Is resistance to change good?

Is resistance to change good?

One of Dr. Eli Goldratt’s life goals was to ‘Teach the world how to think’. Some TOC practitioners feel that it was a lofty and ambitious goal, maybe even presumptuous. To me, it is a very inspiring goal. During his lifetime, Dr. Goldratt repeatedly insisted that he was not a genius. He stressed on using structured cause and effect thinking, and the Socratic method of asking questions to develop breakthrough ideas. The world knows of TOC as a way to improve organizational performance through unlocking bottlenecks. While it is true that TOC has several success stories in manufacturing and operations, its true strength lies in TOC Thinking Processes. These are excellent tools for problem solving and change management in organizations growing at a rapid pace.

Dr. Goldratt identified six layers of resistance to change. Understanding the six layers of resistance is helpful in approaching any new change in the organization. He suggested that resistance actually becomes a force for managing organizational change. Thinking Processes help in systematically overcoming each layer of resistance and obtain buy-in.

Six layers of resistance

  1. Disagreement on the problem
  2. Disagreement on the direction of the solution
  3. Disagreement that the solution solves the problem
  4. Yes, but.. there are potential negative consequences
  5. Yes, but.. there are obstacles to implement the solution
  6. Un-verbalized fear

Six layers provide a comprehensive framework to address the concerns of those resisting the change. Any time someone resists your idea, try to identify the level of resistance. Often, it is possible that the resistance you’re getting is in the form of layers 3, 4 or 5 (E.g. ‘It won’t work in B2C segment’, ‘The client will never agree’, ‘Our freight cost will go up’). However, the real issue maybe that layer 1 was not addressed properly.

More often than not, we find that the person who presents the ‘big idea’ is so impressed with their magic pill, that they do not check if it’ll address the pain they’re trying to solve.

Infact, not enough time is spent on (a) defining the pains, and (b) ascertaining the potential benefit of solving the pain on the goal of the system. In his book THE GOAL, Dr. Goldratt spent more than half of the book in defining the problem. Once the reader had clarity on the system’s problem, he moved to the solution.

Thinking Processes have a suite a tools to address each of these layers of resistance. The most commonly used, and the most effective one is the evaporating cloud or conflict diagram. Usually referred to as the cloud, this diagram is used to articulate any problem as a conflict, and find the erroneous underlying assumptions.

The cloud is primarily a conflict resolution tool, one of its key benefits is that it facilitates clear articulation of the conflict and enables staying focused on the issue. It is a versatile problem-solving tool that can be used for resolving inner dilemmas, interpersonal issues or complex organizational issues. The cloud is helpful in articulating the problem. Underlying each arrow, there are assumptions. The next step is to challenge assumptions. Sometimes the assumptions are so deep rooted that we are not even aware about them.

Challenging assumptions takes practice. Invalidating assumptions requires a mindset of questioning the obvious. We need to identify conditions under which our assumption is not valid. If we can find the flawed assumptions and break the conflict, the cloud evaporates – leading us towards the direction of the solution.

Authored by – Ira Gilani, Director, Goldratt India

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