• Dean Van Dyke

Adopters vs. Resisters: Building a Successful Change Management Strategy

It’s commonly said that change is the only constant. If that’s true, being in front of the change and steering progress in a desired direction is essential. Front-line leadership is often tasked with implementing change management strategies, and doing so can be difficult depending on which portion of the workforce you’re addressing.


From early adopters and lukewarm wait-and-see demographics to the more difficult resisters or “laggers,” understanding who you’re dealing with and how best to adapt is key to a successful change management strategy.



The Early Adopters

When faced with change, there will always be those who happily embrace the concept and actively engage the challenges. The early adopters need little incentive when introduced to something new, and most thrive with just a little direction and the freedom to do their work.


The Neutral Wait-and-See Demographic

The neutral wait-and-see demographic is often a very selfish one, meaning change is adopted when personal gain is perceived or when trying to avoid detrimental consequences. This demographic makes up the largest portion of the workforce or product audience, and most can be easily swayed with a little incentive or easy-to-understand consequences.


Resisters and Laggers

The most difficult group to manage successfully around change is the resister or “lagger” demographic. Resisters, both active and passive, whether through choice or lack of interest, are the least likely to adopt policy changes and can prove organizational roadblocks if not managed appropriately.


Responsibility, Training, and Competency

Implementing a change management strategy is a collaborative effort. Creating and relaying the strategy, especially to resisters, is your responsibility as front-end leadership. Understanding and adhering to that strategy is the responsibility of the individual worker.


Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for management strategies to fail on the premise of miscommunication alone. Procedural changes can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to internalize. Before disciplining an individual because they aren’t adapting to change, it’s important to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Was that person aware of their responsibilities?

  2. Have they been properly trained?

  3. Does that training translate to competency?

Answering “no” to any of these questions can be an indication that information was miscommunicated, hasn’t been provided, or that a situation deserves to be reassessed. Dishing out disciplinary action should be a last resort and understanding how best to manage various adopters before implementing change can mean the difference between a successful change management strategy and one that crashes and burns.


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