One Stands Holding Change, Others CrushedI wrote a response to another comment by Stephen McGrail today about what do you do to help people move beyond the status-quo in their thinking to embrace change. It set me thinking about change and strategy and why it's so hard to implement strategy that results in real change rather than perpetuating the gap between planning and doing. The conversation I had with Stephen was around why people resist change or prefer to not change, remaining in the status-quo.

I've done a bit of reading on why people resist or don't like change, so thought I'd share my a few references here. These relate to strategy and after all dealing with change in organisations is about creating strategy that can respond to and take advantage of that change.

What's common? Pay attention to people not plans, involve people in the process and make time to think about change on a continuing basis.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ten Reasons People Resist Change, HBR Blog Network, September 2012.

This article is what it says it is - ten reasons (excuses) people use to resist change. To be fair, not all of them are excuses and reasons for resisting change will vary depending on the individual and the context - which is why there's no checklist by helping people move their thinking beyond the status-quo.

Michael Birshan and Jayanti Kar, Becoming More Strategic: Three Tips for Any Executive, McKinsey&Company, July 2012.

Three ways of becoming more strategic are mentioned and it is the third that relates to helping people change their thinking: Develop communications that can break through. This is about working out how to 'make strategic insights cut through the day-to-day morass of information that any executive receives' (page 3). Communicating the rationale for change and doing it well is critical for thinking beyond the status-quo.

Kathleen Davis, Disrupt Your Thinking, Transform Your Business, Entrepeneur, June 2013

This is a short article with the key message for me being 'leaders must give their employees permission to stop focusing only on what needs to be accomplished by the end of the day or week. They must 'force strategic introspection on a regular basis...the goal is to consistently carve out unstructured creative time.' This means giving people permission to explore the nature of change and what it means for them, their work and their organisation and institutionalise time for strategic thinking.

Jeanne Liedtka, Beyond Business Strategy: Strategy as Experienced, Rotman Magazine, Winter 2011

I really like this paper. Its key point: 'knowing [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][about the strategy] is not enough....feeling strategy must accompany knowing it. What does it mean to feel strategy - to experience it in an emotional as well as a cognitive way? One thing is certain: it will require a fundamental change to our basic conception of what strategy is all about.' Liedtka makes the point that reading about a strategy, a change, does not make it real to people in an organisation with the critical factor for managers being to avoid having the strategy ignored. She suggests that something has to disrupt our habitual thinking or schemas - interesting is more important than true in this context. There needs to be a shift from goals to desires - because 'desire is the true driver of behavioural change'.

So strategy as we commonly understand it relies on communicating plans and mission statements, strategy as experienced, 'relies more heavily on dialogue-based strategic conversation as it foundation, with significant use of stories and metaphors, developed iteratively in an experimental approach'. This needs (i) participation in the conversation, (ii) acknowledge role of concrete, (iii) promote experimentation and (iv) move beyond outcome metrics. Highly recommended.