Application: Employee Resistance To Change

By the end of Week 7, you will submit a Change Management Plan for successfully managing change related to a fictitious company, called Hamilton Snacks, which is acquiring a smaller Oregon-based company, called Arlo’s Granola. To learn more about the acquisition, read the Change Management Case Study that is attached.

The following Assignment is designed to help you begin work on your Change Management Plan. Before you begin, consider the following statistic: 70–90% of acquisitions fail (Martin, 2016).  Why do so many acquisitions fail? One reason is because leaders grossly underestimate challenges related employee resistance to change.

In this Assignment, you will consider why employees may resist the change described in the case study and explore leadership strategies for reducing resistance.

Martin, R. L. (2016). M&A: The one thing you need to get right. Harvard Business Review94(6), 42–48.

To Prepare:

  • Read the article “Change Management Models: A Comparative Analysis and Concerns.” (ATTACHED) Consider the steps for successfully managing change.
  • Read the articles “Resistance to Change in Organizations”(Attached) and think about why employees resist change, how employees express their resistance to change, and leadership strategies for reducing resistance to change.
  • View the media resource “Communication Strategy for Leading Change. (TranscriptATTACED) Think about the importance of implementing a communication strategy to reduce employee resistance to change.
  • Read Chapter 11 in the Northouse text. Consider how adaptive leadership could be applied to reduce employee resistance to change.
  • Read the Change Management Case Study that is below. Think about why employees may resist the change described in the case study, and identify specific leadership strategies for reducing employee resistance to change.

By Day 7

Submit a 2 page paper that addresses the following:

  • Briefly describe three reasons why employees may resist the organizational change described in the case study.
  • Using the follower typologies in this week’s readings, describe two types of employees that are likely to resist the change and two types of employees that are likely to embrace the change, and explain why.
  • Recommend two leadership strategies for reducing employee resistance to organizational change. Provide specific examples of how each strategy would reduce employee resistance to change.

    Change Management Models: A Comparative Analysis and Concerns —BRIAN JOSEPH GALLI Long Island University-Post, Greenvale, NY 11548, USA

    IEEE DOI 10.1109/EMR.2018.2866860

    Abstract—To better understand change management, we compare some popular change management models in relation to project management and organizations in this study. After a brief introduction of five major models, various advantages and disadvantages are identified for each. Lessons and implications for organizations and management are also introduced.

    Key words: Change management, project management, change manage- ment models, Kurt Lewin, Kotter’s 8-Step, ADKAR, McKinsey 7-S, general electric CAP


    CHANGE is inevitable, whether it is personal or professional. Also, change is necessary in order to grow, especially in your professional career. Maintaining the same position ten to fifteen years later usuallymeans that change has been limited. However, we as individuals and organizations are creatures of habit, so change is not always easy. Professional changes are even trickier to deal with as a project manager or organization leader. In these positions, you are responsible for helping your team members and employees to reach their full potential and to produce great work. This goal is tricky because of the multiple personalities involved, but changemanagement may be a useful mechanism in this circumstance.

    A proactive organization and project management team customarily has a preset change management plan for project or organization structure, business systems/processes, or employee role change requirements. Change management consists of three layers: organizations, people, and projects. To fully understand the various change models, we must first understand why they are needed and what change management means at its core.

    Change management is “the application of a structured process

    and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired business outcome; it is both a process and a competency” (Creasy, 2018). This situation requires an organization, project team, or individual to notice a need for change. Furthermore, it seeks to evolve from their current state to implement change/s to reach a desired state. Calling it a process means that once it is implemented, it can be used repeatedly, but calling it a competency means that it should generate an effective outcome for the majority of the time.

    Before a project team or organization can construct a viable change management plan, they should understand the available change models to find which is most effective for their project or organization. There are many recognized models available; in this article, we will focus on some of the more popular and theoretically sound models.


    As mentioned earlier, change management (CM) is evolving from a current state to a desired state. Before executing change, a series of phases need consideration. Figure 1 shows a general change management process from a project management perspective. In the


    project planning cycle, the project manager has a process and change management model in place that is specific to their management style.

    The first phase involves identifying the need for a change. This means that either something has come up in the project that the team or manager would like to change or a different outcome arises than previously discussed. When this situation happens, the activities that take place are deciding the current, the future, and the transition state. A basic question is how it will affect the scope of the project and if the scope needs to be altered.

    In the second phase, the team or manager determines the change details. It is a process in the sense of how the team conducts certain tasks and activities will be changed. A question arises on whether there is a role change where a team member(s) will take on a new role or responsibility. On the other hand, is it an overall change to be based on client needs? Cost and risk analyses are performed in this phase to consider the feasibility of change based on time and financial resources.

    The next phase is when CM models roles begin. This plays a large role in how the change will be implemented. Stakeholders’ needs and interests

    require assessment, with commensurate communication to them, for effective change to progress. Whether the change is minor or major, the project manager will experience some resistance to the proposed changes from both team members and stakeholders. This is why the selected change management model is such a crucial part of the CM process; each model has methods in place to help curb resistance. This is also where the action, communication, and resistance plan for the CM process need to be created and tailored to the different stakeholder groups.

    Fourthly, there is the implementation stage. The transition state occurs and the plans are now put into motion, while a CM process has actually been formed. Lastly, the monitoring phase controls the changes and ensures that they are on track to get to the desired state. Any errors are caught and lessons are learned for future references to update the CM process, which helps to ensure success future CM process use.

    Now that we understand some of the generic CM process stages in a project environment, we will discuss in detail some of the models that are most commonly used. This comparative discussion includes their differences and similarities. Then, a recommendation that is based on

    some CM model strengths and weaknesses is made.


    “Due to varying factors internal to an organization’s environment, not all changes are the same; therefore, management needs to use different change models and methodologies depending on the situation” (Schech-Storz, 2013).

    CM models typically utilize various theories. Variations in personnel and organizational cultures have led to various perspectives. Five popular and tested models are reviewed here, including Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model, Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model, ADKAR Change Management Model, The McKinsey 7-S Model, and General Electric’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP).

    Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model “Kurt Lewin and E.H. Schein, considered precursors of change management models, believe that the process of change involves three basic stages: the behavioral thaw (unfreezing), the change (transition) and the recrystallization of behaviors (change)” (Talmaciu, 2014).

    Lewin’s theory (Lewin, 1951) proposes that organizations need to have time initially to reflect on the change and organizational

    Figure 1. A general change management process. Source:


    involvement analysis prior to “unfreezing” the organization. Lewin made several assumptions for effective change. His first assumption was that there needs to be a change motivator or else the change does not occur. The second assumption was that employees are at the heart of changes within the organization. Then, his third assumption was that those affected by the change need to adapt, incorporate the new processes into their routine, and discontinue past practices. Lastly, Lewin postulates that even with desirable goals, resistance to change is common. For a change to be effective, replacing organizational behaviors and attitudes must reinforce it.

    Figure 2 summarizes Lewin’s theory. There is an initial understanding that the organization or project process needs to be changed. Initial understanding requires an in-depth analysis for what is and what isn’t working. A plan then needs creation.

    The CM process has now entered its transition phase. This phase is where the resistance from employees will begin to take place, as well as hiccups, because the employees are not used to the new changes. When this occurs, it is important to have resources readily available for team members or employees to ease the transition. These resources can be in the form of training, instructions, or simply having access to the project manager or department manager to make inquiries. In the third phase of refreezing, according to Levasseur (2001), the model requires change agents to work actively with organizational personnel to install, test, debug, use, measure, and enhance the new system.

    Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model (Kotter, 1996) expanded Lewin’s original change theory. Kotter believed that “Leadership must create and sustain the kind of changes needed for successful organizations

    to compete in the current competitive world” (Kotter, 1996).

    The eight steps in the model include: 1. Create a sense of urgency. 2. Create a core coalition. 3. Develop and form a strategic

    vision. 4. Communicate and share vision

    plans. 5. Empowering employees to act

    on the vision. 6. Generate short-term wins. 7. Consolidate gains and produce

    more change. 8. Initiate and set new changes.

    Figure 3 below shows an example of how the model operates. In step one, the project team or organization realizes the need for change, which is where they create a sense of urgency to get the ball rolling. Kotter (2012) stated in the Harvard Business Review that “creating a sense of urgency is critical to increasing the organization’s awareness that it needs strategic adjustments and that there are always opportunities in sight.” In the second step of creating core coalition, Kotter notes that for “effective change to happen, a team of effective leaders must develop into a coalition to build urgency around the need for change. People must know change is necessary” (Kotter, 1996).

    Developing a strategic vision requires formulating a clear and sensible transformation vision. The transformation vision is required to align objectives and to progress as a group (Calegari, 2015). Change will not be successful without a well- developed strategic vision because the project team or organization does not have an overall roadmap for the change process. Also, the employees must understand why the change is needed in order to support it.

    Effectively communicating the strategic vision is the next step. Management and the CM team

    Figure 2. Kurt Lewin’s change management model.

    Figure 3. John Kotter’s model.


    should share the vision of change to get employees and team members onboard. The CM team needs to get the employees to see the need for the change. This step is crucial because if not handled properly, there could be fundamental resistance from employees, and team members can feel left out.

    In step five, to empower employees means to allow them to try new ideas and approaches. Communication alone is never sufficient. Employees need support in removing obstacles to the vision (Kotter, 1996). Meanwhile, step six, sees that the changes and progress is made with significant outcomes and sharing is needed. Short-term wins help, and demonstrating that the change effort is constructive is important. These wins help the CM team to test the vision against real conditions and to make necessary adjustments.

    Step seven requires that the organization or project team should consolidate gains and produce more change. Not allowing complacency and continuous progress is a goal. Change efforts often fail because participants revert back to their prior habits, usually failing to continue change implementation. Finally, there is the initiation of new change. In this stage, the goal is to institutionalize the change and to anchor it in the organizational culture (Kanter, 2003).

    ADKAR Model The ADKAR Model (Hiatt, 2006), as opposed to the previous models, focuses on people change adaptation, as opposed to the change itself. The ADKAR model is sequenced by how an individual experiences the change. The ADKAR lifecycle begins after identifying a change. From this initiation point, there is a framework and sequence

    for managing the people side of change (Hiatt, 2006). The acronym stands for five goals that the model aims to accomplish. These are: 1. Awareness 2. Desire 3. Knowledge 4. Ability 5. Reinforcement

    Figure 4 shows the ADKAR Model sequence. We now consider the factors that affect the 5 steps. Awareness is when an organization or project team informs employees of a need for change. The primary issue at this stage is determining the level of change for a specific project. Desire from the employees and project team requires the motivation to participate in the change along with the ability to perform necessary changes. Thus, employees need knowledge of how to change and what the change entails. ADKAR continues to Ability, which are the skills required to implement change on a day-to-day basis. Reinforcement is then needed to maintain and sustain change in the organization or project (Hiatt, 2006).

    The McKinsey 7-S Model The McKinsey 7-S Model was developed by Tom Peters, Richard Pascale, and Robert Waterman Jr., while McKinsey & Company employees. The model analyzes seven organization or project team aspects, highlighting the changes to be made. The 7 S Model consists of: 1. Strategy 2. Structure 3. Systems 4. Skills 5. Staff 6. Style 7. Shared Goals

    Figure 5 shows a McKinsey 7-S Model and its linkages. Strategy

    involves transforming the organization from the current position to the new position, as identified by the objectives. The structure identifies and defines the roles, responsibilities, and accountability relationships (Singh, 2013). Systems are formal procedures of the organization or project team. They include management control systems, performance measurement/reward systems, planning, budgeting, resource allocation systems, and information systems. The systems influence behavior because they are the mechanisms that affect resources available for a given entity, as well as the processes by which individuals are rewarded and groups measured (Spaho, 2014).

