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Navigating Resistance to Change: A Personal Account of Strategy Formulation Workshops

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." [Alan Watts]

Reflecting on my recent experience I was struck by the common thread of resistance to change. While we all respond differently to change, it is clear that navigating resistance is a critical component of successful strategy formulation. In this blog post, I will share my personal account of overcoming resistance to change during a recent strategy formulation workshop in Dubai, and offer insights on effective approaches we take to achieve an organisation's goals amidst the inevitable challenges of change.

We chose a neutral location for the strategy formulation workshops in Dubai, close to some key figures in the strategy but away from the primary workspace for many. This decision allowed individuals to focus on the task at hand with a fresh perspective, free from external influences and distractions. At the outset of the workshop, there was noticeable resistance among participants, with many expressing hesitancy towards sharing their opinions. This was not unexpected, given the diverse mix of investors, board members, and leadership from within the organisation, each with differing perspectives on the need for change.

This type of situation requires careful facilitation, and simply presenting a deck of solutions is not enough to achieve successful outcomes. Instead, we believe in achieving results from within, and encourage open communication and collaboration centred around engagement and inclusivity through facilitated breakout groups. This approach ensured active participation and exposure to different perspectives and observations, taking into account the diverse needs and opinions of all stakeholders involved.

Creating teams comprising of potentially extreme opinions may seem counterintuitive, but it proved to be a powerful tool. This approach helped to create new alliances and strengthen the value of the change, providing a platform for exploring diverse ideas, venturing into unknown territories, and leveraging unique experiences and knowledge. Furthermore, interchanging team members and allocating different representatives throughout the workshops reinforced this approach and facilitated a more robust strategy formulation, ultimately strengthening a shared vision.

Once everyone involved comprehended the importance of the change in relation to their own context, they began to support it. In this case, it was critical that participants understood the need for continuous evaluation and adaptation to ensure sustainable success. By considering the long-term benefits of change, such as cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and new business opportunities, rather than solely focusing on the perceived short-term effort, they were able to see the value in the strategy and became more invested in its success.

During the change process, seeking out different perspectives is an effective way to overcome resistance. The result of this approach was particularly evident in the second strategy formulation workshop, also held in Dubai. In the period between the workshops, teams that were selected during the first workshop were given interim tasks to explore and evaluate identified opportunities. Throughout this process, we continued to monitor and assist the groups, and the results were astonishing. When we returned to the second workshop, the initial barriers had broken down, and a sense of excitement and impatience to move forward and share newfound knowledge emerged. The participants felt they had a voice and had been actively involved in the process, which made them fully supportive of each other and passionate about the strategy. This inclusive approach created an overwhelming sense of ownership that led to driven commitment and accountability among them.

Interestingly, when considering critical issues related to strategy execution, the team members themselves identified potential resistance during the transition process. Having gone through the process, they clearly recognised the importance of effectively managing change going forward. They emphasised the need for clear, relevant, and target-group-specific communication of the strategy to ensure all stakeholders understood the "why" behind the changes. Additionally, they stressed the importance of sustainable and continuous change through effective leadership succession and their organisational culture.

These approaches during the strategy workshops had a remarkable impact, evident at the end of the final day when team members felt comfortable and confident. They understood the rationale behind the new strategy and felt empowered through their sense of ownership. The whole team rallied around and committed to a common, shared opportunity.

Through extensive experience, we have learned that embracing diverse perspectives is crucial to fostering a collaborative change process and achieving greater success. We believe that careful facilitation, active participation, and engagement with all stakeholders are key to overcoming resistance to change and creating a sense of ownership and commitment. Our team is dedicated to guiding businesses through the change process and empowering them to achieve their goals.

Have you ever experienced resistance to change within your organisation? If so, you're not alone. We have a proven track record of helping businesses overcome these challenges and develop successful strategies that drive growth and positive change. Our team can help you develop a tailored strategy that meets your unique needs and goals. Please get in touch to learn more about our services and how we can support your future strategy.

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