The Win-Win Situation

By Hani Hmedeh

The ultimate goal for every project manager is the stakeholders' satisfaction. I've learned over the time, that if my stakeholders are happy... I am happy.

In psychology, the concept of resistance to change refers to people experiencing emotional anxiety caused by the prospect of a transformation or change that is taking place. Therefore, it was thought that to eliminate this resistance was enough to motivate people to accept the change as an opportunity of improvement & development. However, to do this, there are several problematic areas, relating to the person's personality, life experience, or the current situation. 

Let’s start from here...

time remain the same, or do the same things. This dichotomy generates resistance, often at an unconscious level. From this perspective, the solution is by understanding the resistance cycle of change, to define and eliminate the blocking factors that keep people trapped in the past.

Resistance cycle of change: 

This cycle is inspired from The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief.

  1. Frozen Phase: in this phase, people usually do not react, and they appear that they are ready to accept the change. But in fact, their emotional system has frozen, and their rational mind has not yet processed the change to the extent that we can’t experience an anxiety crisis or other physical reactions.
  2. Denial phase: People close their eyes in front of reality as if nothing had happened, with the naive claim that the need to change disappears. 
  3. Struggling phase: People start to accept the fact of the change, but they didn’t accept the change yet, and they try to find the “way” to avoid it.
  4. Depression Phase: People finally accept that the coming change can not be avoided, and they start blaming themselves and feel that they are fighting a losing battle.
  5. Experiment phase: The resistance to change is finally disappearing, and the people realize that we have to react. They start looking for realistic solutions by experimenting different coping models that fit reality and bring them closer to the change.
  6. Accepting phase: People will start discovering the advantage of the change and try to find the balance with the loss resulted from that change by implementing new models of adaptive behaviour that help them to rebuild our identity in the new circumstances.

Blocking factors that drive to the resistance for a change:

There are too many blocking factors that drive a person to resist a change, some of them are very common, while others are specific and case-oriented. 

The common blocking factors can be summarized as follows:

  • The necessity: Everything starts with why?... and people need to understand the necessity of the change before to move from their comfort zone.
  • The fear: In general, people have fear of the unknown and try to avoid the uncertainties. People also have fear from the failure, especially if they have a lack of expertise.
  • The power: Most people do not like the imposed changes, and they respond minimally to the change they are not consulted about. As a matter of fact, a change force new rules to the current state, and people find themselves weak with no power to reject the new rules.
  • The habits: Most of the people are attached to habits, and they find difficulties to change models in doing things for a long time, and they have no tolerance for changing the routine.
  • The Motive: We always seek to get more & more benefits with every change occurs to us, this is human nature. With no benefits... people don’t have the motive to accept the change.
  • The Timing: Sometimes the change happened in a bad time, and people are not ready to change. They have the intention for this change... but not today!
  • The instability: Too many changes exhaust people and lead them to resist a change.; and due to the fact that the tolerance level for change has been exceeded, people start to resist any change to ensure stability.
  • The Beliefs: In some cases, change is a breaking point with some of our beliefs or opinions, which creates a cognitive dissonance that we are unwilling to assume.
  • The Behavior: Some people have a personal predisposition to change, and they intend to resit for any change, and they try to find reasons to justify their resistance.

At the end, and as change drivers, we have to expect and accept some changes to our strategy (without changing the objective) to align our plans with the uncovered change resistance factors. 

Finally and back to project management, we have to remember that without stakeholders, that will not be a project to work on; and If you can't turn a stakeholder from negative to a positive one; at least try to neutralize it

By Hani Hmedeh