Addressing Resistance to Change

We often assume that people and systems always resist change. However, resistance is usually a symptom of problems. Common problems include:

  1. a lack of alignment between strategies and tactic,
  2. an inappropriate change strategy, or
  3. attempting to bridge too large of a gap between Current and Desired States.

Thus, when you experience resistance during implementation of your change initiative it is important to identify the underlying cause of the resistance and modify your plans appropriately.

It is also important to proactively analyze your dashboard to identify whether resistance is likely to occur. If so, of course, this suggests that you should consider ways to modify your change plans to reduce this likelihood. For example, it is common for change initiatives to expect environmental level changes to occur via individual- focused tactics (inappropriate change strategy). In this type of scenario the change initiative will often focus on providing training to individuals who will be expected to implement a new practice. Yet, the change tactics do not provide any systematic monitoring or incentives to use the new practice.

Similarly, change initiatives often set up groups or task forces to develop new ideas. But, in reality, the change agent already has a solution in mind and expects the group to come up with this solution. (Lack of alignment between strategy and tactics.) In this type of situation, it would be much better for the change agent to set constraints on the group by articulating required components, identify metrics to track compliance, and set up incentives for compliance. Finally, there are times when the desired change is simply not possible (attempting to bridge too large a gap). It could be that the necessary resources are not in place, or that the institution is currently focused on other priorities. It is important to realize that the desired change is not feasible at this time and determine what is actually feasible. It may be that a more modest project could be successful. It may also be that it is preferable to wait and embark on the project at a later time.


The Dashboard was designed to help change teams plan for successful and sustained change. Each part of the Dashboard focuses on an important aspect of the system or change process that must be considered in a successful change initiative. The Dashboard makes these considerations explicit so that they can be considered together and inconsistencies can be identified. The Dashboard is best created jointly by a change team. It will likely take several iterations before a final Dashboard can be agreed upon.

Although we recommend a specific order for completing the dashboard and identify some failure modes that we have observed, we think that the most important part of using the Dashboard is to promote conversation and convergence for the project team. Thus, please do consider our recommendations. But, do not feel bound by them if they do not seem to work for your project or your situation.

We wish you great success in your change initiative!

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