Successful change leaders tend to be self-starters and like to feel empowered to get things accomplished. Many times, we project these characteristics onto our constituents. In one technology change project, I conducted a meeting to announce how much control over the new system the users would enjoy since the system was predominantly user-defined. I then gave the marching orders to go out and define the system. Although I thought I was doing the right thing, it was obvious that nothing was being done. The lesson learned — freedom is a scary thing to many people.
Upon further exploration we found the users general consensus was that the ability to define the system implied responsibility. They no longer had anyone to blame! Obviously this concept generated huge resistance. And since this was not the easiest obstacle for the users to admit, the resistance was the worst kind — silent. Just as the East Germans and Russians experienced problems with new-found freedom, our constituents may feel the same way. Anticipate these reactions and create a communication and education program to address these natural feelings.