Is someone who struggles with change ‘resistant’ to it? Or are they simply not ready for change?

The difference is important, because ‘readiness for change’ is something you can gauge even before a change takes place.

By knowing how ready for change they are – and working to increase their readiness – you may never need to deal with ‘resistance’ at all.

Using the word ‘readiness’ also removes the rather judgemental associations of the word ‘resistance’. That will affect the attitudes and approach of the people who need to make change happen.

So – how can you determine someone’s readiness? (And let’s give the ‘someone’ a name – Hubert – to avoid complicated language. Apologies to anyone called Hubert, of course…)

There are two issues you need to think about:

  • The drivers: How bad does Hubert believe that things now? How much – in Hubert’s view – will change improve them?
  • The restraint: How secure does Hubert feel with things as they are?

Drivers for change

If Hubert’s unhappy then he’s far more likely to welcome change. And the more unhappy he is, the more willing he will be to try something new.

If Hubert is comfortable with things as they are it may be hard to persuade him to do things differently – let alone to do things that are different.

So – in essence – a successful change needs to be driven by at least a moderate level of dissatisfaction.

But it also needs to overcome…

Restraints on change

Good research suggests that Hubert’s own feelings of security may be a critical barrier to change. And (by definition) those feelings will be very difficult for anyone except Hubert to determine! That’s because we’re talking about subjective perception, not objective reality. So to truly understand Hubert’s position you’d need to be inside his head. And seeing the world exactly as he sees it.

This subject is tricky enough to deserve a post of its own. So, for the moment, let’s assume we have at least a rough idea about Hubert’s level of felt security.

What effect will this have on his readiness to accept change?

Suppose Hubert is feeling insecure at the moment. That means his anxiety levels are high, and he will be unwilling or even unable to cope with change.

If, on the other hand, he is feeling very secure then he won’t be interested in new information or new ideas.

Drivers and restraints – how they work together

That – as you can see – creates a fascinating picture.

Ready for change? That depends on an individual's feelings of satisfaction and security

The shaded area is where Hubert is fairly dissatisfied –  but also feels reasonably secure. This is when he’s most likely to accept change.

To the right – where he feels almost completely secure – the chances of that become far smaller. If he feels both secure and satisfied (bottom right) then he will obviously be quite happy with things as they are. And If he feels completely secure he will probably become a contented and complacent ‘fat cat’. Even the boxes above, on the right, will be sparsely populated. That’s because new information and new ideas have little appeal to people who feel secure.

The left-hand column poses a different problem. If Hubert is here, even the strongest arguments will fail to cut much ice – because he is incapable of change. The very thought of change will induce the kind of panic that makes a rabbit freeze in the face of oncoming headlights!

So how can we find out where, on this diagram, Hubert feels he is?

And, more importantly, how can we move him to a position where he can and will change?