    Skills are the ability of employees and team members to do the organization’s or project team’s work. The staff possesses the skills, which is the model element. Also, this element looks at the way in which the company hires and retains staff into the organization or project team. Lastly, shared goals are the central organizational beliefs and attitudes helping employees to understand the organizational purpose, as well as how it will affect the internal and external environments.

    General Electric’s Change Acceleration Process Model (CAP) General Electric Company came up with its own version of a CM model to transform how people accept, operate, and employ new business strategies. The CAP Model allows an organization to manage business model change implementation. GE recognized a need for the model, since the success or failure of a new business project deals with both acceptance and quality. They represent this with the

    Figure 4. The ADKAR change model stages.


    equation Q � A ¼ E. (Polk, 2011). The equation means that good quality work with good acceptance will result in effective change or results.

    The model has 7 steps, see Figure 6 (Neri & Mason, 2008) and include: 1. Leading Change: A champion

    who will drive change is identified. A champion who sponsors the change management program initiates most successful change initiatives; the champion must be publicly visible, committed to the change.

    2. Creating A Shared Need: The team identifies the reason for a

    change, makes certain reasons for a change, makes certain the reasons are widely understood, and overcomes resistance to change.

    3. Shaping AVision: The team delineates a desired outcome of change and conveys it to key stakeholders.

    4. Mobilizing Commitment: Key stakeholders are identified; resistance analysis is performed; actions are developed to gain support and commitment.

    5. Making Changes Last: The team institutes appropriate systems and structures to sustain results.

    6. Monitoring Progress: Realistic benchmarks are set and measured.

    7. Changing Systems & Structures: Changes are integrated into the organization’s culture.

    COMPARATIVE FINDINGS Each Model’s Strengths and Weaknesses Lewin’s model is a simple and effective three-step process, which makes it attractive for large organizations and project teams to use. Analyzing aspect changes is easy to do. The three major steps are transparent enough for change

    Figure 6. GE’s change acceleration process. Source: Holloway (2015) leading and engaging sustainable change.

    Figure 5. The McKinsey 7-S model. Source: Hughes (2012).


    management novices to understand how to do the change from start to finish. However, a disadvantage is that the model does not detail how to deal with the human part of the change, which is a common limitation of most methods. People resistance to change could potentially impact the organization/project team if not handled correctly. Another disadvantage is that the unfreezing phase can be time-consuming and costly if planned poorly or with minimal top management support.

    The Kotter model, in comparison to Lewin’s model, provides greater direction on how to implement change. It further incorporates the people side of change. Unlike Lewin, Kotter gives advice on which point in the process to communicate with employees in the model. The advice on including employees is effective for organizations with a traditional managerial hierarchy. While the model includes employees, it comes across as a top-down approach. The employees do not have input or the option to share ideas before strategic vision creation. Another disadvantage occurs if a step is skipped or executed incorrectly. This affects other steps and leaves the organization and project team to delay or regress. As a result, there could be wasted time and effort.

    The ADKARmodel’s advantage is the relatively increased focus of employee and project teammember acceptance of change. The process starts and ends with them as the forefront of change, so this characteristic is extremely important in choosing a CM model. The disadvantage of using this model is that since it focuses primarily on the people side of the change, it is better suited for project teams and environments, as opposed to large- scale organizations with complex processes.

    The McKinsey 7-S model advantage occurs in showing the weakness and

    strengths in seven core dimensions of the organization or project team. This characteristic provides managers with an opportunity to more clearly identify where the need for change lies. However, the disadvantage of this model is that it can be time- consuming and tedious to go through all of the levels. Since it is a complex model, it would be difficult to implement in a large organization. Another disadvantage is that instead of focusing the entire model on the people side of change, it really only focuses on the skills and staff portions of the model.

    The advantage of GE Change Acceleration Process method is its flexibility. When management utilizes this model, they must understand that it can exist in a nonlinear fashion, as various elements change in important to the CM team and their constituents. The disadvantage of the CAP Model is in its requirement of a strong leader, otherwise the model weakens. The leader must be able to get everyone onboard and committed to making the change.

    Model Comparisons In a careful review of these five models, one thing becomes abundantly clear with every one. No matter the model, change will only be successful if communicated and accepted by employees or project team members. It is also critical that an organization or project team should be able to manage CM effectively with appropriate support, knowledge, and resources. CM has a lot of moving parts to it, so management must understand all resistant forces. Failure to do so can be costly, decrease loyalty, reduce the probability of reaching goals, waste money, or squander resources. Nevertheless, not all resistance to change is bad because it forces management to check their vision or roadmap to help identify problem areas. Resistance also provides management with information about the intensity of an employee’s

    emotions on the issues or provides a means of releasing emotions.

    Each of the models grasp the basic concept of CM, which is starting at a current state and realizing a need for change, entering the transition phase, implementing the change, and then getting to their desired state. Three of the five models (Kotter’s, McKinsey, and CAP) provide the substantial details on beginning, managing, and sustaining change. This level of detail provides clarity and structure, such as if Lewin’s Model is not managed properly, things can easily go awry.

    Some models focused more on the process of executing change itself, rather than on the people dimension. Furthermore, Lewin’s and Kotter’s models were the most limited on the people aspect. ADKAR had the greatest focus on employees and team members, but it is limited when seeking large-scale implementations.

    Failure to effectively understand and manage CM models contributes to why change management initiatives are branded as nebulous and trivial undertakings. Thus, it is critical that the selected CM model reinforces change and is linked to a successful and sustainable implementation (Holloway, 2015).

    The initial goal of this paper was to find the most effective model. After all of the research was done, it was clear that the most effective model is contingent. There are a couple of perspectives on the most effective model because of the differing characteristics of project teams and broader organizations.

    For large organizations, our perspective is that the most effective CM model is likely to be General Electric’s Change Acceleration Model. This is the most effective because it was designed with large organizations in mind. The large quantities of people in large


    organizations need to have many who are committed to a change to work successfully. As a result, this model separates the steps into enough detail to manage change elementally and in smaller pieces. Most importantly, it monitors the progress of the change before implementation.

