Magazine article PM Network

Winds of Resistance

Magazine article PM Network

Winds of Resistance

Article excerpt

Without change, there can be no improvement, but it may take some effort to win people over.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in search of a western route to Asia. At the time, of course, it was widely believed the world was flat and that a ship sailing west would eventually fall off the edge of the Earth. Although the explorer didn't find the route he sought, he did confirm his beliefs that the Earth was indeed round and returned to Spain as a hero. There were still a stubborn few who refused to amend their views, however.

For many years, I thought project leaders were much like Mr. Columbus, visionary leaders drawing reluctant followers into the future. I found people kept resisting change for several reasons:

Personal loss. Whenever change is imminent, the first question people ask is how it will affect them. Project managers cite the need for good communication when changes are needed, yet this step is often overlooked. I once managed an organizational change project for Caja General de Ahorros de Granada, a banking organization in Spain. Although I shared project information with the executives and main project stakeholders, the management team failed to explain to the branch managers how the project would affect their operations. Without that information, employees at the branch offices felt uncomfortable and considered the situation a personal loss.

Fear of the unknown. Project managers must manage both the knowns and unknowns in the project life cycle. I once trained managers at Caixa Galicia, a bank in northern Spain, to increase their level of project management maturity. There was a poster on the office wall that read: "If everything is okay, please don't change it." I explained to the team that my approach as a project manager was the opposite: Even if everything is okay, things can still be improved.

Unease. No one likes experiencing uncomfortable situations, but project managers frequently need to deal with this. …

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