Change and the reaction to it

There is an old saying that the only thing that is constant is change. There is certainly some truth to this, because in fact everything is somehow constantly in the process of changing. This also applies to the professional world and especially to project management. Perhaps you are currently entrusted with a project that is intended to bring about change in a company. Maybe you even have a project specifically in the area of change management. Or your project will involve improving and optimizing processes, which in turn will involve change. Now, of course, you know that with any kind of change or transformation, there are always people who are against it, who can't handle change, or who simply reject new things, simply because they are different from what they are used to. How to recognize these behavioral patterns and these reactions to change, and above all how to deal with them, is the subject of an article by Dr. Georg Kraus, which we summarize for you below.
A young woman holds a paint roller in her hand, behind her you can see a half-painted wall.

Enthusiasm and blockades

One aspect that is important when it comes to change is the personal attitude of those affected by it. Some see great opportunities for their company or department. Others, however, have reservations or even downright fears. Will I end up losing my job if this project is successful? Will I still be able to do my job as usual or will my skills no longer be sufficient? Will I be able to cope with the new structures and tasks? Project managers and especially change managers have to take these concerns very seriously. Many aspects play a role here. As a rule, employees who are convinced of their market value and see themselves as valuable employees both internally and externally are more likely to enter the change process calmly. Employees, on the other hand, who believe that they have found a very special niche position in a company that they could not occupy elsewhere, will react nervously and anxiously to the impending change. Such an employee will adopt a kind of defensive posture to defend their current position by any means necessary. So, as the person responsible for any kind of change, you will experience both enthusiastic reactions and blocking attitudes.

The dwarfs and the cheese

Dr. Georg Kraus mentions the so-called mice strategy in his article. This term comes from a book entitled "The Mouse Strategy for Managers - Facing Change Successfully".  The non-fiction book was written by S. Johnson and deals with various strategies for dealing with change in a professional environment. In The Mouse Strategy, two dwarves are the protagonists. They live in a maze and go out every day in search of their ration of cheese, which they need to survive. One day they find a huge supply of cheese and then settle down in that exact spot in the maze. They eat from the cheese every day without having to go in search and get used to the cozy and comfortable life. Soon, the ubiquitous and ever-present cheese seems natural to them. They have become accustomed to the new situation. Unfortunately, it comes as it must and at some point the cheese does run out. The two dwarves are astonished and shocked, having become so accustomed to the comfort and the cheese. For a while they are depressed, shocked and sink into self-pity. They try to ignore reality, and when they go to bed, they imagine that magically the cheese supply will be replenished the next day after all. Eventually, however, they face up to the situation and, before they finally starve to death, they go in search of cheese again as before. To their great good fortune, they soon find an even larger supply of cheese than the one they had just used up.

Not only cheese

Of course, the book of the mouse strategy is not only about cheese. There are also numerous guiding principles and lessons in it. S. Johnson basically describes the human psyche and typical human reactions to change. First of all, everyone who has cheese is happy. Those who have some want to keep it. Those who don't have any are looking for it. But we also learn that someone who leaves the old cheese behind can find new cheese all the more quickly. Those who set out to find new cheese will succeed, because those who set out to find it have a much better chance of finding new better cheese than someone who stagnates. Therefore, everyone is advised to imagine the new cheese in the most colorful colors and imagine it. The search for the new cheese can also be an experience and a profitable process.


In our lives, we will always and repeatedly encounter changes. Without change we are condemned to stagnation and especially at the professional level stagnation means the end and failure. Sooner or later. Managers and leaders need to understand that change is inevitable and address this issue. Accept the challenge and try to guide your employees so that they don't spend too long mourning the old cheese that is running out, but instead willingly and enthusiastically go in search of new and promising cheese. Make them aware of the benefits the new cheese can bring and how tempting it is. This is your challenge. An important trick here is: never let the existing supply of cheese seem so large that employees will want to rest on it for too long. Always let it be known that the current cheese supply will run out in the foreseeable future. And whet the appetite for the new cheese and the search for it!
Author: IAPM internal 

Key words: Project management, Change management, Tips

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.