Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is an essential feature of any stable system. Open systems are only temporarily stable because the dynamic forces acting on the system, both internal and external, are nearly in balance. Please read the first sentence of this paragraph three more times.

Resistance to change is not inherently good or bad. You may judge resistance to change as good if you wish to maintain certain characteristics of a system. For example, you may be very pleased that your system maintains a focus on customer service through good times and bad. On the other hand, you may judge resistance to change as bad if you are attempting to eliminate undesirable behavior or to move to new levels of performance. Regardless of your judgment on the matter, the system will naturally resist change.

Figure 9.5 illustrates just a few of the interrelated forces that exist in any business system. Forces are both internal and external to the business system. The forces are, themselves, interrelated in a complex system structure. Attempts to change any part of the system impact all parts of the system to varying degrees. Because of the linked structure, the net result of these forces will tend to restore the system to its present state.

Resistance to change of the organizational system is often difficult to distinguish from individual resistance to change. When things are not going as hoped, or not quickly enough, people often want to search out and motivate the guilty parties. Unfortunately, such searches are fruitless. How many people do you know who have really wanted to lose weight, quit smoking, or change some other personal behavior, but seemed unable to do it? Or, if they were able to do it, were unable to sustain the progress they made? Do you really doubt their desire or motivation to make the change? Do they not have the skills? Will haranguing them more cause it to happen? Should you send them to training?

The obstacle to organizations making change is the very thing that makes them what they are in the first place. The structure of the system determines the reaction that will happen when you try to push a stable system in one direction. You will activate the restraining forces that helped keep the system in balance where it was. You have to consider resistance to change at both the individual and the organization levels.

Figure 9.5 Business systems exist in a field of interrelated forces, which naturally push back on attempts to change the system.

For example, consider an organization wishing to become more efficient. It may choose to eliminate excess resources. TOC teaches that an efficient system can only maintain the constraint at full efficiency. All other resources must have protective capacity to operate the system efficiently. In other words, all other resources must operate at lower efficiency so that the system can operate at maximum efficiency. Unless the company has a good grounding in TOC, it will not understand the necessary protective capacity and will cut into necessary capacity. This will make the system less efficient. The system will resist the improperly imposed attempt to change it. In some cases, due to some of the laws of system dynamics, the system may appear to be more efficient for a few quarters. This is because there was excess inventory in the system, which can make up for the haphazard cutting of capacity. Once this is used up, the system will begin to fail.

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Project Management Made Easy

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