Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill



“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Ghandhi

Entrepreneurs and companies that are change adept are best equipped to successfully deal with the ever challenging and transforming business environment that we operate companies within.

Adapting rapidly to industry changes and disruptions in the market place has become critical when sustainable business success is considered. Considering all the above, a potential debilitating and powerful negative force to overcome, is the resistance to positive and useful change initiatives.

The ability to facilitate the transformation of mindsets from resistance to change, to a strong commitment to the proposed change intervention, is a complex yet much needed leadership skill to have in your companies’ arsenal.

vanilla milkshake

To paint a clearer picture, follow the practical example of the fictitious company called Holy Cow Milk!

Holy Cow Milk! have suffered poor quarterly results due to productivity challenges. A large proportion of the employees working for this struggling company, have developed constricting habits over time, that mar the productivity of this past industry leader in Milkshake production.

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Bad habits such as frequent, long, and unproductive meetings, doing everything extremely slowly, and too much regulatory paperwork has contributed to this slump in productivity.

The CEO of Holy Cow Milk! Mr. Shake , over time came to realise what the main culprits were in his companies’ bad performance. To soften the blow of his companies’ undesirable performance he resorted to humour and started to refer to his employees’ bad habits individually as “the meeting sacred cow”, “the speed sacred cow”, and the “paper holy cow”.

He referred to these staff routines as “sacred cows”, because when he dared to reprimand his team members about their undesirable routines they defended themselves with great passion. They succeeded in rendering their beloved long meetings, very relaxed work pace, and mountains of useless paperwork as untouchable.

Mostly they were willing to defend these habits because they became very comfortable and even came to love their “sacred cows”. They proceeded to resist every proposal of change that Mr. Shake championed in their own way.

Some were “passive” in their resistance by having negative perceptions and attitudes. A small proportion of team members were even “active” in their resistance and boycotted the CEOs’ mandatory meetings. Mr. Shake always attempting to “see the glass as half full” was at least happy that he was never met with “aggressive” resistance during this ordeal and was not submitted to sabotage or any sort of physically destructive behaviours.

He was perplexed but knew he had to act for the sake of his companies’ survival and met with a wise change leadership consultant who assisted him in devising a master plan.

[At this juncture, the reader is asked to take note that several prior steps might be taken and adjusted according to situational and strategic demands and considering the various sources of resistance. In this article, we will cast light on one very potent strategy that the reader can employ to gain commitment to a change intervention over time].

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After following several steps Mr. Shake proceeded to execute the “aligned commitment” equation that the master tactician taught him. He was very careful to remember that all the elements of the equation needed to be incorporated to increase his chances of success:

The aligned commitment equation = Knowledge x Information x Empowerment x Rewards and Recognition x shared goals and values.

(Prof. L.D. Coetsee, January 2011: Peak Performance and Productivity)

He carefully and meticulously applied the equation in the following way:

He firstly ensured that knowledge creation amongst all his team members was a reality by constantly reminding everyone of the very good reason why changes should be applied. He ensured that all stakeholders were highly informed in relation to the progress made and was transparent in terms of the challenges.

Mr. Shake especially focussed on ensuring that the early adopters of the change intervention received the information first and within an inspirational context, so that they in turn could positively influence other team members.

He consistently empowered his team by ensuring that they were coached, mentored and received practical training as well as all required resources needed to execute the change initiative as and when they needed it and delivered on his promises.

He ensured that the rewards given in relation to performance were equitable and personally valued by his team members. Verbal recognition was offered on every occasion that it was warranted. Shake took steps that all team members did not only understand the teams’ collective goals but also knew exactly what needed to be done to attain the targets and were empowered to do so.

Most importantly Shake was a living example of the company’s values and taught by example that the teams’ collective shared values were operational instruments and not only written and empty propaganda.

Many challenges were faced during the change intervention that Shake championed yet he immediately pursued creative solutions involving his team mates at all times. It took some time to gain traction yet eventually productivity dramatically multiplied. The “meeting sacred cow”, the “speed sacred cow” and “paper sacred cow” was successfully slain!!!


Change Leadership skills such as managing resistance to change have become critical factors in ensuring business success and sustainability.

Managing resistance to change requires knowledge of several steps and strategies that can be applied as varied circumstances demand it.

The “aligned commitment equation” is a powerful strategic tool that can be applied in conjunction with other steps and tools to assist in the transformation of resistance to change to commitment over time.

Dirk Coetsee
Dirk Coetsee is the Co-Founder of BPD Business, a full service B2B company providing services ranging from Marketing and Advertising to Strategic plans and training on the execution thereof. Email Dirk here: