When Agents of Change Resist Change

What do you do when the people who were once the Agents of Change in your organization become, at a later point in time, the biggest resisters of change?

An example of this happened years ago, in the 1980's when I was with a global chemicals company. The regional training managers were brought together by the HR leadership team at headquarters, to work collaboratively on a comprehensive leadership development program and competency model. It was a rocky time to say the least. Each of was was embedded in a different business unit. Though we were matrixed to HR as well, our allegiance was to our client groups. It became apparent quite quickly that no one wanted to be there. The storming phase would go on a lot longer than anyone thought. One of my fellow training managers quipped, "Who will facilitate the facilitators?" We all laughed but we got the point.

Even agents of change, such as Training & OD Managers, can get in their own way, stuck with their hand in the banana jar.

More recently, there is a project team that, a couple years ago, was given the challenge of revamping their organization's intranet to make it more attractive and engaging. They did their job well, approaching it with care, inviting input and delivering a new interface with lots of new social features like groups and blogs.

Now, a few years later, the powers-that-be are dissatisfied with it and want it changed. The new staff person tasked with the upgrade met with the team members to re-enlist their help. She appealed to them to participate, but the team that delivered the new site dug in their heels and resisted the call to change their "baby." She came away from the meeting disgusted, thinking that "these people are the biggest resisters of change" she has met in a long time.

My advice to these and other change agents is learn to "let go of the banana." Hanging on to something you developed, while understandable, can hurt you.

As the legendary negotiator Herb Cohen once said, "Care...but not that much."

If you care too much, you won't be able to walk away when you ought to.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday February 28, 2012

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