Dianne Waddell Department of Management, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia Amrik S. Sohal Department of Management, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Traditionally, resistance has been cast as adversarial – the enemy of change that must be defeated if change is to be successful. While it is apparent that classical management theory viewed resistance in such a manner, recent literature contains much evidence that suggests resistance may indeed be useful and is not to be simply discounted. Present day suggestions and prescriptions for managing resistance have evidently disregarded this research and left little room for utility in resistance. This paper argues that the difficulty of organisational change is often exacerbated by the mismanagement of resistance derived from a simple set of assumptions that misunderstand resistance’s essential nature. It is suggested that management may greatly beneﬁt from techniques that carefully manage resistance to change by looking for ways of utilising it rather than overcoming it. success organisations have in securing successful change.
Resistance to change has long been recognised as a critically important factor that can inﬂuence the success or otherwise of an organisational change effort. Research undertaken by Maurer (1996) indicated that one-half to two-thirds of all major corporate change efforts fail and resistance is the “little-recognised but critically important contributor” to that failure (p. 56). Research undertaken in the UK by Oakland and Sohal (1987) also found that resistance was one of the major impediments to the use of production management techniques by British production managers. Similarly, Eisen et al. (1992) and Terziovski et al. (1997) found resistance by management and workers to be the major impediment to the use of quality management practices in Australian manufacturing industry . Not that resistance is solely to
References: Albanese, R. (1973), “Overcoming resistance to stability”, in Bartlett, A. and Kayser, T., Changing Organisational Behaviour, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Ansoff, I. (1988), The New Corporate Strategy, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Bartlett, A. and Kayser, T. (1973), Changing Organisational Behaviour, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bemmels, B. and Reshef, Y. (1991), “Manufacturing employees and technological change”, Journal of Labour Research, Vol. 12 No. 3, Summer, pp. 231-46. Block, P. (1989), “Flawless consulting”, in McLennan, R. (1989), Managing Organisational Change, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Coch, L. and French J. (1948), “Overcoming resistance to change”, Human Relations, Vol. I. Eisen, H., Mulraney, B.J. and Sohal, A.S. (1992), “Impediments to the adoption of modern quality management practices”, International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management, Vol. 9 No. 5, pp. 17-41. Grusky, O. and Miller, G. (1970), The Sociology of Organisations, Free Press, New York, NY. Hultman, K. (1979), The Path of Least Resistance, Learning Concepts, Denton, TX. Janis, I. (1982), Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascos, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA. Judson, A. (1966), A Managers Guide to Making Changes, John Wiley & Sons, London. Kaufman, H. (1971), The Limits of Organisational Change, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. Kotter, J. Schlesinger, L. and Sathe, V (1986), . Organisation, 2nd ed, Irwin, Homewood, IL. Lawrence, P. (1954), “How to deal with resistance to change”, Harvard Business Review, MayJune, pp. 49-57. Leigh, A. (1988), Effective Change, Institute of Personnel Management, London. Lewin, K. (1991), in White, D. and Bednar, D., Organisational Behaviour, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, p. 510. Litterer, J. (1973), “Conﬂict in organisation: a reexamination” in Rowe, L. and Boise, B. (Eds), Organisational & Managerial Innovation, Goodyear, Santa Monica, CA. Makin, P., Cooper, C. and Cox, C. (1989), Managing People at Work, Quorum Books, Westport, CT. Maurer, R. (1996), “Using resistance to build support for change”, Journal for Quality & Participation, June, pp. 56-63. McNurry, R. (1973), “The problem of resistance to change in industry”, in Bartlett, A. and Kayser, T., Changing Organisational Behaviour Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. , Milton, C., Entrekin, L. and Stening, B. (1984), Organisational Behaviour in Australia, Prentice Hall, Sydney . [ 547 ] Dianne Waddell and Amrik S. Sohal Resistance: a constructive tool for change management Management Decision 36/8  543–548 Mooney, J. (1939), The Principles of Organisation, Harper and Row, New York, NY. Oakland, J. and Sohal, A.S. (1987), “Production management techniques in UK manufacturing industry: usage and barriers”, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 8-37. Rowe, L. and Boise, B. (Eds) (1973) , Organisational & Managerial Innovation, Goodyear, Santa Monica, CA. Sayles, L. and Straus, G. (1960), Human Behaviour in Organisations, Prentice Hall, London. Schein, E. (1988), Organisational Psychology, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Simon, H. (1976), Administrative Behaviour, The Free Press, New York, NY. Terziovski, M., Sohal, A.S. and Moss, S. (1997), A Longitudunal Study of Quality Management Practices in Australian Organisations, Department of Management, Monash University, Melbourne. Tichy, N. (1983), Managing Strategic Change, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Thomas, J. and Bennis, W. (1972), The Management of Change and Conﬂict, Penguin, Harmondsworth, UK. Urwick, L. (1947), The Elements of Administration, (2nd ed.), Pitman, London. White, D. and Bednar, D. (1991), Organisational Behaviour Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA. , Zaltman, G. and Duncan, R. (1977), Strategies for Planned Change, Wiley, Toronto. Further reading Ritvo, R., Litwin, A. and Lee, B. (1995), Managing in The Age of Change, Irwin, Homewood, IL. Salaman, G. (1979), Work Organisation: Resistance and Control, Longman, London. Wexley, K. and Yukl, G. (1977), Organisational Behaviour and Personnel Psychology, Richard Irwin, Homewood, IL. Willsmore, A. (1973), Managing Modern Man, Pitman, London. Woodman, R. and Pasmore, W. (1989), Research in Organisational Change & Development, Vol. 3, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT. Application questions 1 Discuss some examples where resistance to change has proved useful. 2 Is “change management” an area worthy of study in its own right? [ 548 ]