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Jason Furness

Management

Six Layers of Resistance, Part 1

‘Why change?’ and disagreeing on the problem

Published: Monday, January 4, 2016 - 12:46

This is the first part of a three-part series on the “six layers of resistance.” It’s based on the work of Eliyahu Goldratt, who has now passed away. Goldratt was the originator of a body of work known as the “theory of constraints.” His bestselling novel, The Goal (North River Press, 2014 reprint), should be essential reading for anyone in business, not just manufacturing.

The technical aspects of change within an organization are often rather simple. The complicating factors and the drivers behind failures usually can be traced back to a failure to adequately work with people to overcome in each of them the six layers of resistance. Whenever we’re faced with a change, we all work through these six layers, starting at layer 0 and—if the change is to be succeed—moving up to layer 5. When people remain at a middle level of this process, they resist the change that is being developed and can cause the program or project to flounder.

Change within an organization is difficult and time-consuming. It often fails because there has been no effort to work through the change process with the individuals involved in the change, and advance their personal thinking to overcome their resistance to the changes desired.

“If you want enemies, try to change something.”
—Woodrow Wilson

Layer 0: ‘Why change?’

It’s easy to get people into the lifeboats if they can see the ship is sinking. Somewhat harder is to get them to pay attention and practice the maneuver when the weather is clear and the bar is open.

The most basic question anyone asks themselves and others when they are faced with the prospect of change is, “Why change?” Individuals will not involve themselves in moving away from their current situation unless there is a compelling reason to do so. These reasons will vary from person to person. One person may be sufficiently inspired or concerned by the issue to agree that there’s a need for change, whereas the person next to her can hear the same explanation but, due to his different experiences and motivational needs, arrive at an entirely different conclusion.

If a person doesn’t see that there’s a need to change, it’s basically impossible and a waste of time to proceed any further down the path of introducing changes or discussing what those changes could be. Likewise with a group, there must be a minimum of a critical mass of opinion leaders who have come to the conclusion that a change away from the current situation is desirable. The conversation will need to continue until agreement is reached that there is a need to change. When that happens, layer 0 has been passed through.

Layer 1: Disagreeing on the nature of the problem

“When both logic and intuition agree, you are always right.”
—Unknown

Once agreement has been reached that the current situation can’t continue, the next stage of resistance to be faced is a lack of consensus and agreement on the nature of the problem that is causing the current situation to exist and remain. Most people will have experienced a variety of negative effects due to the current situation and have an equally diverse set of opinions as to the causes of the problems.

One organization I worked with had definitely agreed that the situation needed to change. The sales group blamed the problem on manufacturing. The manufacturing group saw the problem as being poor sales forecasting and procurement policies. The purchasing group was usually blamed by everyone. Engineering thought the problem was a lack of people to develop new models and the inability of marketing to make a decision in a timely manner.

This is just a snapshot of the generalized disagreement within the organization. When you reach this point, it is necessary to perform an analysis of the situation between the groups. The outcome will be the discovery of a root cause that creates the major symptoms that people are experiencing, or exposes a conflict between well-intentioned people who are forced to behave in such a way as to cause problems within the organization. Developing this analysis is the methodology to build buy-in and support to help people move through layer 1.

In my next column, I’ll explore the next two layers of resistence.

First published on the Manufacturship blog.

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About The Author

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Jason Furness

Jason Furness, CEO and founder of Manufacturship, is an executive coach who provides lean manufacturing training and lean consulting in a pragmatic, hands-on way that gets clients results in a fast and sustainable manner. Furness oversees the development and delivery of Manufacturship’s curriculum, leads the mentoring of business owners and managers, and sponsors all client projects. During his 20-year career he has led 30 transformation projects for small and medium-sized enterprises. Furness is the co-author of Manufacturing Money: How CEOs Rapidly Lift Profits in Manufacturing (Amazon Digital Services, 2015).