I had an epiphany recently about change management: resistance = engagement.
The epiphany was inspired by a familiar scenario described to me by the sponsor of a major CRM initiative. It goes something like this:
"We've been keeping people informed with regular communications about the project. The project team has representatives from across the organization. The senior executives in every division have been kept involved at our quarterly meetings.
We need the business-line executives to take ownership as we move into the implementation phase. Everyone says they are on side. We feel like we are doing all the right things... but nothing seems to be happening. What are we doing wrong?"
Let's leave aside what the "right things" are for now, since those are often somewhat unique to each organization's culture and each project (despite what the project management books tell you).
But I can tell you how you can spot real engagement at the level of senior managers: when they start to disagree, ask for changes and generally be difficult, that's engagement.
When no managers are creating problems for the project, nothing's happening. Another client refers to this as "friendly nods and grunts". That's when you have people at meetings saying, "yeah that all sounds great, let me know how we can help", but they have not put a single action item on their own to-do list.
Real business-line managers don't behave this way when they have taken ownership of a problem. They start telling you why your schedule is impossible, or why your training plan needs to include another group, or why your new software doesn't take the ancient computing equipment into account. That's what engagement looks like.
But we all think engagement = agreement. It doesn't. You know when people are truly engaged when they start to resist. If you have no resistance, no one is paying attention.
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