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Transformation: Resistance is inevitable

Transformation of a butterfly

The one sure thing that always accompanies transformation is resistance to the change in “how we do things around here”. As soon as you start considering the need for transformation one must start thinking about where potential resistance could come from, who it could come from and in what form it is observed or experienced? Anticipating it leads to formulating counter strategies to give the change a greater chance of success.

It helps in the development of targeted communication plans to preempt some of the resistance. Often resistance to change comes from a place of fear, of uncertainty and of ignorance.

Fear — people feel their job security, power and influence in that team or organisation is threatened and they risk loss; a loss of control and a loss of status.

Uncertainty — people are unsure of what the future looks like for them and where they fit into the new world.

Ignorance — people do not understand what the change is about and/or why it is even required. Sometimes people do not care about the change because it seems far removed from them and assume that the impact will be minimal.Walking through the above gives clues on how to address each one. Evidently resistance tends to be self-centred with one core question — What is in it for me? WIIFM? This is not negative per se instead but a reality to be cognisant of at the beginning of driving change.


Addressing these sources of resistance is not only a job for the transformation team but it is the most important job for the organisation’s leadership team. In such times people look to their leadership for three things:

for assurance — that things will be fine going through the change journey and even if things get tough, we will still get through it together,

for guidance — we have committed to this change because it is the right thing to do for the organisation, this is the pathway the change is likely to take and as an employee this is your place/part in it for it to succeed and

to be exemplary — “walk the talk” and demonstrate daily how employees should respond to the change and behave during the change journey especially when they are challenged and it becomes difficult. This is where communication is key.


I would argue that the most important thing to do as soon as the transformation business case is approved, is to complete a stakeholder analysis. It quickly identifies at a detailed level those with an interest in the programme because either their power and/or influence will be curtailed or expanded. Additionally those who are likely to be impacted are classified as winners (positive) or losers (negative).

Understanding the impact and potential shifts in power/influence dynamics shapes the messaging to the different stakeholders as well as the type and frequency of communication for the duration of the project. This is termed the communication plan which becomes the bible for managing all internal and external communication. Knowing one’s allies, advocates and more so the naysayers also ensures targeted communication that aims to connect with the differing views emanating from each of these groups. With the sole purpose of driving engagement and ultimately buy-in to deliver the transformation. This is a key weapon for managing resistance to change.

Muguti is a strategy and transformation consultant, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner who has successfully initiated, led, and delivered transformation programmes across various industries and global blue-chip organisations. — +263 783 533938, nyari.muguti@shanduko.co.uk ,LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nyari-muguti-24998017

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