Resistance to Change Mapping

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Organisations today are constantly facing change as a result of factors such as technological advancements, changing market conditions, and changing customer demands. Change in organisations is closely related to project management because many changes require a project-based approach to be implemented successfully. These kinds of project are almost inevitable to receive resistance from some of the people who will be affected by the change [1].

According to PRINCE2 [2] and the PMI standard [3] for project management almost every project contains an aspect of change. Hence, change management is an essential part of project management. The two standards describe the importance of gaining support from the people affected by the change, and people understanding why the change is needed to reduce unavoidable resistance to the change. Dent and Goldberg [4] argues that people do not resist the change itself but the unknown. To accommodate the resistance, it is important to shed light on the doubts and uncertainties affected employees could have toward the change and the project manager's reasoning behind it [5].

Resistance to Change Mapping is a tool which can help to facilitate communication between the stakeholders with low influence and high interest and the project manager. It deals with the current situation and the situation after the implementation, with further categorisation into the drawbacks and advantages of each[1].

The purpose of this article is to introduce the 'Resistance to Change Mapping' tool as a change management tool to evaluate oppositions of various stakeholders. The objective is to create a space for stakeholders to address their concerns and to provide opportunities for project managers to take initiatives to accommodate the drawbacks and uncertainties related to the change. Thus, reducing the resistance and increasing the likelihood of the project's success [1].


Change management

Change management has become increasingly important in organisations today due to the rapidly changing business environment. Technological advancements, globalisation, and increased competition are just a few of the factors that have forced organisations to adapt and evolve in order to remain competitive. Effective change management is critical to ensuring that changes within an organisation are implemented successfully and with minimal resistance. It involves a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and the organisation as a whole from the current state to a desired future state, while minimising the negative impact of the change on employees and the organisation as a whole. In short, change management is essential for organisations to successfully navigate the challenges of today's fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape.

John P. Kotter is a professor at Harvard Business School and is known for his theories about change management. He has collected the eight most common errors organisations tend to encounter when implementing a change [6]. They are listed below:

  • Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency
  • Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition
  • Lacking a Vision
  • Undercommunicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten
  • Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision
  • Not Systematically Planning for, and Creating, Short-Term Wins
  • Declaring Victory Too Soon
  • Not Anchoring Changes in the Corporation’s Culture

Kotter explains the eight errors in his book Leading Change [6] and in an article in the Havard Business Review Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail [7]. The consequences of the errors are also explained, including the fact that new strategies are not properly implemented.

The tool ‘Restiance to Change Mapping’ can be useful to avoid error number five Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision . Implementing a change often requires a great number of people to change their behavior to some degree. If they experience obstacles in relation to the new vision after the change, it can hinder them from changing to the new desired behaviour[6]. Sometimes these obstacles exist only in their own perception of reality. To identify them, 'Resistance to change mapping' can be a helpful tool.

Change management in projects

There are several characteristics of project work according to PRINCE2, including change. Since projects are how a change is introduced [2], change management becomes an essential part of project management. The standard states that the key aspect of change models is to gain support from those who are required to change their ways of working [2]. As stated in the standard:

“Change is as much about managing people’s expectations and perceptions as managing facts.” [8]

To gain the support from those affected by the change the five bullet points in figure 1 should be taken into consideration. The Resistance to Change Mapping tool is especially useful for understanding the resilience of those who will be impacted by the change, making it clear to change managers which initiatives they need to implement or communicate more clearly.

Figure 1: Change Model from PRINCE2[2]

The PMI Standard for project management also addresses how every project contains an aspect of change in systems, behaviors, activities, or cultures [3]. The standard introduces five different change models, and all of them describe that resistance to change is almost inevitable, and thus the importance of people understanding why a change is desired [3].

Resistance to change is a natural part of the change process, and different logical reasons exist as to why organisational members may not show their support from the beginning [9]. From a change management perspective, it is important to understand these behaviours and the reasons behind them and take actions to accommodate the concerns of organisational members and increase their support for the change [5].

