Rethinking Resistance

In the ever-evolving landscape of change, transformation, and strategy execution, terms like “silos,” “change resistance,” and “change fatigue” frequently surface. However, these terms, while common, often irk me. Why? Because they morph into excuses for:

  • Not striving for excellence.
  • Pointing fingers rather than offering hands.
  • Treating symptoms rather than curing the disease.
  • Creating busy-ness that leads nowhere.
  • Doing less and impacting minimally.

Yet, the discourse around tackling these challenges persists. How do we break down silos? Combat change fatigue? Overcome resistance? These questions are popular and common in meeting rooms and emails, echoing the collective quest for solutions.

Elevating the Conversation

Let’s shift the narrative and introduce questions that lift our perspective and, consequently, our actions:

  • What roots give rise to silos in our organization?
  • Why do individuals push back against change?
  • Can we eradicate fatigue from the process?
  • What measures can prevent the formation of silos?
  • How do we ensure our efforts don’t inadvertently contribute to these issues?

Addressing these questions shifts our focus towards proactive thinking and co-creation, targeting the underlying causes for lasting impact.

Unpacking Silos and Resistance Through a Closer Lens: The House Analogy

Let’s reconsider the analogy of a family living in a house, which, despite being adequate, compels them to thicken their walls. This decision is not arbitrary but a response to a multitude of factors, categorized for clarity into environmental, social, and internal reasons:

  • Environmental Factors: Just as a family might reinforce their home against extreme weather for comfort and safety, organizations build silos when facing external pressures: Anticipation of significant organizational changes. Previous change initiatives that led to negative outcomes. External market instability or global events, like pandemics or political turmoil, create a siege mentality.
  • Social Factors: Reflecting the family’s relations with their neighbours, social dynamics within and around the organization influence silo formation and resistance: Perceived unfair treatment or marginalization by leadership or other departments. Communication barriers, whether literal or metaphorical, leading to misunderstandings. A history of conflicts or failed collaborations, resulting in a lack of trust and a preference for isolation.
  • Internal Circumstances: Similar to the personal challenges the family faces, internal issues within teams or departments can foster silos and resistance: Teams are overwhelmed by current workloads and unable to consider additional changes. A sense of insecurity stems from witnessing colleagues negatively affected by past changes. The team’s internal struggle, possibly unnoticed by the wider organization, reduces its capacity for external engagement.

This analogy illuminates the complexity of resistance and silo formation, suggesting that they are not merely obstacles but symptoms of deeper issues. Just as the family’s reasons for thickening their walls are multifaceted, so too are the reasons organizations find themselves compartmentalized and resistant to change. Understanding these underlying factors is crucial for developing strategies that address the root causes, not just the symptoms.

Before strategizing on breaking through the silos or overcoming resistance, consider if your actions might be reinforcing these barriers.

Designing Change with Purpose

When crafting your change initiatives, anchor them with insight and empathy. These are my suggested steps, at a high level, to start to shift the dial (the sequence below is important):

  1. Understand Your Landscape: Grasp your organization’s culture, history, and emotional fabric.
  2. Envision Comprehensive Success: Define success by outcomes and the emotional and cultural shifts you aspire to achieve.
  3. Personalize Adoption: Encourage diverse stakeholder groups to define what successful change means to them, fostering inclusivity and engagement.
  4. Foster Co-creation: Design pathways for collaborative input, ensuring everyone feels part of the journey.
  5. Cultivate Supportive Cultures: Identify and nurture the values, norms, and behaviors that facilitate change adoption.
  6. Implement Meaningful Monitoring: Adopt deep, qualitative check-ins that transcend traditional metrics and offer genuine insight into team morale and cohesion.
  7. Champion Adaptive Learning: Promote an environment where learning, unlearning, and relearning are part of the DNA, ensuring your team remains agile and resilient.

Notice that most of these steps are before we get to the “Doing and Delivering” part of the program. As a leader who aspires to truly shift the dial, you need to create the space to Think and Design the right work before going into solutions and delivery. 

Conclusion

Change resistance and fatigue should not be stigmatized as flaws within people but understood as indicators of deeper systemic issues.

By shifting our perspective, we embrace a more compassionate and strategic approach to change, recognizing the potential within challenges to foster growth, unity, and transformation.

Let’s reframe our dialogue around change, moving from seeing resistance as a barrier to viewing it as an opportunity for deeper engagement and more meaningful progress.

Till next week

Jess Tayel

Founder of People of Transformation. A community and program for high-performing leaders who aspire for Mastery, Influence and Growth

PeopleofTransformation.com

If you are interested in learning more, here is how to connect with me and my work:

  • People of Transformation Programme: Join our community, aiming to create future-ready transformation & change leaders. Visit PeopleofTransformation.com for more information. The Feb/24 intake is now closed, and all spots have been taken. If you want to keep up to date with when the next intake will be and learn more, please sign up for the waitlist here or simply message me. Get in-depth & practical content, the mentoring and the support you need for the next level of change and transformation.
  • Get Personalized One-on-One Mentoring & Executive Coaching: Deepen your understanding with tailored guidance.
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