Effective Responses to Push Back: Guerilla Tactics for Change Agents

Presenter: Kikanza Nuri-Robins Ed.D., consultant, The Robins Group

Summary: Nuri-Robins defines “guerilla” tactics as often indirect approaches needed because people resist change. Seven dynamics of change are that people:

    • Will feel awkward, embarrassed, ill at ease.
    • Will think first about what they are going to lose.
    • Will feel alone, even though everyone is going through the same thing.
    • Can only handle so much. People will respond at different rates.
    • Will be at different levels of readiness for change. Plan for people at the middle of curve.
    • Are concerned they will not have enough resources.
    • Will revert to what they were doing before as soon as the pressure is off. You have to manage the transition, and continue to be a cheerleader and enforcer.
    • Address these realities: People are satisfied with the status quo; change implies their past performance was poor; purpose of change is unclear; they fear the unknown, loss of control and failure; perceive cost of change is greater than not changing; resent you or other aspects of the change; change challenges their values; their boundaries feel violated; change process conflicts with group norms.
    • Nuri-Robins recommends Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges. He wrote that change starts with endings – people have to say goodbye to something. Change happens most effectively when transition is managed but people tend to not do this well. Poorly managed transitions are costly.
    • Give up the ego of being the one in charge. Relationship power is the most effective. People will do much more for you if the relationship is good.
    • Name the elephant that is the major reason for the change. Just because they ignore you does not mean they did not hear. Ask a question about the elephant; let others ponder reply.
    • Lessons from leaders who have managed change well: connect change to culture of the organization; develop the right team as champions; identify benchmarks; celebrate successes; prepare for transformation; set appropriate pace; make a long-term commitment to transition journey; align work with existing systems; build internal capacity.
    • You cannot change the universe. We each have perhaps one pebble of influence. Nuri-Robins recommends finding allies and finding a pond to drop in the pebble.


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