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Resistance to change is NOT just a problem during the unfreezing stage of a project. Resistance is just as lethal to a change initiative in the implementation and refreezing stages, as it is in the initial unfreezing stage.

The pivotal question at each step in the organizational change process is:

"Does this step ask anyone or any group to change how they behave, what they believe, or how they feel?"

If the answer is "yes" to any one of these, then resistance to change will be present and may be an important threat to the success of the project. The human reality is wherever and whenever there is pressure to change, then there is resistance, regardless of whether it is rational or not. It is the change leader's job to determine the extent of the resistance and to select a strategy for dissolving it.

For example, John Kotter (Leading Change, 1996) describes eight steps in the organizational change process:

  1. establishing a sense of urgency
  2. create the guiding coalition
  3. develop a vision and strategy
  4. communicate the change vision
  5. empower broad-based action
  6. generate short-term wins
  7. consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. anchor new approaches in the culture.

Note that each and every step applies pressure to change on someone or some group. The pressure may be to think differently, to behave differently, and/or to hold a different attitude. Those under such pressure to change will experience resistance to change. Hence, the success of the entire project demands that we ferret out and dispel resistance at each and every step, or run the very high likelihood that the project will get derailed and fail.

Resistance to change can strike during pre-implementation planning, during implementation, as well as during post-implementation follow through. We help clients create an openness to change before, during, and after implementation so that their change projects have the best possible chance of success.


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