Make change happen – How to deal with resistance


The 3rd European Change Forum dealt with the question of how to respond adequately to resistance experienced in change processes. Thanks to the proficient speakers and international experts, many different aspects of this topic were discussed.

Dr. Georg Kraus, Dr. Kraus & Partner, CEO

The image of Change Management Boards and their decisions – A tremendous impact on change success. Based on her survey of 650 middle managers and a vast analysis of press articles, Carolina Serrano-Archimi claimed: ‘There is a tendency to discredit the ones in charge, especially in times of change.’ Furthermore, she illustrated that the image of a management board is interlinked with trust and the behaviour of employees and how these contribute to success or failure of change processes.

Axel Baisch, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Chancellor

The impact of change on middle management - Are they the tipping point? Monika Eifert-Wirth assumed that the key factors for the failure of change processes were mainly hidden on the mid-management level. The managers in these positions are pressured from above and below. While struggling with their leadership role ‘between the fronts’, they become an unintentional barrier. What needs to be done to enable mid-level leaders to manage change?

From left to right: Monika Eifert-Wirth, Axel Baisch, Pr. Carolina Serrano-Archimi, Dr. Georg Kraus

Change Intelligence – Move forward or Resist? ‘The terrorist is part of our team! I have to understand him! And he has to understand that I understand him.’ Opening with these provocative words, borrowed from a police force specialised in de-escalation, Dr Georg Kraus explained how to communicate and succeed when facing people that are reluctant to change.

Pr. Carolina Serrano-Archimi, IAE Aix, MBA Director

How to reinvent traditional organizations in education – a case study of the Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL). Since 2011, to remain competitive, HHL has made fundamental changes. Axel Baisch was very involved in this change process and he shared his practical experiences. He explained the difficulties and successes in a rather traditional and conservative environment, in an simple and authentic manner.

Monika Eifert-Wirth, Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Head Learning & Organizational Development

The mission of the annual European Change Forum is to provide an active and international platform for knowledge sharing and networking between managers, politicians and researchers on changing management themes. See you next year!

If you want to get more detailed information on one of the topics named above, please check out the info boxes below on Speakers & Workshops, Downloads and Videos. If you want to get in touch, please send an email to


Change intelligence – Move forward or resist?Dr. Georg Kraus

Dr. Georg Kraus
Dr. Kraus & Partner, CEO

Let’s talk about the resistance phenomenon during change processes!

How do we make change come alive and create communication for those who are intelligent enough to identify immediately that the upcoming change might have a negative impact on them? 
How to handle those people who have not just the feeling of losing their comfort zone but even more, have reasonable doubts about the benefits for them personally? It is not enough to tell them everything is going to be just fine! They just won’t believe it. And they are right! 
Nevertheless resistance needs to be expected in a change, but how do we respond to the ability of systems to bounce back to zero after new impulses?

Society and corporate governance need those people who resist new ideas otherwise every bad idea would win just as quickly as good ones. We need intelligent resistance in order to prevent fooleries.
But how do we distinguish between people with reasonable and appropriate resistance from those who are just reluctant to change anyway?

And how can we make use out of collective intelligence in order to steer the change in an intelligent way?
Having 26 years of business experience in change management, he has seen good and bad examples of dealing with constructive resistance. Georg Kraus is going to lead you through this topic in his unique practice and storytelling manner. Benefit from his fundamental expert knowledge.

The image of management boards and their decisions – A tremendous impact on change success

Pr. Carolina Serrano Archimi
IAE Aix, MBA Director

In times of changes often arises a tendency to discredit the ones in charge – or the idea of change itself. The speech will focus on the impact an image will have on trust and behaviours of people and how it contributes to success or failure of any change process.

Media tend to present corporations and their Management Boards as ruthless, instigating change only to the worse of employees. Unfortunately this image is subsequently confirmed through scandals caused by some unethical behaviour and disgraceful practice of some top managers. Most leaders are trying to do their best for the company and its employees by aligning economic needs to the requirements of the social community. Nevertheless the mud of that ruthless minority leaves its mark also on those with best intentions.

Anybody driving a process of change needs to be aware of the subconscious field of imminent prejudice he or she is inevitably stepping into. It is not a blank page. Most people have already stamped the small print on it. So what does it need to get through this filter of fixed expectations and projections?