    Since a project has the constraint of a schedule, the CM process that it employs needs to be extremely effective to not throw the project into overruns or scope creep. The most effective model that can support this critical element is likely to be Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model. This model concurrently incorporates relevant change agents, stakeholders, and team members to carry out an effective change, which expedites the CM program.

    These perspectives are very general, and we are only mentioning the effectiveness, advantages, and disadvantages in a broad overview. There are many other items to consider. This section provides a starting point for managers to consider what is appropriate for their organization and/or project team. Also, the insights provided are based on the broad literature in this area.


    There are many concerns and implications at various levels of the organization and managerial layers. Some of these dimensions are obvious, and the research literature confirms them. However, these concerns and issues bear repeating. They are meant to aid managers and organizations to remember that a broader picture for the application of these models is needed, especially before they are consumed by the minutiae of CM models and implementation.

    Strategic and operational change is a constant concern to remain competitive. Top-down and bottom-up leadership approaches are necessary. Additionally, strong and well-directed visions could aid change management. Poorly delivered organizational policies and a misalignment between top-down and bottom-up philosophies will doomCM.

    Adequate training is needed for management and leadership to oversee their approach. Furthermore, leadership training on various aspects and importance of overall performance is necessary. Inadequate leadership development programs, skills, and supervision are major concerns for these CM models. With the proper training, a leader can see that the focus should be on managing these variables, their concepts, and models, rather than being concerned over short-term profits and costs alone.

    Financial elements and resources allocation will limit organizational CM programs. Focusing on short-term problems may not produce long-term solutions. The network and complexity of organizations means that unintended consequences will arise; managers should be aware of these to think systematically and holistically (Clancy, 2018).

    At the managerial level, leadership and collaboration play critical roles. Management should broaden mentoring and leadership skills for every department or team to identify weaknesses. Gap analysis and benchmarking, to identify change needs and weaknesses against standard and industry practices, is always a tricky proposition. The relationships of models, factors, and tools beyond the CM models presented here can become a difficult to integrate. Thus, awareness and care are needed when various tools are sought to be integrated with these CM models.

    Team thinking and buy-in goes beyond the individual. Project teams, as well as project and organizational leadership, need to determine the type of training content. Understanding the choices is the first step.

    Team performance evaluation is important for their effectiveness. This is beyond training, measuring, and monitoring the various aspects of teams. Essentially, knowledge and expertise in delivering on the vision is necessary. Also, linking project and team performance and effectiveness to broader business performance is necessary. Linking these performance metrics and goals to CM programs is a non- trivial task.

    Even with all of these caveats, managers should be wary when implementing CM programs where paralysis occurs. Sometimes focusing on the many peripherals and preparation may cause CM efforts to drag out. As a result, motivation and moral need careful examination.

    Engineering and technical professions typically prefer analytical solutions and have these skills. Providing the project management and engineering community with an overview of these CM models is a first stage. Then, selecting the appropriate one for your situation is critical, especially based on culture and skills of project and engineering managers.

    Decision tools can be integrated throughout these CM models; project managers and engineers have a variety of analytical tools at their disposal. Similar to broader managerial concerns, falling prey to poorly integrated tools used for CM can cause difficulties and barriers to progress. Focusing too much on the analytics and not enough on the


    culture can be a trap for many analytical thinkers.


    Overall, this paper examines five popular CM tools. Each tool has a slightly different perspective. Although we provide some direction and concerns, it is ultimately your environment that will determine which is best for you. Whether at the organizational or project management level, change is ubiquitous. However, be aware that the model itself can be perfect for the organization or company, but without the willingness or desire to change

    from employees and team members, the process to implement change will almost always fail.

    Poor leadership is a big influence on the success of the change. This led me to my final thoughts on the topic of CM: people are the changes, not the models, and people will only change if they see and feel the need to do so. Thus, it is so important to effectively communicate the need for change and to include employees, as well as team members, to feel part of the change.

    Resistance is normal, but it comes into play when employees feel left out

    or that someone is telling them how to do their jobs. This is where conflict arises. A proactive change management leader will address his/ her project team members’ concerns immediately to ensure that they are comfortable with getting onboard with the changes.

    This overview is intended to build your knowledge, lessons from the research, and long history of CM models. The references provided present details into some of the various aspects of the issues presented here. Finally, these references prove to be valuable resources.


    Calegari, M. F., Sibley, R. E., and Turner, M. E. (2015). A road map for using Kotter’s organizational change model to build faculty engagement in accreditation. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 19(3), 31–43.

    Clancy, T. (2018). Systems thinking: Three system archetypes every manager should know. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 46(2), 32–41.

    Creasy, T. (2018). An Introduction Guide to Change Management. Retrieved April 2, 2018, from

    Hiatt, J. M. (2013). Employees Survival Guide to Change: The Complete Guide To Surviving and Thriving During Organizational Change. Loveland, CO, USA: Prosci Research.

    Holloway, S. D. (2015). Leading and Engaging Sustainable Change: Achieving Organizational Transformation through the Transformative Methodologies of the Change Acceleration Process and Lean Six Sigma (Order No. 10014007). Available from ProQuest Central.

    Hughes, J. (2012). Paper E2 enterprise management. Journal of International Financial Management, 44, 39–42.

    Kanter, R. M. (2003). Challenge of organizational change: How companies experience it and leaders guide it. New York, NY, USA: Free Press.

    Kotter, J. (2012). Accelerate!. Harvard Business Review, 9–12. Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

    Levasseur, R. E. (2001). People skills: Change management tools – Lewin’s change model. Interfaces, 31(4), 71–73.

    Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social change. New York, NY, USA: Harper & Row. Neri, R. A. et al. (2008). Application of six sigma/CAP methodology: Controlling blood-product utilization and costs. Journal of Healthcare Management, 53(3), 183–95.

