamwork and leadership. Since 2006 he has contributed to LeSS-flavoured Agile transformations including mechanical engineering, market automation, and embedded system development. For the last couple of years Ari had international coaching assignments ranging from teams to board.