The Day I Resisted Change

You may have heard this story before. It was TWENTY years ago, and my startup was acquired by a company run by serial entrepreneurs who bought, grew and sold companies.

I worked as a developer, musician (making ringtones for cell phones), graphic designer (making images for cell phones), project manager, client manager for Much Music, and many other brands. If you’ve ever worked for an early-stage startup, you’ll understand that your email signature file changes depending on who you’re emailing.

As we grew, my focus shifted to all the things involved with running an online store, more or less.

Eventually, the organization decided we needed a separate QA team to test images and ringtones. Remember, this was 2001…it wasn’t uncommon to have to create an 8,000 byte image, not an 8K image for some phones. So basically, we had to create 30+ versions of images and ringtones depending on the capabilities of each phone. Simulators didn’t exist, so we had a table full of whatever phones we could find, with SIM cards to test ‘as good as we could.’

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We had our content creation process down to a science with a bunch of scripts to verify file formats, size limits etc., but there were always cases when some content didn’t render correctly. The cost of testing every combination on every phone was astronomical and, in my view, a waste of time. Of course, back then, you had to explain to brand managers that putting SQUARE images on a phone with a 238×52 screen wouldn’t look nice, but it never stopped them from yelling at us:


Anyway, I should probably get to the point.

I resisted this change. Hard.

I was pissed when the new QA department was created without my consultation:

  • I didn’t have a say
  • They were in our US office, not our office
  • They reported to a different stack of hierarchy
  • We weren’t allowed to talk to the testers
  • We had to speak through their manager
  • They wanted to test EVERY. SINGLE. Piece of content before it went to production. I’m talking 1000’s of images and ringtones every week. 

Do the math: 50+ phones, 1000+ pieces of content, eight national carriers, and approximately 5 minutes to test one image or ringtone.

Despite my attempts to explain this to the QA manager, he was adamant that his marching orders were to test all pieces of content before they were launched into production.

Long story short, we did the best we could. I controlled production, so I’d release stuff without passing it through the ‘official QA team‘ if a client had promotions running around their mobile content. Eventually, the QA manager realized how unbelievably insane it was to test every piece of content before releasing it, once he started doing it.

We came to a compromise eventually. They’d only test new phones or new formats and “certify” our creation process. Then they’d spot check packages, but it wasn’t even close to what their original intent was. And that was good enough. Like I fricken said in the first place.

The moral of the story is, always listen to me.

That was a joke.

I think as change agents, we often forget what it’s like to have change inflicted on us.

I did resist this change, and I could have managed my reaction much, much better. If I was the organizational change person who was assigned to this change, here are six ideas that could have helped.

Empathy: Do we understand who’s impacted and how? When we see people reacting negatively, do we seek to understand and get curious, not furious?

Pace of Change: Do we push change when people aren’t ready? Why is this change important? Why now? 

Stress: What other stress exists in the organization? What else is competing for the time this change needs?

Sensemaking: Do we focus on using conversations to understand the response versus communicating at people more effectively?

Readiness: What do we do if people aren’t ready? Can we stop the change? Delay it? What’s the consequence?

Emotions: Do we understand the emotional reaction we’re seeing? Sometimes it’s positive, other times it’s negative, and just about everything in between. The emotional response to change is essential data.

A tale of Two Perspectives

We asked people on Linked In: When you see resistance, how do you handle it?


Now we’re asking: When you’ve had change inflicted on you, what would have helped you the most?

A Shift in Thinking

The key point about shifting your thinking from overcoming resistance to change to understanding the response to change is the decision point about the change.

Resistance, they say, is natural, and to be expected, which is correct, but if we use these six ideas and co-create, there is no resistance, there is only a response to an idea that is input into what the change should be and how it should happen.


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