Carolina Serrano Archimi is going to share best and worse practices with you, providing you in her sparkling and practise focused way with clear impulses how to create a clean and encouraging image right from the beginning of the change process.

The impact of change on middle management – Are they the tipping point?

Monika Eifert-Wirth, Dipl. Psychology, MBA
Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Head Learning & Organizational Development

In many organizations change has become the “new normal”. The amount of significant changes has grown tremendously over the past decade and in the meantime Change Management graduates to the boardroom.
It seems that change is relatively easily designed and planned by the top management with little changes for their day-to-day lives. The real impact on day-to-day activities - based on different technology, different processes, team structure or even in the organizational culture – is on the mid-level management. In many change processes the new way of working and the new processes or ideas trickle away after the mid management level.
With their sandwich position they get the pressure from top and down and have to deal with multiple changes which are sometimes not conformable so that they are scared to lose credibility. In order to enable them to proceed and implement the changes into the organisation the change process/architecture needs to involve the whole leadership span in an appropriate way to ensure that all of them are committed to drive the change.
From this perspective, the mid-level management seems to be the tipping point to ensure changes are managed sustainable. Although they are affected so much, they are mostly not involved to build the change strategy process at an early stage.

What has to be done to engage and enable them to proceed the changes? How do we need to design a change and build competencies in order to shift this “barrier” into a supporting function?

Monika Eifert is going to reflect these issues with you in an interactive workshop and is going to share her best practice of different ways of changes in her 16-years’ experience. She supported and experienced the approach of a top down and a participating way of cultural change in various international organizations form a global and a local level and will discuss
and work on failure and success factors in her very practical and stirring manner.

„When an owner goes through a change“

Stephan Wabnegger
CREE GmbH by Rhomberg AG, Managing Director

Stephan Wabnegger has a background in working for owners of midsized engineering companies in an international environment. Being a dedicated sales person, Stephan Wabnegger is typically asked to increase an organization’s turnover, make use of his network, improve processes and products. Whilst this is ostensibly the task, the real work lies hidden behind a curtain of rules and silent agreements. To overcome this the leading figure, the owner, has to be convinced to lead the change – by changing his approach.

In our culture it is a common phenomenon that a boss is expected to be some kind of hero and the entrepreneur who is consistently following new and innovative paths. It is still seen as a sign of weakness to admit failures. Therefore it is not easy to listen to people who are criticizing - and even more to reflect one’s own opinion and challenge one’s own decision.

It needs courage to show constructive resistance and give feedback to the owner. Who likes to tell his boss that he is about to make a mistake or to get carried away? Employees may feel alone with their opinions and question themselves but would not dare to question their boss.

In his speech Stephan Wabnegger will share his experience with owner lead organizations and will demonstrate how important it is to create an open feedback culture on both sides.

How to reinvent traditional organizations in education – a case study of the reinvention and repositioning of the HHL - Leipzig Graduate School of Management

Axel Baisch, Dr. iur., MBA
HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Chancellor

Axel Baisch is chancellor of HHL – Leipzig Graduate School of Management, the most traditional graduate business school in Germany. In his speech he will describe the successful process of the reinvention of this Leipzig business school.

HHL, unlike most business schools, belongs to the category university (versus a university of applied sciences). Universities need to dedicate more of their time and capacity to research, which is a big cost factor not generating any immediate revenue. Universities are therefore much more expensive than universities of applied sciences and it is much more difficult to reach a break-even. Revenue is mostly generated from sponsoring for the chairs and chair holders as well as by tuition fees; hence, HHL competes for graduate students on the international market.

In order to remain competitive, HHL developed in 2011 the future-concept “innovate 125”. The idea is to reinvent and reposition the organization within four to five years in order to achieve a significant rise and turnaround in:

  • growth of faculty and students
  • the quality of research and teaching,
  • internationality,
  • profile of the school
  • management and administrative processes and
  • funding and financing.

To achieve the change agenda a clear change story, early communication and targeted employee engagement were key. The message delivered the answer to “why change?” and described the change program.

Axel Baisch has been highly involved in the organizational change of HHL. Thus, the delivery of his message is very authentic. He delivers the case in an enthusiastic, stirring fashion. Get inspired by this success story!