A person stands on a small boat, facing the change of the large ship ahead.

Change isn’t easy: How to feel the fear and do it anyway

What knocks change efforts off track and how to ensure your transformation won't fail.
Monday, September 25, 2023

It’s an age-old piece of wisdom and yet, somehow, we always listen intently when we’re reminded that the only thing that’s permanent is change.

It’s funny whenever we nod in agreement at the saying, and later, we’re met with the rude awakening of experiencing and navigating change. The truth is that it is a lot bigger than it may initially appear. In fact, change is so prevalent that a whole new corporate practice has been created dedicated to change management.

The experts agree that the biggest challenge is resistance.

Here are some of the most common reasons for this:

  1. Fear of failure or concern about making a mistake or the wrong decision
  2. Threats to prestige, power, and resources
  3. Unclear vision of the future and how it is expected to be better than our current state
  4. Ambiguity about roles, responsibilities, and relationships with others in the organization


Keeping these in mind, we can understand that resistance boils down to fear.

Change can be frightening, as it brings a whole new set of challenges and unexpected hurdles. People don’t want to let go of what they know, the legacy systems and tried and true methods that have historically proven successful. Because this makes their ways of doing business inefficient, inferior, and unstable. Change is not simply an extra project, but rather, a whole new initiative on its own.

Some people say that you should take a “snapshot” of the current state of any enterprise. Start here and then use this image as a benchmark in your roadmap to improvement. This makes sense, but it requires a deeper measure.

If you don’t want to fail, then you must strike at what lingers in the very heart of resistance, which is fear. By making a clear case for change, and reassuring your stakeholders of the benefits, the fear will naturally fade away in the details. And it is a well-known fact that without full support from leadership—financially and politically, change will fail.

Change is necessary, and it’s going to happen—whether we like it or not. So, there is absolutely no point in wasting time being afraid of it.

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

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