Resistanceveryard projects > technology change management > resistance
|This page contains some notes on "resistance", particularly
in the context of technology change management.
Resistance is a form of stability affecting people and organizations, especially when faced with opportunities for change.
Sometimes managers and consultants put themselves into the position of change agents - in other words, they are demanding change from their staff and organizations. If they fail to receive full and prompt cooperation with these demands, these change agents experience annoyance and frustration. However, once a change is implemented, the same managers and consultants will themselves try to resist any attempts to divert or pervert the change, or to revert to the previous state.
Within the change management literature, there is some material on anti-resistance tactics, although the topic is often ignored or skimmed over. (One standard work on organizational development devotes a mere half page to the subject.)
In our work, we are careful to characterize resistance, not as something to be overcome, but as something to be understood and accommodated.
|overcoming resistance?||veryard projects
Overcoming Resistanceveryard projects > technology change management > resistance > overcoming resistance
This echoes a popular theme in psychotherapy, where the therapist is supposed to overcome the resistance of the patient - resistance is interpreted as a sign of hostility on the part of the patient. This is explored (in his characteristic convoluted style) by Derrida. (For a Frenchman, of course, the contrast between Resistance and Collaboration has particular historical significance.)
And according to Nietzsche, strong people seek strong resistance. "The undertaking is to master, not any resistances that happen to present themselves, but those against which one has to bring all one's strength, suppleness and mastery of weapons - to master equal opponents."
|Level 1 - Informational||People lack information or understanding about the change.||Tactic: provide more information and explanation. Lots of training.|
|Level 2 - Gut Reaction||People regarding change as a threat, and responding emotionally or physiologically ("gut" reaction).||Tactic: provide reassurance, motivation, "safety nets", and so on.|
|Level 3 - Cultural||People seeing change in the context of a prior history of conflict.||Tactic: political negotiation.|
He believes that many change initiatives fail, not because of resistance,
but because of an inappropriate response by management to this resistance.
This most commonly appears in the form of a Level 1 response to a Level
|Rick Maurer: Beyond Resistance|
Respecting and Preserving Resistanceveryard projects > technology change management > resistance > preserving resistance
A similar disagreement can be found among consultants and managers involved in change within organization. Although many hold the popular view (resistance is hostile, needs to be overcome), there is a more subtle view, in which resistance is respected.
Given that change agents usually want to make lasting changes, and to leave the organization in a stable condition, they need to take care when overcoming resistance. The organization should remain able to resist many other changes, as well as resisting an immediate reversal of the desired changes.
Furthermore, resistance is closely related to resilience, which is vital for organizations dealing with operational failure and occasional crisis.
Understanding and Interpreting Resistanceveryard projects > technology change management > resistance > understanding resistance
Resistance interpreted as positive behaviour rather than negative. I am reminded of the work of the hypnotist Milton Erikson, who welcomed the client's resistance and used it as a way of getting them to change. For example, he would instruct the client to resist, so that any response whatever would count as cooperation. And once he instructed someone to do something any day of the week but preferably Friday. In order to resist doing it on Friday, the client had to do it on Thursday instead. Erikson, of course, didn't really care which day of the week the client did it. (Some of Erikson's techniques have been incorporated in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which is becoming increasingly fashionable in the UK.)
To work effectively with these organizations, the consultant has to go beyond the rationalist notion of resistance with its anti-resistance tactics, and find a way of working with or above the resistance. We seem to need to think in terms of the 'architecture' of the organization, in the sense of a topological structure that makes some things accessible/possible and other things inaccessible/impossible. See for example the work of Philip Boxer, who uses ideas from Lacan, Foucault and Maturana, among others, to try and conceptualize this kind of intervention.
Resistance and Rationalityveryard projects > technology change management > resistance > rationality
Linda's statement assumes a notion of rational behaviour. I think there is an important connection between resistance and rationality.
One starting point for discussing resistance is that of a change agent, who has a set of change goals, and regards anything or anybody who gets in his/her way as a nuisance. Resistance is stupid and has to be overcome, using force, guile, patience or whatever other strengths and resources the change agent can access. This is all defined in terms of the change agent's goals.
If an initiative is flawed, this is presumably also relative to the change agent's goals. The resisters share the change agent's goals, but disagree with his/her tactics. It may be sound and smart for them to resist (due critique), and it may be sound and smart for the change agent to allow/encourage this resistance.
But of course, what counts as sound and smart behaviour for the resisters
depends on their assessment of the reasonableness of the change agent,
especially if the change agent appears to have more power and status than
they have. There are enormous cultural issues here.
|Rationality and collaboration|
Resistance in self-organizing systemsveryard projects > technology change management > resistance > self-organizing systems
Preservation of identity equals resistance to changes that threaten identity. A biological entity has a skin that separates inside from outside, and an immune subsystem that rejects foreign implants. These defences and boundaries are part of the process of self-organization. An autopoietic system is, in a sense, a closed system. (Compare: the Ego as a defence system, a self-identity which often prevents the individual acting in his/her own best interest.)
And even the change agent wants the organization to have sufficient
resistance (or at least hysteresis) so that valuable changes, once made,
are not immediately dissipated by other changes. I've seen a chart produced
by a large American engineering firm, boasting of all the quality initiatives
it has implemented over the past couple of decades, but there are so many
of these initiatives that it creates an impression not of comprehensive
endeavour but of inconsistency and fashion-chasing.
|author||recommended book||ordering details|
|Philip Boxer. Management consultant and Lacanian analyst. A wealth of material is available on his website: http://www.brl.com|
|Jacques Derrida||Resistances of Psychoanalysis Explores the resistance to analysis contained within Freud, Lacan and Foucault.||
|Jon Elster. A brilliant theorist, who covers economics, politics, sociology and philosophy, without losing touch with the humanity and, yes, poetry of the subjects he is writing about.||His Sour Grapes touches on some of the themes of this page: rationality, trust.||
|Milton Erikson. There are several books by and about Erikson and his techniques.||Start with Jay Haley's book Uncommon Therapy.||
|Jacques Lacan. Only the brave or foolhardy would start by reading Lacan's own notoriously difficult writings.||Dylan Evans's Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis is a useful reference.||
An Ecology of Resistance. Paper presented at the IFIP 8.6 conference in Ambleside, June 1997.
|Published in Tom McMaster, Enid Mumford, Burt Swanson, Brian Warboys & Dave Wastell (eds), Facilitating Technology Transfer through Partnership: Learning from Practice and Research. Chapman & Hall, 1997. ISBN 0412 79980 4||
There are two main works by Maturana and his equally brilliant student Franscisco Varela.
|Autopoiesis and Cognition (currently out of print) is deeper and harder to read, while the Tree of Knowledge is an easier and more popular work.||
|Rick Maurer. An advisor to organizations on ways to transform resistance into support for major change.||Beyond the Wall of Resistance. Bard Press.1996.|
Claimed as the intellectual father of a wide and inconsistent range of modern and post-modern movements, from fascism to feminism, via psychoanalysis.
|Quote on this page is taken from Ecce Homo
Penguin edition, p 47
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