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I’m afraid that things won’t go well

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The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you ever face resistance when attempting to implement a new idea or a new concept? I often notice interesting behaviors when helping teams and individuals transition to Agile. In fact, I notice strange reactions whenever there is a change management initiative underway.

In such circumstances, the first question that comes to mind is “Why is this individual afraid?“.

In my opinion, people are typically afraid for 2 reasons: they have had a bad experience in a similar situation in the past or they anticipate that the change will cause unwanted results. Either way, my approach is the same.

Being afraid is normal and is not limited to humans (for sake of this post, let’s limit ourselves to humans). As babies we learn through experience and the recommendations of our parents – the stronger the initial experience is, the longer it remains encrusted in our brain.

Let’s admit that many change initiatives have led to very negative impact for people. Remember enterprise re-engineering? What about outsourcing? Do you think people who lost their job as a result might be afraid of other organization-wide initiatives??

As change agents, it is our role to dig into the reasons behind the fears. I’m not talking about psychology, I’m simply talking about root cause analysis of the situation in an attempt to properly address the concerns. To do so, coaches must ask powerful questions and keep silence to make room for valuable information to be shared.

Once we understand the motivation or the source of the fears, we then need to be truthful and honestly tell if the situation will (or won’t) lead to the feared consequences. In the cases where it may actually lead to the expected consequences, we should engage the individuals into finding potential solutions or way to mitigate the unwanted conclusions.

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