Key or crowbar?

There are nine layers of resistance to change and they are built up in a very specific order. This serves as a natural lock that safeguards the stability of our lives. The Nine Moments of Agreement is the key to unlock this powerful mechanism.

Of course, if you have enough authority you can always use force … it’s the equivalent of opening a lock with a crowbar. It works. But the results are not pretty.

Wasted frustration

Not too long ago I was trying to convince one of my clients that we should introduce the basic TOC measurements of Throughput, Investment and Operating Expense into the business. I was pointing out all the benefits of using these measurements. He would counter-argue about the complexities of their current accounting system, the culture change needed for this to work, the complexities of interpreting inter-company charges, exchange rate fluctuations etc. I would come up with even more reasons why I thought we needed to introduce these measures.

At some point – exasperated – he said, “STOP! I know all the benefits and I know that we need this. But I am not convinced that we are able to do this!”

The moment he said that, I realized that I had failed to apply the principles of the Nine Moments of Agreement in my preparation – as well as in my presentation, and in our discussion. If I had applied it, I would have saved both of us an hour of a very frustrating conversation.

Our natural stability protector

The Nine Moments of Agreement is built upon the Nine Layers of Resistance – a concept that has been adopted into the Theory of Constraints body of knowledge, and was developed drawing heavily on various sources of organisational and behavioural psychology.

Whenever you are trying to convince someone to do something, start doing something new, stop doing something they have been doing, adopt a new system, buy something from you – or for that matter if someone is trying to do this to you, the Nine Layers of Resistance start working. It is a natural protection mechanism by which we stabilise our lives and attempt to avoid unnecessary effort and pain. Whether you are aware of them or not – these layers are at work like the immutable law of gravity. Being aware of them can help you manage them and use them to your advantage.

The source of resistance to change

When someone tries to bring some form of change into our lives, we, deliberately or sub-consciously, ask ourselves a set of nine questions. If we are not satisfied with the answer of any one of these questions, we tend to resist the change.  They are as follows, and they build up in this sequence:

  1. Is there a problem that is worth solving here, or is there an opportunity worth pursuing here?
  2. Is this a problem I should be involved in, or an opportunity I should be going after – and do I have the ability to influence this?
  3. Does the direction of the solution that is being proposed, or the direction that is proposed to exploit this opportunity, make sense to me?
  4. Do the details of the solution, or the details of the way to exploit this opportunity, make sense to me?
  5. Even if all of this makes sense thus far, do I have concerns about the ramifications of putting this in place?
  6. Do I agree with the way in which this is to be implemented?
  7. Do I agree with the details of the implementation?
  8. Even if I agree with everything up to this point, do I have concerns about the ramifications of implementing it in this way?
  9. Do I have other concerns e.g. moral, ethical or cultural objections?

Ignore the layers — Invite resistance

The problem is that because most of us, most of the time, do not think through things in this structured way, we are not very clear about where the objections are.

In the conversation with the CEO I mentioned above, he was concerned about how we were going to do this, and I was trying to convince him that we needed to do this.

Can you spot where he was on the layers of resistance, and where I was?

He was at layers 6 and 7. I was arguing on layers 3 and 4. No wonder this was a frustrating conversation for both of us!

How can we do this differently?

Three principles to move from resistance to agreement

We can do this differently by adhering to four principles:

  1. Always prepare your solution in the sequence of these layers.
  2. As you work through these layers, get clear agreement at every step – in sequence
  3. Make sure that you address the concerns at the level they are presented.

Sometimes going through this conversation can take five minutes. Sometimes it can take several weeks. The point is not how long it takes. The point is that if you skip through one of these layers and someone has an objection at that layer, you will experience resistance at that point until you address it.

If you do not have agreement on all nine layers, you don’t have agreement at all. And if you don’t have agreement, you don’t have support. Then you have resistance.

To your success


One response to “Key or crowbar?

  1. Thanks Ashton

    It makes sense and I will try to implement it. I guess that another way of putting this is to listen to the question / argument / proposal rather than preempting it with what you think it is going to be.


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