Do people really always resist change?

In change management it is often said that people resist change by nature. They need time for and it is a long and arduous path.

That is not true!

In the current corona crisis we are seeing how quickly millions of people are adopting new behaviors. They have changed the way they work: home office, telcos, flexible hours. They have changed their leisure time: outdoors as much as possible – while keeping a distance, yoga at home with YouTube instead of in a group, telephone or video calls instead of meeting in a pub.

Change needs time – or relevance?

These changes all happened in a few days and weeks. How quickly or radically a person changes his or her behavior depends largely on how relevant it appears to them:

Change is highly relevant if one expects an immediate positive effect (or wants to avert imminent harm). If a positive effect cannot really be felt or is in the hazy future, it is difficult to change.


We hope that through “social distancing” we will not infect ourselves or others. For most people this is very important, so they now stick to it.

If we have just fallen in love and want to please that person, we suddenly pay special attention to our appearance or behavior.

Efforts must be “rewarded”!

But if we want to “lose weight” or “invest time in our partner”, it is difficult to push ourselves and eat differently, or to put the work aside and concentrate on the partner. By not eating dessert once, you just don’t lose weight. And a single conversation with your partner does not stabilize a relationship. This only works over a longer period of time, and you notice any improvement only very gradually.

So there must be another good reason to do it anyway: perhaps your favorite pair of pants pinch in the waist. If you lose weight, you will feel it fairly quickly. Or your partner frequently was unhappy, and now you can make him smile more often. So, your efforts are rewarded relatively quickly. And the reward system of our brain is an essential factor for motivation!

It becomes even more difficult when we see no benefit for ourselves at all – and only someone else wants us to change.

No change without a benefit for ourselves!

If our vegetarian friend wants to convince us to stop eating meat because it’s healthier – but we feel good anyway – there will be no permanent change. Maybe we order vegetarian meals when we go out with him. But without him we choose the meat option.

Resistance is created

The same happens in companies: If the benefits are not directly felt by the individual employees, permanent change is not possible. Of course, coercive measures can have a short-term effect. However, as soon as a small amount of leeway is created, people fall back into old behaviors.

Often, pressure is what produces resistance in the first place. It is frequently not at all against the change project itself. Rather, resistance is directed against the approach or the lack or nature of communication about the project’s necessity.

Successful digital transformation must bring direct improvement for the employees

When processes, applications or work steps are digitalized, people who are now expected to work in this way need to notice immediate improvements. These improvements constitute the direct benefit for each of them!

The decisive question for every digital transformation project is therefore: “What immediate improvements will result for people in their everyday working lives?

The answer must then be at the center of communication as to why digital transformation is now sensible and appropriate. Only then can a transformation project take root and become successful!