In this post we show you how to recognise the signs of cognitive resistance to change.
When implementing change we often focus on the technical elements—processes, structure, roles—and tend to neglect the equally important human element. When leading an organisation through major change it is important to balance human and organisation needs because organisational change is ultimately driven by personal change. In other words, individual change is essential for organisational change to proceed.
This post is part of a mini-series on managing resistance to change. Please see our related posts
The Signs of Cognitive Resistance to Change
The project leader needs to know how to recognise the human elements including the signs of cognitive resistance to change. But how do we recognise the signs of cognitive resistance to change? Well, this all depends on the scale of the change. However, it is likely that people will do one or more of the following
- Change the subject
- Attack or attempt to destroy the plan
- Engage in endless and unfruitful debating
- Passionately argue their views on the topic
Other signs of cognitive resistance to change include the following conversations
- “The organisation is changing on a continuous basis”
- “I’m confused…”
- “Run that idea by me one more time…”
- “I’m right, you’re wrong!”
Dealing with Cognitive Resistance to Change
Resistance is common to the unusual – Toba Beta
So you see, leaders should be aware of how thought processes influence people’s behaviour—and that of their peers—toward change. Here’s how you can deal with cognitive resistance to change
- Listen to augments with an open mind
- Enlist credible spokespersons—make sure your (and their) managers are on-message
- Engage those who resist in the change process—commit them to making small contributions to the change
- Incorporate valid and compatible points of view in the business case and project plan
- Broaden involvement when diagnosing the problem
- Help senior executives arrive by themselves using a compelling vision
- Challenge irrational beliefs with facts
As leaders we need to get in touch with those implementing change and those affected by it. Resistance to change is like contagion and should be dealt with effectively and quickly. Otherwise, those with cognitive resistance to change will spread rumour and impede your plans. But deal with resistance positively and sympathetically: overcoming cognitive resistance to change is about convincing—I do not say persuading—people of the positive aspects and results of the change effort.
Have Your Say
How do you help people through change? How do you spot cognitive resistance to change? Please join the discussion.
Creative Commons image courtesy Joanna Dobson.