Don’t resent change resisters; the natural reaction to change is resistance. Change is personal. Everyone has their own threshold for how much they can take on board. Uncertainty of success and fear of the unknown are substantial barriers to change – writes Scott Guthrie
The best way to deal with resistance to change is to avoid it from happening in the first place. This is not always possible, but it is usually possible to pre-empt resistance. To identify its likely source(s) and to mitigate it should resistance occur.
All change initiatives have three states which, in turn, answer three questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How are we going to get there? Before we can effectively ascertain whether or not an intended future state (the ‘where do we want to be’ question) is realistic we need to examine the current state – the ‘where are we today?’ bit. To do this we need to draw a picture of the organisation and ‘look under the bonnet’ of the intended change.
The organisation may think it’s ready to change. It may be willing. But is it able?
Questions to consider: How big is the intended change? How many employees will be affected? From how many departments? Which departments? What type of change is it – structural, technical, cultural? Will there be redundancies? How about job creation?
The organisation may think it’s ready to change. It may be willing. But is it able? When scanning the company some characteristics to look for include: How many other change initiatives is the organisation currently running? Is the organisation up-to-its-eyes in change already? Is it suffering change-fatigue? How big are these change initiatives? Is there any residual scarring from previous change programmes that didn’t go to plan? On the other hand are there ‘good vibrations’ from past change projects?
You should also think about which one of Four Fs middle managers tend to emulate? Is leadership centralised, vertically or dispersed and horizontal? Effective executive sponsorship is important to successful change implementation. A vertical hierarchy makes for a simplified sponsorship model.
Has a compelling business imperative for the change been identified and articulated? If the villagers don’t perceive any threat from the local dragon, they’re unlikely to change their behaviours to fend it off.
Resistance is the expected not the exception. Anticipate resistance to change. You won’t be able to remove resistance. But you should be able to minimise the impact it has on employees and the business.
Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. Read my full bio here.