You are likely familiar with situations in which everything seems to be flowing well, only for everything to come to a sudden stop.

Example 1: you and some other people sit together, have a great conversation until a certain person joins you. Suddenly the mood changes, natural laughter turns into forced smiles. No one seems to be able to break up the blockade.
Example 2: you can almost entirely predict how this meeting is going to go. Every time a certain topic is addressed, two extreme opinions clash. Two powerful people fight about who’s right and – even more to the point – who’s the number one. Reasonable developments are blocked relentlessly.
Example 3: a management meeting is going well, new ideas are born and then, you want to define who will assume which tasks. Suddenly, an awkward silence falls over the meeting. In the end, you exchange arguments for why who should do what. Finally a range of false agreements are made. For example, Ralph Smith is assuming a task despite everyone knowing that nothing will actually happen. A classic blockade for change is to pretend that something will happen.

As a change manager, try to step into the shoes of a chiropractor or osteopath. Try to eradicate blockades before tackling a problem with too much energy. This requires you to recognize the most important blockades – every organization has some. Sometimes, you will need to employ a firm grip, sometimes, a smile will suffice, but you will always need bravery and the spirit to intervene.


  1. Address ‘hot’ topics instead of – as usual – ignoring them. Humor can help.
  2. There is an easy method to address taboos. Everyone writes the taboo topics that work like blockades but that have not yet been addressed on a card. The moderator copies them all to make sure they can’t be traced to the respective author. After that the cards are being passed around and read by everyone. No one is allowed to comment on them in this stage. The instruction not to talk about them paradoxically motivates the participants to deal with those taboos.
  3. In case the situation is extremely difficult and completely entangled: use alternative methods such as a company theater or an organizational constellation.