Overcome Resistance to Change:  A step by step approach using Goldratt’s Change Matrix

When we encounter resistance to change to implement our ideas or to go in a different direction we are delaying the results we expect to get from those changes. So, it is extremely important to be able to convince others to move in a particular direction. This is true both at work and at home. With that in mind, I have crafted this post to help you to take your influence ability to a whole new level. First I need to set the stage with a video that Dr Eliyahu M. Goldratt (father of Theory of Constraints) did a while ago. Even if you have previously watched this video, please watch it again. It sets the stage for the rest of today’s lesson and it’s only 6 minutes long. (Click on the video below to watch it.)

How to Overcome Resistance to Change the Theory of Constraints Way

Now that you’ve watched the video, it’s time to put it into practice. We did this at one of the TOCICO (Theory of Constraints) conferences and a number of people had trouble filling out the change management matrix. And I did too the first time I did it. Since I was one of the facilitators, I had the benefit of practicing before the conference (during the last days with Eli) and figured out what worked for me and here it is.

Goldratt’s Change Matrix

To fill out Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints change matrix, answer these questions in this order:

1) State the change. Be very specific, what you are suggesting be changed?

2) What’s your alligator? What’s the negative of not changing? It is something bad or negative that exists today, and unless a change is made will not go away and will hurt you/us.

3) What’s your mermaid? What’s the positive to not changing for you? It is something good you/we have now, that because of your change you/we will likely lose.

4) What’s your pot of gold? What’s the positive to making the change for you? It is something good you/we don’t have now, but you/we want, and you think we can get if the change is made.

5) What’s your crutch? What the negative to making the change for you? It is something bad (for you/we) that doesn’t exist today, but can and most likely will happen if the change is made.

Change Management Matrix for Resistance to Change

Goldratt’s Change Matrix for change management and resistance to change.

I found that I wasn’t always explicit with what the proposed change was and when I started with the pot of gold, then the crutch, mermaid and alligator, which is natural – I had trouble. When I used the above order, it worked better for me. When I analyzed this I realized that the alligator is the UDE (undesirable effect – a Theory of Constraints term) that we start with when we do clouds. This made perfect sense and then it was easier to get my logic straight. It’s also consistent with how we do buy in – we first agree on the problem (the alligator). The above change matrix includes 3 examples from Alan Barnard.

Once you answer the questions for you, then you need to answer questions 2 through 5 again

for the person you are trying to convince

and from their perspective. I found that if you get the alligator right for them, it’s pretty easy. However, if they don’t see the alligator (agree with what you’ve stated as their alligator) – you’ve got a non-starter. So, pick an issue and do this exercise. Let me know what you learned and if it helped, by leaving a comment below.

Dr Eliyahu Goldratt was fond of saying that

people do not resist change, they judge it.

Change is likely to be judged bad if it is not fully understand because we fill in the details with past experiences and assumptions.  As humans, we are meaning making machines.

So, present me with a little detail and I’ll fill in the specifics with my assumptions.  My version of the Theory of Constraints change matrix process forces you (if done correctly) to explicitly describe the change that’s being proposed – Step 1.  I added Step 1 above because we rarely take the time to be explicit about what we’re proposing.  We understand it, so doesn’t everyone else?  No they don’t and their assumptions won’t likely line up with your intent.

Once we have completely described the change that’s being proposed, we can move on to understanding how it will effect those involved – Steps 2-5.

Wishing you success,

Dr Lisa

President, Science of Business

Inventor — Velocity Scheduling System for highly custom job shops

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