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  • Stephanie Wilson

Resistance Is Likely: Why Big Projects Often Fade Away

How many times have you heard of a big, important project that is introduced to great fanfare and that then subsequently fades out as it encounters the difficulty of getting people to change their daily way of doing things?

Regardless of how many times we’ve been told we need to include colleagues in changes that affect them, there is still a deep attraction in leadership to what Arthur M. Freedman calls the “technical-expert-driven” idea of change. This is the idea that an “expert” can generate a plan in relative isolation, announce it, and watch people effortlessly fall in line like dominoes.

Instead, resistance is likely. As affected people are forced to choose between their current, well-known way of doing things and the complex unknown the plan offers them, they choose the former. Freedman calls out leaders who don’t acknowledge “the obvious fact that radical innovations are not easily understood, accepted, used, diffused or disseminated, and assimilated by organizational members who are addicted to a contrasting reality that is well established, familiar, and comfortable for them.”

What’s the answer? Simply put, you need to include the people you want to change in the making of the plan. Or at least build in a way to engage them at some relatively early stage. But as we all know, simple is not always easy. Here's an experiment to help you give it a try.


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