    Polk, J. D. (2011). Lean six sigma, innovation, and the change acceleration process can work together. Physician Executive Journal, 37(1), 38–42.

    Schech-Storz, M. D. (2013). Organizational change success in project management: A comparative analysis of two models of change. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 20–25.


    Singh, A. (2013). A study of role of McKinsey’s 7S framework for achieving organizational excellence. Organization Development Journal, 31(3), 39–50.

    Spaho, K. (2014). 7S Model as a framework for project management. Paper presented at the 8th International Scientific Conference on Economic and Social Development, 450–464.

    Talmaciu, I. (2014). Comparative analysis of different models of organizational change. Valahian Journal of Economic Studies, 5(4), 78–80. Retrieved April 7, 2018.


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    Resistance to Change in Organizations

    Jeanny Paren

    University of Economics, Prague


    Resistance to change is a widely spread phenomenon. This paper discusses resistance

    to change in organizations and looks at what leaders can do to reduce resistance to change.

    It introduces the subject in the context of change management and relevant models and

    discusses selected concepts. The paper looks at common errors to organizational change

    efforts and their consequences, defence mechanism system and explores reasons why people

    resist change. It further focuses on approaches for reducing resistance to change. The findings

    stress the importance of communication and education in order to reduce resistance to change

    in organizations.

    Keywords: Change Management, Resistance to Change

    Main Conference Topic: Management & Organizational Behaviour


    The purpose of this paper is to critically discuss resistance to change in organizations

    and what leaders can do to reduce resistance to change. First part will critically discuss

    resistance to change in organizations and second part will examine how leaders can reduce

    resistance to change.

    Change is most frequently described as a necessary response to one or more

    of a potentially endless list of drivers. These are technological developments, mergers and

    acquisitions, increasing competitiveness in the organization´s target markets, achieving or

    maintaining growth, economic conditions, legislative or regulatory changes, globalisation,

    customer pressure or strategic realignment (Firoozmand, 2014). According to Barnett and

    Carroll (1995, pp. 217), organizational change can be usefully conceptualized in terms of

    process, that refers to how change occurs, and its content, describing what actually changes

    in the organization. Changes can be large or small, evolutionary or revolutionary, sought after

    or resisted (Hayes, 2010). Hayes (2010) described the generic process model of change that

    incorporates many of the features of other process models (e.g. Lewin´s three stage model and

    its modification by Lippet et al, 1958, Egan 1996 and Beckhard and Harris, 1987, all cited

    in Hayes, 2010). It provides a conceptual framework for thinking about the management of

    change. The model is illustrated in Exhibit 1. It can be observed that people issues need to be

    attended to throughout the whole change process for both, incremental as well as

    transformational change (Hayes, 2010). With respect to the topic of this paper, resistance to

    change, that is highly connected with people; further text will focus mainly on the “Managing

    the people issues” step that stretches over the whole process of change.

    Exhibit 1: Generic process model of change

    Recognize need and start change


    Diagnosis (review present state, identify future state)

    Plan and prepare to change

    Implement the change

    Sustain the change

    Managing people issues

    Review External change

    Problems and opportunities

    Source: Adopted from Hayes (2010, pp. 14)


    Resistance to Change in Organizations

    What is resistance to change? Resistance is a natural part of the change and is to be

    expected (Coghlan, 1993; Bovey & Hede, 2001). Resistance to change is by itself neither

    good nor bad (Lawrence, 1954, 1969). It is a socially constructed phenomenon that is

    generated and defined through interaction of all parties in the change (Van Dijk & Van Dick,

    2009). A common point is that resistance to change is seen as an important reason for change

    process failures (Armenakis et al., 1993). Lawrence (1954, 1969) stated that resistance is

    always an important signal calling for further inquiry by management. Wiersema and Bantel

    (1992) argued that there is a correlation between age and resistance; as people age, flexibility

    decreases and resistance to change increases.

    Pardo del Val and Fuentes (2003) and Bouckenooghe (2010) reviewed the literature

    on attitudes towards change and extracted various definitions of resistance. The Macmillan

    English Dictionary (2002, pp. 1205) offers several definitions of resistance, one of which is:

    “The refusal to accept something new such as plan, idea or change.” Published literature

    on resistance to organizational change has focused more on organizational issues rather than

    on individual psychological factors (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Resistance to change is

    an important topic in change management and should be seriously considered to help

    the organization to achieve the advantages of the transformation (Pardo del Val and

    Fuentes, 2003). Brower and Abolafia (1995) stated that the study of resistance

    in organizations has been dominated by two perspectives, managerial and bureaucratic. From

    a managerial perspective, resistance is dysfunction that managers learn to “cope with” and

    most radical perspectives see resistance as a weapon in the class struggle. Bureaucratic

    resistance, on the contrary, is a common and varied mode of organizational behaviour and

    often enacted to support the goals of organization (Brower and Abolafia, 1995). Lewin (1947)

    argued that through a force field comprising a balance of forces pushing for and resisting

    change, any level of behaviour is maintained in a condition of quasi stationary equilibrium.

    Such level of level of behaviour can be transformed by either adding forces for change in the

    desired direction or by reducing the resisting forces. Lewin pointed out that approaches

    focusing on the removal of restraining forces within the individual, group or organization are

    likely to result in a more permanent change compared to approaches involving the application

    of outside pressure for change.

    Kotter (1996) identified eight errors common to organizational change efforts and

    stated that making any of them can have serious consequences (see Exhibit 2). Kotter pointed

    out that with awareness and skills, these errors can be avoided or greatly mitigated. The key is

    to understand why organizations resist needed change, what is the multistage process that can

    overcome inertia and how leadership should be used (Kotter, 1996).

