Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Change

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Underestimating the degree of resistance in any change initiative is lethal, and will lead to failure. Some ‘players’ will actively seek to sabotage the initiative, and you’ll never see it happening. Other’s will be more open in their behaviour. Trying to identify and harness the abilities of supporters is vital. This model is derived from Hersey and Blanchard’s work on situational leadership and is a variation of the more classic ‘skill ’v’ will’ matrix.Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Change


Mapping an individual’s willingness to support and deliver change against their ability to change is useful when looking to understand their resistance triggers. It also helps to list the potential interventions that can increase the probability of success. This model identifies some of the behaviours that might typically be seen in each quadrant. We have found it useful to draw analogies and in this example we use military analogies to aid understanding. Analogies should always take account of the culture and context of the environment.

When it is used

This can be a useful model to help a Leaders, Programme Managers, Delivery Leaders, Change Champions or Sponsors to understand why some people may be resistant to change, what behaviours to look out for and some possible interventions. It is mainly used as a one-to-one tool and is not really appropriate for a workshop setting.

Using the model will lead to some tough decisions about people. It’s important to note that someone’s position on the grid is likely to be situational and we should avoid labelling.

How to use it

If you don’t know the individuals concerned it is important that the matrix is completed by someone who does. Avoid giving opinions without evidence – good questions would be:

  • How much of the individuals resistance would be around their ability or willingness to change?
  • What evidence is there?
  • What behaviours are apparent?
  • In what situations might your view be different?
  • What interventions have we tried before?
  • In what situation?
  • Did they work?
  • Can you try something else first?

Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Change2

Warning: Do not leave completed versions lying around with names on (“Use then Shred”).



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Post by Pete Wilson

Pete has worked in the technology and business change space for over 30 years. He's worked globally for large public sector and governmental bodies and for large private sector multinationals across numerous industry sectors.

3 Responses to Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Change

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