Resistance to Change Mapping is a tool that can help identify the reasons behind resistance to change and make the cost of the change clear [1].

Resistance to Change Mapping


Resistance to Change Mapping is a tool used to allow stakeholders who have a low influence but a high interest to express their doubts and resistance to a given change, while also clarifying the costs of the change [1]. Using the tool, change managers can optimise their communication with stakeholders by gaining a better understanding of how each individual or group responds to the proposed change [10]. When changes are implemented, project managers tend to focus on the drawbacks of the current situation and the advantages of the future situation. However, employees affected by the change are often more focused on the advantages of the current situation and the drawbacks related to the change [1]. Resistance to Change Mapping is divided into the current situation and the situation after the implementation, with further categorisation into the drawbacks and advantages of each. The tool is illustrated in Figure 2. The affected stakeholders and project managers collaborate to outline their thoughts for each section, creating a shared understanding. The project managers then use the output to address the identified drawbacks related to the change and improve communication with stakeholders or implement initiatives to accommodate the drawbacks of the future situation [1].

Figure 2: Resistance to Change Mapping [1]

Additionally, the project manager should pay attention to the advantages of the current situation (column 2) and try to sustain as many of them after the project. As well as getting an understanding of the cost of the change which is equivalent to the difference between the advantages of the current situation (column 2) and the drawbacks after the project (column 3). It is important for the project manager to counterbalance the price with the advantages after the project (column 4) to get an understanding of the attractiveness of the change [10].

It is vital that the employees who have expressed their doubts and concerns experience that they are being listened to and that the project managers are being sincere about their feedback. Thus, the project manager needs to initiate new initiatives based on feedback as much as possible.


It is important to involve the right people when using the tool, as the output is only as good as the team that performs the assessment. If project managers do not have a good understanding of the stakeholders involved, conducting a stakeholder analysis would be beneficial (Different tools for stakeholder assessments can be found in the Concept Box). The tool should be utilised early in the project and revised continuously, as it only provides a snapshot of the stakeholders' opinions about the change[10].

Once the team has been identified, they should physically meet with the project manager to conduct the tool. At the beginning of the workshop, the project manager shares the intention of the meeting and the purpose of Resistance to Change Mapping. The framework of the tool should either be printed in a large scale or drawn on a whiteboard to make the expectations of the participants and the tool clear. Each member of the workshop writes their thoughts, concerns, doubts, excitements, and other relevant points on post-it notes for a set period of time, and then each individual presents a post-it note one at a time, explaining their thoughts behind it and placing it in the framework.

Before and during the meeting where the tool is being conducted, it is essential to create an open environment where all kinds of feedback are welcome. The project managers should listen without defending their project or neglecting the concerns expressed by the stakeholders [1].

To increase the candor and quality of meetings, the project manager can adopt different behaviours and actions, such as asking for permission upfront in meetings to lead effectively and telling the team what they have permission to do, even though it might seem redundant [11].

It is also important that the team feels safe in order to express exactly what they are thinking. The project manager could ask team members to pay attention to the person talking, take their time to complete their thoughts, ask follow-up questions, and other statements or questions that could increase psychological safety [11].

Example: VR in training scenarios

Imagine that a group of managers within an organisation with production has identified the need to change their current process of training new employees. The organisation has experienced an increase in the market demand which has caused them to change their production from only running during the day to running 24/7. Due to this change the managers have been compelled to acquire a substantial number of new employments. Thus, experienced employees often end up spending all their time training new employees, and it is difficult to get the schedules to work out.

A manager suggested VR to be implemented as a training tool, which was then decided to pursue by top management. The project manager on the case was going to utilise the Resistance to Change Mapping to minimise resistance to the new initiative and increase the likelihood of its success. Thus, the project manager identified the current process, and devised a stakeholder analysis to make sure the right employees were going to be included. The project manager formulated a clear vision, and called a workshop with the relevant stakeholders including those who would be affected by the change.