    Exhibit 2: Eight errors common to organizational change efforts and their consequences


    • Allowing too much complacency

    • Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition

    • Underestimating the power of vision

    • Undercommunicating the vision by a factor of 10

    • Permitting obstacles to block the new vision

    • Failing to create short-term wins

    • Declaring victory too soon

    • Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture


    • New strategies aren´t implemented well

    • Acquisitions don´t achieve expected synergies

    • Reengineering takes too long and costs too much

    • Downsizing doesn´t get costs under control

    • Quality programs don´t deliver hoped-for results

    Source: Adopted from Kotter (1996; Chapter 1)

    Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) identified four main reasons why people resist change.

    1. Parochial self-interest: People think that they will lose something of value as a result.


    2. Misunderstanding and lack of trust: People do not understand the implications of change and perceive that it might cost them more than they will gain.

    3. Different assessments: People assess the situation differently from their managers or change initiators and see more costs than benefits resulting from the change, not only

    on an individual, but also on a company level.

    4. Low tolerance for change: People fear that they will not be able to develop the new skills and behaviour that will be required of them.

    Assessing which of the possibilities might apply to those affected by change is

    important as it can help manager select an appropriate way to overcome resistance (Kotter and

    Schlesinger, 1979). Bovey and Hede (2001) conducted a study where they investigated

    the role of defence mechanism, both adaptive and maladaptive, in individual resistance.

    The results indicated a positive correlation with behavioural intention to resist change for five

    maladaptive defence mechanisms, and a negative correlation for adaptive ones. Each of these

    defences is described in Exhibit 3.

    Exhibit 3: Description of defence mechanism

    Defence mechanism Description

    Humour (adaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by emphasising amusing and ironic aspects.

    Anticipation (adaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by experiencing or anticipating consequences and emotional reactions in advance and considering realistic alternative responses or solutions.

    Denial (maladaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by refusing to acknowledge some painful aspects of external reality or subjective experience that is apparent to others.

    Dissociation (maladaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors with a breakdown in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, perception of self or the environment.

    Isolation of affect (maladaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by separating ideas from the feelings originally associated with them. The individual loses touch with the feelings associated with a given idea while remaining aware of the cognitive elements.

    Projection (maladaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by falsely attributing to another their own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts.

    Acting out (maladaptive) An individual deals with internal/external stressors by actions rather than reflections or feelings and includes transference which is the reaction in present relationships of experiences from earlier childhood relationships.

    Source: Adapted from American Psychiatric Association (1994, pp. 755-7; as cited in Bovey & Hede, 2001, pp. 537)

    Bovey and Hede (2001) identified two intervention strategies that can be applied by

    management during periods of change in organizations in order to address the effects of

    defence mechanism on resistance. They further argued that once individuals demonstrate

    symptoms of resistance, it is important to differentiate between the symptoms of resistance

    and the causes behind it. In a performed study, Bovey and Hede (2001) aimed to identify,

    measure and evaluate some of the unconscious motivations associated with an individual´s

    level of resistance to organizational change (see Exhibit 4). They argued that behavioural

    intention to resist is derived to measure an individual´s intentions to engage in either

    supportive or resistant behaviour towards organizational change (Bovey & Hede, 2001,

    pp.537). Management and leaders need to be aware of the ways that personal issues may

    impact on an employee´s thoughts, feelings and behaviour once implementing change (Bovey

    & Hede, 2001). Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) argued that when implementing change, it is

    important to diagnose human resistance. They further stressed that it is necessary to

    understand the individual in order to diagnose the true cause of the resistance. Bovey and

    Hede (2001) argued that once the benefits of working with the human dimension are

    understood and accepted, management is to be more inclined to develop, promote and

    implement appropriate intervention strategies. In order to assist management to work


    with individual resistance, Bovey and Hede (2001, pp. 545) proposed two types of

    intervention strategies. First, information-based interventions provide the individual with

    information to create awareness and understanding of unconscious processes and how these

    influence an individual´s motivations and behaviours in changing environment. Second,

    counselling interventions focus on activities designed to assist individuals to analyse, interpret

    and understand how their own defence mechanisms influence their perceptions and

    motivations towards change. Ideally, counselling interventions support information-based

    interventions (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Lawrence (1954, 1969) argued that the key to

    the problem of resistance to change is to understand the true nature of resistance. Employees

    usually resist social change, the change of their human relationships, rather than technical

    change. Companies should use a range of tactics in conjunction to engage their employees as

    early as possible and base their tactics on the type of transformation they are planning and

    the methods to which company employees will respond best (Meaney and Pung, 2008).

    Morrison and Milliken (2000) argued that organizational silence results as a critical barrier to

    organizational change and developments, as well as a significant demoralizing force.

    Exhibit 4: Framework for measuring behavioural intentions

    Overt (openly expressive


    Active (originate action)

    Passive (no acting, inert)

    Covert (Concealed behaviour)


    • Resistance

    • Oppose

    • Argue

    • Obstruct

    • Support

    • Initiate

    • Embrace


    • Resistance

    • Observe

    • Refrain

    • Wait

    • Support

    • Agree

    • Accept


    • Resistance

    • Stall

    • Dismantle

    • Undermine

    • Support

    • Support

    • Co-operate


    • Resistance

    • Ignore

    • Withdraw

    • Avoid

    • Support

    • Give in

    • Comply

    Source: Adapted from Bovey & Hede (2001, pp. 540)

    Approaches for Reducing Resistance to Change

    What can be done to overcome resistance to change? Many scholars performed studies

    in order to deliver relevant answer. Coch and French (1948) concluded that it is possible for

    management to greatly modify or completely remove resistance to change in methods of

    work. They suggested that this change can be accomplished by the use of group meetings

    where management effectively communicates the need for change and stimulates group

    participation in planning the changes. According to Meaney and Pung (2008), both,

    employees and leaders need to be engaged in the transformation process. They showed that

    even though the CEO or business unit leader was strongly involved in most transformation

    projects, these leaders were much more involved and visible at companies where

    transformation was successful. Executives who believe that their organizations transformed

    themselves successfully are far likelier than others to say that their goals were both clearly

    defined and truly transformational (Meaney and Pung, 2008). Kotter and Schlesinger (1979)

    identified six methods for dealing with resistance to change:


     Education and persuasion: People should be educated about the need of change beforehand. This will help people see the need for and the logic of change. This can

    involve one-to-one discussions, presentations, memos and reports.

