Change Resistance Mapping

Download The Change Resistance Mapping that describes the concerns of different target groups to the changes your project entails. It is a specialized stakeholder analysis focusing on change management and change communication. All changes cause disadvantages – there is always a price to pay. The question is which target groups should pay the price and how large this price is perceived to be. The tool increases your ability to actively listen and empathize with the target groups. It provides invaluable input to your communication plan.

Full description

Purpose and yield

In projects with organizational change, many employees may be concerned about the changes and therefore have some resistance. Therefore, it is appropriate to assess the stakeholders’ challenges with the planned changes. The analysis is performed to:

  • Optimize change communication and ensure that employees feel safe on the journey towards the new situation.
  • Assess how the individual stakeholder relates to changes in the project
  • Assess how substantial contributions or drawbacks the individual stakeholder must deliver/endure as a result of the project.
  • Assess which areas concern the individual stakeholder regarding the future solution.
  • Establish actions that can minimize stakeholder resistance or maximize their returns.

When is the change resistance mapping done?

  • The analysis should be carried out as soon as possible when the project’s objective is established and the first draft plan is available.
  • The analysis can be elaborated in the individual focus areas when more detailed knowledge of the changes and their influence on the individual person is available.
  • The change resistance mapping must be regularly reviewed and maintained through the project. Especially if surprises arise, such as stakeholders / employees who react differently than expected, or unexpected or “forgotten” stakeholders appear.

Pitfalls and restrictions

  • If the analysis is carried out by the project group, it does not always convey the right image of the employees’ concerns and resistance.
  • Be aware that if the analysis is carried out together with employee groups, the group is not always homogeneous. Individuals in the group may have very different perceptions of the project’s benefits and disadvantages in the future.
  • Be aware that in many organizations there are opinion makers who have a great influence on the rest of the employees. Quite a few opinion makers can therefore influence the analysis and the project.
  • Remember that the benefits and disadvantages for each individual cannot be changed simply by information. Often, involvement and concrete measures in the project will be necessary.
  • The analysis is the project team’s opinion, not the stakeholders. Therefore, the analysis should be prepared by several people with different knowledge of the stakeholders. The analysis should therefore be verified among the stakeholders.
  • The analysis is a snapshot that can change during the project.

Who participates?

  • The change resistance mapping describes the situation as it is perceived by the particular target group of employees now and in the future. (The as is and the to be situation).
  • The analysis can be prepared in several ways. The classic way is that the project group prepares the descriptions in the same way that the group develops a stakeholder analysis. In fact, it is a detailed stakeholder analysis focusing on the actual changes.
  • But it is also possible to involve the target group and the leaders in the preparation of the description. It is an excellent way of highlighting the problem and discussing how the changes are best handled.
  • Preparing the change resistance mapping at a workshop with the target group, where the management or project manager informs about the project’s vision and the burning platform. Then, the participants are asked what they appreciate about the current situation, and what they are concerned about during the project period and future solution. Answers are noted in the tool’s two middle columns.

Approach for the change resistance mapping

Most people know very well that changes are also associated with disadvantages. If you, as a project manager, do not disclose the price, or stubbornly claim that there is no price, then distrust, skepticism and resistance will grow. Therefore, the price must be handled in an appropriate manner. A good way to view and highlight this price is by using this tool. The change resistance mapping describes the situation today and in the future:

  • Now: “What are the problems of the current situation and what are the positive aspects of the status quo?”
  • The future: “What is the vision and what disadvantages do we see in the project period and in the future solution?”

There is not just one picture of the present and one of the future. The picture is different from target group to target group. Therefore, the tool makes it possible to compile this description for the different audiences affected by our project in different ways. When the change resistance mapping is described for the individual target group, it is important that it is described in terms of the target group’s point of view. How does the target group perceive the burning platform and what is an attractive vision for the target group?

The change resistance mapping is built in four columns

  • To the far left is the negative situation today – the burning platform.
  • To the far right is the positive future – the vision.
  • The second column from the left describes what the employees think is positive in the current situation.
  • The third pillar describes the negative aspects of the project implementation and the future.
  • The difference between the two middle columns is the price the employees perceive they must pay for the change.

Preparation of the change resistance mapping

Step 1: The current situation is noted in the table’s left column. Why should the current situation change? Why did the project start at all? In the same step, the vision and the benefits of the future situation are described in the right column.

Step 2: All the benefits of the current situation are described with the eyes of that particular audience. Having described the advantages, the disadvantages of the future situation are described. These disadvantages can often be directly related to the employees’ uncertainty and fear of the future. When describing the benefits of the existing situation and the future solution, one can define the price that the stakeholder group must pay for the change.

Step 3: Conclusion according to the target group’s perception of the upcoming change is made. The target group will feel that they are losing the benefits they have today and receive the disadvantages of the future system. Often they find it difficult to see the disadvantages of the current system and the vision of the future system.

The analysis will often show in which areas the target group is nervous and frustrated with the future solution. This can e.g. be new IT system or new workflows. Based on these descriptions, it will be possible to set up measures that can be initiated in the project. It is not possible to explain to the target group that disadvantages are not disadvantages. It is necessary to plan measures that eliminate the disadvantages, e.g. practicing, time for training, team-building activities etc.

After the description, it is important to consider the following:

  • The good and important things in column 2 that is important for the target group – how much of this can be preserved in the new solution?
  • The disadvantages of column 3 that the target group is concerned about – how can the project support the employees in overcoming these challenges?
  • How big is the cost of the change seen by the target group? The price is the difference between what you lose in column 2 and the new disadvantages in column 3.
  • How attractive is the vision in column 4 in relation to the price of the change?
  • Does the target group experience a significant burning platform at all in column 1?

See the detailed description in the PowerPoint tool. The Word tool contains only the templates. The change resistance mapping  is a general leadership tool that can be used regardless of whether you work with projects based on IPMA , Prince2, PMI, agile methods like Scrum or Half Double.


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John Ryding Olsson Founder & author John Ryding Olsson

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