How to Solve Resistance to Change in High-Growth Environments

How to Solve Resistance to Change in High-Growth Environments

by | Customer Success, Knowledge Management, People & Processes

Managing planned change is hard enough. Managing unplanned change can wreak havoc on the most prepared leaders.

Resistance to change in high-growth environments can be particularly dangerous, where emergency situations demand fast action and quick adaptation.

This resistance often leads to delays or even failure to implement the necessary changes.

Creating a common language for the new process is important to counteract resistance to change. This can help the team learn and adopt the change more quickly, minimizing confusion and resistance.

So, how can you understand and address this resistance to successfully lead through change?

In today’s blog, we’ll explore why people resist change, how to solve it, and an example from the Customer Success Manager of a high-growth team. 

Resistance to change

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed”

From Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline

People simply do not like being changed. This can be because they feel threatened in their role, comfort zone, or sense of control. It can also be because what they were doing before the change genuinely worked well, and they do not want to slow their progress.

For unplanned changes, resistance to change becomes 10x more difficult. Without giving people time to learn and adopt the change while feeling surprised by an emergency response, they naturally – and often, rightfully – want to slow the process down while they adjust. 

But this resistance to change in a high-growth environment can be dangerous. It can be fatal in emergency situations like your key customer losing essential functionality. 

To counteract resistance to change: share the new process in a common language. 

Share the new process in a common language

The single most frustrating aspect of an unplanned change is the chaos. Because this is natural for urgent situations, you must work smarter and faster than usual.

  • Start by documenting the process in a repeatable format. This creates a common language for your team to begin re-learning from.
  • Establish a clear path from the “before” process to the “current” process. Use simple visuals where possible to eliminate the chance of confusion in text.
  • Where possible, note why certain steps have changed and what impacts those changes create for downstream processes.

But most importantly: Avoid perfection. The change needed to happen yesterday so your main job is to make it start happening right now. 

Change in Action: Creating a common language for a new customer support process

Customer Success, Customer Service, and Customer Enablement are about ensuring your team and customers “get it”. But your customers are used to a very specific process and are not experts in your company. And your Customer Success team has hundreds, maybe thousands, of repetitions, following the old process. 

That was the situation with Sam, the Customer Success Manager for a 2-person team supporting 100 employees and hundreds of customers on their eCommerce marketplace. 

Sam found out Thursday at 5 pm that a serious data security breach was possible with their current customer portal. A patch was published even before Sam knew about the situation. 

Customers might only use their product a few times a year. This made them unfamiliar with the typical process and heavily dependent on the support documentation. Meanwhile, his small team needed to retrain themselves, the Product team, and the Sales team as quickly as possible. Every lost transaction could cost $5,000 or more. 

Sam was a detail-oriented leader. His training webinars were immaculately designed and recorded video sessions that took users through every step of the process. It would take him at least a week to rebuild the content how he wanted to. 

But Sam had a deadline: retrain his internal team by 10 am on Friday. 

Sam had 2 business hours after he learned about the emergency to make the change happen.

World-class organizations know that the line between good and great is narrow. At that moment, Sam also knew that greatness wasn’t defined by publishing the perfect new training but by getting the job done.

Sam did what he wanted to do least: He built a quick 10-step training document with a 5-minute video to help explain. Since Sam had to share 5 changes in the process, he combined each change into a “before” step and an “after” step.

He published the update in 30 minutes. By 6 pm, his internal team had a working minimum viable product that could start the change process. Some of his team checked it out minutes later, while others found it in their direct messages at 8 am the next morning.

The fire was temporarily suppressed, Sam had bought time to make his work even better. That’s what managing unplanned change is all about – getting started.


Managing unplanned change can be daunting, especially when resistance to change is involved. 

However, it is essential to understand that resistance to change in high-growth environments is inevitable, and how leaders respond to it makes all the difference.

By creating a common language and providing clear documentation of the new process, leaders can help their teams adapt to changes quickly and effectively. While pursuing perfection may seem tempting, focusing on getting the job done in emergencies is important.

By following these best practices for managing unplanned change, leaders can turn every surprise into a proactive resource for their team’s future success.


Get our free white paper for Sam’s full story, including best practices and bonus templates to help your team manage change and re-education.

The Only Constant is Process Change: Managing Team Re-Education in High-Growth Environments

We built Extelli to help you unstick growth by making it easy to document, share, and update knowledge. Leaders like Sam use Extelli to share their latest process updates in minutes, not hours, and solve adoption in hours, not weeks.

Start your free 14-day Extelli trial today and manage the challenges created by unplanned changes easily by turning them into proactive resources.