     Participation and involvement: The potential resisters can be involved in some aspect of the design and implementation of change.

     Facilitation and support: Manager should be supportive and provide training in new skills, give employee time off after a demanding period or just listen and provide

    emotional support.

     Negotiation and agreement: Incentives can be offered to active or potential resisters.

     Manipulation and co-option: Manipulation is the covert attempt to influence others to change and normally involves selective use of information and the conscious

    structuring of events. One common form is co-option.

     Direction and a reliance on explicit and implicit coercion: Managers essentially force people to accept a change by explicitly or implicitly threatening them or by

    actually firing or transferring them.

    For effort to be successful, manager should employ the approaches with sensitivity to

    their strengths and limitations (see Exhibit 5 for detailed overview of common use,

    advantages and drawbacks for each method) and appraise the situation realistically (Kotter

    and Schlesinger, 1979).

    Exhibit 5: Methods for dealing with resistance to change

    Approach Commonly used in situations Advantages Drawbacks

    Education & Communication

    Where there is a lack of information of inaccurate information and analysis.

    Once persuaded, people will often help with the implementation of the change.

    Can be very time consuming if lots of people are involved.

    Participation & Involvement

    Where the initiators do not have all the information they need to design the change, and where others have considerable power to resist.

    People who participate will be committed to implementing change, and any relevant information the have will be integrated in the change plan.

    Can be very time consuming if participators design an inappropriate change.

    Facilitation & Support

    Where people are resisting because of adjustment problems.

    No other approach works as well with adjustment problems.

    Can be time consuming, expensive and still fail.

    Negotiation & Agreement

    Where someone or some group will clearly lose out in a change and where that group has considerable power to resist.

    Sometimes it is a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance.

    Can be too expensive in many cases if it alerts others to negotiate for compliance.

    Manipulation & Co-optation

    Where other tactics will not work or are too expensive.

    It can be a relatively quick and inexpensive solution to resistance problems.

    Can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.

    Explicit & Implicit coercion

    Where speed is essential, and the change initiators possess considerable power.

    It is speedy and can overcome any kind of resistance.

    Can be risky if it leaves people mad at the initiators.

    Source: Adopted from Kotter and Schlesinger (1979, pp: 111; 2008, pp: 136)

    Once selecting optimal change strategy, the strategic options available to managers can

    be thought of as existing on a continuum (see Exhibit 6; Kotter and Schlesinger, 1979).

    At the one end, the change strategy calls for a rapid implementation, a clear plan of action and

    little involvement of other and attempts to overcome resistance. At the other end, the strategy

    calls for a slower change process with no detailed plan and involvement of many people and

    attempts to reduce resistance to a minimum. In order to decide where change effort should be

    positioned, it is important to look at four situational factors described in Exhibit 6. Kotter and

    Schlesinger (1979) suggested that a manager can improve his chance of success

    in an organizational change effort by: a/ conducting a detailed organizational analysis

    identifying the current situation, problems and the forces that are possible causes for those

    problems; b/ conducting an analysis of factors relevant to producing the needed changes;

    c/ selecting a change strategy that specifies factors as described in Exhibit 6; and d/ monitoring

    the implementation process. Pardo del Val and Fuentes (2003) suggested that managers should

    pay special attention to certain topics. To reduce e.g. resistance caused by deep-rooted values,


    managers should consider whether organizational culture fits with change objectives and

    provide training as a tool to surpass communication difficulties and thus reduce resistance.

    Exhibit 6: Strategic continuum

    Fast Slower

    Clearly planned. Not clearly planned at the beginning.

    Little involvement of others. Lots of involvement of others.

    Attempt to overcome any resistance. Attempt to minimize any resistance.

    Key situational variables

    The amount and type of resistance that is anticipated.

    The position of the initiators vis-à-vis the resisters (in terms of power, trust, and so forth).

    The locus of relevant data for designing the change and the needed energy for implementing it.

    The stakes involved (for example, the presence or lack of presence of a crisis, the consequences of resistance and lack of change).

    Source: Adopted from Kotter and Schlesinger (1979, pp: 112; 2008, pp: 137)

    According to Prediscan et al. (2013), reducing resistance to change is a well-defined

    and crucial phase in a process of change implementation in organizations. For a successful

    close of this phase, important resources such as necessary expertise in the field of change

    management, action coordination by competent change agents, time and financial supply, are

    necessary for motivating the affected employees by the change. Allen et al. (2007) suggested

    that when developing change communication strategies, cascading approach may be most

    beneficial. This means that senior management is to be provided with the more strategic

    component of change communication and supervisors are to be provided with more practical

    information that can be communicated to employees. Brower and Abolafia (1995) suggested

    that managers, who wish to tap the change announcement embedded in resistance events,

    should promote within their organization a tolerance for ambiguity and for multiple

    interpretations of events and routines. Managers must give permission to surface issues that

    are the organization´s deeply rooted “undiscussables” and, therefore, protected by defensive

    routines (Argyris, 1990 as cited in Brower and Abolafia, 1995). Brower and Abolafia (1995)

    further stated that managers need to monitor their organizations´ learning processes and may

    also develop methods to monitor responses to resistance events. Kotter (1995; 1996) outlined

    eight critical success factors for leading change which are illustrated and described in Exhibit 7.

