Capacent blog_Motivational change-1

We can pretty much take it as given that in an organizational change situation most people are ambivalent for a change. People have mixed feelings, indecisiveness and uncertainty about the situation, i.e. people are having simultaneous and conflicting reactions towards the coming change.


Person ambivalent for a change is simultaneously dealing with two conflicting sides:

  1. Change resistance can be defined as sustain talk, defending and expressing commitment to the status quo - one side of the ambivalence.

  2. Change talk expresses a person’s desire, ability and need for a change - the other side of the ambivalence.


Person commits to positions that she/he defends verbally

Motivational interviewing* refers to a collaborative and person-centered form of guiding to strengthen motivation for change by helping a person to resolve the ambivalence. Main point is that a person becomes more committed to positions that he or she defends verbally, i.e. a person can literally talk himself or herself into a change.

In practice, you want to facilitate increased levels of the change talk by using open questions and reflection.

On the other hand, you should acknowledge the sustain talk, never argue against it, and then redirect the emphasis again towards the change talk.

When dealing with a change in an organization,
more focus should be directed on people.

Successful change takes place in every step from a factory floor to the board of directors. We must see each person as the individual he or she is, with different capabilities and motivations to be able to coach them towards their goals.


* For more information: Jennifer Hettema, Julie Steele, and William R. Miller. Motivational Interviewing, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology (2005); and William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick. Ten Things that Motivational Interviewing Is Not, Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (2009).

Mikko Myllys is a Head of Sales and Marketing at Capacent in Finland. He has more than 15 years of experience in working capital and change management as well as management consulting in various industries.