At the workshop, the project manager started by creating a safe environment to make the employees feel safe to speak bluntly and without reservation to create an open and honest dialogue. The project manager then explained the purpose of the workshop, the Resistance to Change Mapping, and the vision of the change to the participants. Thereafter, everyone wrote drawbacks and advantages related to the situation today, and after the change would be implemented. Each person took turn presenting a thought or concern on the basis of which dialogue occurred. The results of using the tool can be seen in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Resistance to Change Mapping Example: VR in training scenarios

Based on the findings the project manager was able to commence new initiatives that could remedy some of the drawbacks to avoid them from happening. An example could be to include time to train employees on the use of VR in the planning of the implementation or hire a VR expert who would be accessible for guidance and help whenever needed. Some of the doubts and uncertainties of stakeholders could be eliminated by improving the communication strategy. Including the fear of employees getting easily replaced by anyone by stating the level of detail in the training guides and highlighting that their knowledge is still indispensable.

After a certain amount of time the project manager is to call for a new workshop to utilise the tool again in order to see if the changes have had the desired outcome. Additionally, to see if new doubts and uncertainties has arisen. Participants should include the same stakeholders as the previous ones, possibly more if additional stakeholders have been identified.


In the following section limitations of Resistance to Change Mapping is presented.

  • It only provides a snapshot of the involved stakeholders thoughts related to the change; thus, it needs to be conducted several times throughout the project period. It can be time consuming, but it can lead to optimisation of the overall time of the implementation.
  • The output is only as good as the team that uses it. If stakeholders with low influence but whose tasks are being affected by the change do not become involved and thus become resistant to the unknown, the change is less likely to succeed [1]. The team can be revised throughout the project period as the utilisation of the tool is being reiterated.
  • The tool does not provide specific actions for project managers to implement or provide a communication strategy. It only helps to gain a better understanding of the unspoken uncertainties and misgivings the stakeholders might have. Thus, it is up to the project manager to translate the findings into specific initiatives.
  • Since the name of the tool is Resistance to Change Mapping, it is imposed from the beginning that the affected employees are going to have a negative attitude towards the change. Theory suggests that it is almost inevitable to implement a change without experiencing some resistance [1] but when conducting the tool with the employees, it might foster an unfavourable atmosphere.


When changes are implemented in organisations, it is almost inevitable that employees will experience resistance from the change. However, it is possible for project managers to reduce resistance by introducing different initiatives. The Resistance to Change Mapping is useful for project managers to gain an understanding of stakeholders' doubts and uncertainties related to change. To obtain the full potential, it is essential that the project manager creates a safe and open environment when using the tool with the identified stakeholders. It is likewise vital that the project manager takes the feedback to heart and makes corresponding initiatives to avoid potential drawbacks of the situation after the project or makes changes in the communication strategy. Resistance to Change Mapping can help to reduce the resistance to change and increase the likelihood of a successful implementation.

Annotated bibliography

Olsson, J.R., Ahrengot, N. and Attrup, M.L. (2018) Power I Projekter og Portfølje. Viborg: Djøf Forlag

This book provides a comprehensive overview of power dynamics in project and portfolio management. The authors present a theoretical framework for understanding power, its sources, and its effects on project outcomes. They also provide practical guidance on how to manage power in different project contexts, such as change and communication.

Kotter, J. P. (1999) I spidsen for forandringer (Leading Change). Translated by Hanson, T. København K: Peter Asschenfeldts nye Forlag a/s

In this book, Kotter presents his findings based on 25 years of experience and knowledge gained from lots of organisations and companies. Eight common errors as to why changes in organisations fail are presented as well as an eight-step process for leading successful organisational change initiatives.

Axtell, P. (2019) Make your meetings a safe space for honest conversation, Harvard Business Review

This article provides valuable insights and practical advice for leaders who want to improve the quality of communication and decision-making in their teams. Having a focus on how to give permission and creating safety.


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  8. " Chapter 21 – Considerations for organisational adoption. Axelos 2017, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition, The Stationery Office Ltd, London. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [3 May 2023]."
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