    Exhibit 7: Eight steps to transforming organization

    1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency

    •Examining market and competitive realities

    •Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities

    2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition

    •Assembling a group with enough power to lead the change effort

    •Encouraging the group to work together as a team

    3. Creating a Vision

    •Creating a vision to help direct the change effort

    •Developing strategies for achieving that vision

    4. Communicating the Vision

    •Using every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies

    •Teaching new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition

    5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

    •Getting rid of obstacles to change

    •Changing systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision

    •Encouraging risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions

    6. Planning for and Creating Short- Term Wins

    •Planning for visible performance improvements

    •Creating those improvements

    •Recognizing and rewarding employees involved in the improvements

    7. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change

    •Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision

    •Hiring, promoting, and developing employees who can implement the vision

    •Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

    8. Institutionalizing New Approaches

    •Articulating the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success

    •Developing the means to ensure leadership development and succession

    Source: Adopted from Kotter (1995, re-printed 2007, pp. 99)


    Firoozmand (2014) stated that positioning change advocates across and within

    the organization can strengthen actions to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative,

    while encouraging participation and engagement. He referred to the stage two of the Kotter´s

    model, though arguing that change leaders should look not just for catalysts and change

    champions, but also for “early adopters” whose enthusiasm and support can be built upon.

    Firoozmand (2014) stressed also the importance of communication and education, especially

    where resistance is based on misunderstanding or inaccurate assumptions. According to

    Kegan and Lashow Lahey (2001), resistance to change does not reflect opposition, nor is

    it merely a result of inertia. Instead, many people are unwittingly applying productive energy

    towards a hidden competing commitment, despite holding a sincere commitment to change.

    The resulting dynamic equilibrium stalls the effort in what looks like resistance but is in fact

    a kind of personal immunity to change. Kegan and Lashow Lahey (2001) discussed

    the problematic of competing commitments and suggested process to help the employee

    overcome own immunity to change: 1/ Notice and record current behaviour. 2/Look for

    contrary evidence. 3/ Explore the history. 4/ Test the assumption. 5/ Evaluate the results.

    Uncovering an employee´s competing commitment helps to explain behaviour that seemed

    irrational and ineffective and that conflicted with what the manager and even the employee

    are trying to achieve. They stated that “Helping people overcome their limitations to become

    more successful at work is at the very heart of effective management.” (Kegan and Lashow

    Lahey, 2001, pp. 86)

    Exhibit 8: Seven levers for persuading others to embrace new ideas

    1. Reason You present all relevant considerations of an idea, including its pros and cons.

    2. Research You provide numerical and other information about your idea’s ramifications, or data relevant to your idea.

    3. Resonance You and your ideas are convincing to your listener because of your track record, effective presentation, and sense of your audience.

    4. Representational re-descriptions You deliver your message in a variety of formats, including stories, statistics, and graphics.

    5. Resources and rewards You draw on resources to demonstrate the value of your idea and provide incentives to adopt your idea.

    6. Real-world events You monitor events in the world on a daily basis and, whenever possible, draw on them to support your idea.

    7. Resistances You devote considerable energy to identifying the principal resistances to your ideas (both conscious and unconscious resistances) and try to defuse them directly and implicitly.

    Source: Adopted from Gardner (2004, as cited in Keller Johnson, 2004, pp. 3)

    Gardner (2004, as cited in Keller Johnson, 2004, pp. 3) emphasized that leaders

    seeking support for their ideas cannot rely on a single method of persuasion, they need to

    employ tactics carefully tailored to affect disparate people. In his work, Gardner introduced

    seven levers for breaking through resistance to new ideas. These levers are Reason, Research,

    Resonance, Representational redescriptions, Resources and rewards, Real-world Events and

    Resistances and are further presented in Exhibit 8. Gardner argued that with the use of these

    seven levers, resistance to change can be reduced. The organizational leaders can design

    the change implementation which attend to requisites that are influential to resistance to

    change, such as mutuality, risk, input, propinquity, empathy and commitment (Simoes &

    Esposito, 2014). Some people are leading change, while others are being led, and those

    leading are usually further along the intellectual, emotional and behavioural transition than

    those being led (Firoozmand, 2014).


    Summary and Conclusion

    Presented paper critically discussed resistance to change in organizations and what

    leaders can do to reduce resistance to change. First part introduced resistance to change

    in the context of change management and relevant models. It further looked at resistance to

    change in organization where several concepts were discussed. Among others, eight errors

    common to organizational change efforts and their consequences (Kotter, 1996), reasons why

    people resist change (Kotter and Schlesinger, 1979) and defence mechanism system (Bovey

    and Hede, 2001). Research showed that individuals who are unconsciously inclined to use

    maladaptive defences are more likely to resist organizational change and those who

    unconsciously adopt adaptive defences are less likely to resist organizational change

    (Bovey & Hede, 2001). It is important for management to work with the human factors

    associated with resistance to aid the change process, such as unconscious processed in a form

    of defence mechanisms, rather than focussing energy and attention on technical aspects only

    (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Leaders and managers should apply intervention strategies in order to

    assist the employee to identify and interpret their own perceptions of change and thus

    developing greater understanding of self. Such personal growth and development is likely to

    reduce the level of resistance through adjusted individual´s perceptions of organizational

    change (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Second part focused on approaches for reducing resistance to

    change. Main concepts were introduced by Kotter and Schlesinger (1979), Kotter (1996),

    Kegan and Lashow Lahey (2001) and Gardner (2004). They stressed the importance

    of communication and education in order to reduce resistance to change.

    To conclude, change that does not have an impact on the organization is pointless.

    Change cannot have an impact on an organization without also having an impact

    on the people within it. Should they remain unaffected at the end of a change process, it is

    valid to question its achievement and its purpose (Firoozmand, 2014). “Resistance, properly

    understood as feedback, can be an important resource in improving the quality and clarity of

    the objectives and strategies at the heart of a change proposal. And, properly used, it can

    enhance the prospects for successful implementation.” (Ford & Ford, 2009, pp. 103) Area of

    resistance to change offers sufficient space for future research.

    Brief biographies of the author

    Jeanny Paren is a Ph.D. student at the University of Economics in Prague, Faculty

    of International Relations, where she also received her Bachelor and Master Degrees. She is

    a business professional with more than 10 years of experience in sales, account and project

    management, consulting, risk and financial analysis across a range of industries. She lives

    in Frankfurt, Germany and her current research interests include a broader range of topics in

    management, economics and finance.

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