Change in organisations : identifying sources of resistance to change and exploring the impact of the consultancy process used
The aim of this research is to identify sources of resistance to change in organisations and to explore the impact of the consultancy process used to bring about change through the authority structures of organisations. The research was conducted using a process consultancy model with a focus on the process of how to bring about change rather than what the change will be. The model is based on an action research method and applies principles from psychoanalytic and systems theory. The guiding theory for the research was that a psychological source of resistance to change is that people use the social system in organisations as a defence against anxiety (Jaques, 1955, Menzies, 1959, Miller & Gwynne, 1972). The first research case study involved a group of employees in the National Health Service (NHS). Evidence from the cases study was used to identify conscious and unconscious sources of resistance to change and to build on the guiding theory that the social system was used as a defence against anxiety. It emerged that there were four different ways that people responded to change, which ranged from a 'sycophant' to a 'saboteur' response. People also had different levels of learning during change, ranging from 'resistant to learning' to 'internalised learning'. There was evidence that the existential primary task, i. e. the meaning that people have in their work life, can be a source of resistance to change. Two new working hypotheses were subsequently developed from these findings, which were explored further in a Bank case study. These are firstly that the existential primary task can also be a source of resistance to change and secondly that the process consultancy model can help to a) identify and understand how people respond to change; b) identify situations when the existential primary task can be a source of resistance; and c) develop people to reach a level of internalised learning. These working hypotheses were developed further based on the findings from both case studies. The conclusion is that the social defence system and the existential primary task can both be psychological sources of resistance to change. Two models were developed from the findings. One to represent a Continuum of Responses to Change and the other to represent the Dimensions of Responses to Change, which relates to an individual's capacity for personal change, their level of support for change and their response. Finally, the application of these conclusions to develop the process consultancy model and ideas for further research are discussed.