Merge's Blog

What does it take to overcome resistance to change?

Last year I wrote this blog post about resistance to change – How can you get people to change before it becomes a crisis situation? – and I summarized the “burning platform” story in Daryl Connor’s book Managing at the Speed of Change.  In a nutshell, the message is that people change when the pain of where they are becomes greater than the pain of where they might be.

Recently, Reuven Gorsht, Global VP of customer strategy at SAP, and my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail brought this point to the forefront of my mind once again.  In a recent column, he made the point that history is rife with examples of companies that have rapidly faded into irrelevance, not because they didn’t see change coming, but because their culture couldn’t shift into a new paradigm and innovate fast enough.  They couldn’t jump off the burning platform!  He offered Nokia as one example.  Back in February 2011, then-CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop issued his now infamous Burning Platform memoElop’s point in the memo was the same.  Despite having a product that resembled the look and functionality of the iPhone over 14 years ago, Nokia’s culture had grown so complacent and complex that it shrugged off the idea and never pursued it any further.  Nokia didn’t jump off the burning platform!

So I want to pose this question about resistance to change again.  As leaders, we know that we want people to transform BEFORE the crisis, before the pain gets too great.  Yet, as we see repeatedly, people are reluctant to change UNTIL the crisis happens, only when the pain becomes unbearable.  What can you do as a leader to overcome this impasse?  What can you do to get them to act before the crisis is upon them?  Please share your perspective by adding to the Comments below.

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