Managing resistance to change

Posted: 22 May 2018

Managing Resistance to Change

 

In this blog post, I would like to underline how to go about managing resistance to change. As a trainer and therefore, the person on the ground during a change initiative, I am usually a prime target for directing resistance. Having experienced this in the past, I aim to highlight the methods and approaches Netpremacy use when dealing with resistance in a project.

It is important to have a plan of action for managing resistance. This will help to mitigate the impact of resistance on a business change and ensure a smooth transition between the old and new processes. Resistance is a natural human reaction that stems from the fear of moving into an unknown future state. It is, therefore, the role of a change manager to identify and address resistance, as well as get the right people involved in managing this on a personal and individual level. Poor change management can directly influence resistance, so in order to avoid these change management activities need to be at the heart of a project.

 

Resistance management and change management come hand-in-hand

Proactive change management is key to dealing with resistance. Training and communications activities are essential for many reasons:

To communicate the need for change, the effect it may have on people and the benefits it will bring in the future.

To expect certain obstacles and tackle them head-on in advance of the switch (for example, by creating MythBusters, FAQ’s, custom use cases, and many more).

To ensure people have all the knowledge they need to feel comfortable and confident with the new way of working.

Motivating and engaging employees through visible executive sponsorship and general support from management serves to create a burning platform and encourage positive emotion towards the change (see blog post on the importance of executive sponsorship). This can then be captured and leveraged to further spread the excitement and purpose.

Another aspect of change management is to expect resistance and empathise with the difficulty to adapt to new ways of working. There will always be a strong tendency to revert back to old ways, especially with deadlines and time constraints. It is normal for people to “quickly do something the old way” because it’s easier and they don’t have to think about it. Making yourself do something alien or unnatural and sticking to it is very hard so it is up to the change manager to facilitate the new processes and communicate the short and long-term advantages.

 

Addressing resistance

There are 3 steps to formally addressing resistance:

1. Identifying the resistors

2. Give them a part to play

3. Understand why they resist

The types of resistors that you frequently encounter are people who either have a strict routine for certain processes, are the ones who put the old processes in place, or already have heavy workloads and anticipate even more work as a result of the change. For example, in a typical G Suite deployment, those who are usually resistant to the transition are typically heavy spreadsheet users such as the finance department and PA’s because they have a unique way of working (with mail and calendar delegation).

Initial communications, such as a scoping survey that gauges how people currently work and what attitudes they have towards the project, are normally the first means of targeting resistance. In the first instance, you should pick out the people who are in favour of the change as these will help to spread excitement and positive energy around the organisation. Then, identify those who raise concerns about the change and get them involved in the project. Doing this will make them feel more in-control of the change and therefore, it will seem less scary because they are driving it. Taking this proactive (rather than reactive) approach to resistance management will help to reduce risks to the project rollout.

There is also a trend in the root causes of resistance that should be taken into consideration when understanding certain user groups objections.

Firstly, a common reason for resistance would be the lack of awareness. This is where clear and concise communications are vital to ensure complete transparency of why the change is happening, how it will be rolled out and when each stage is going to take place (see blog post on impactful communications).

Secondly, people are often afraid of the effects to their current and future job role. Employees sometimes feel that they may become less efficient at their work after the change, leading to the fear of job loss. Effective and engaging training gives these people the knowledge and ability to continue with daily operations, and floor walking allows trainers to provide one-on-one support to those still struggling (see blog post on effective and engaging training).

Lastly, another reason for resistance could be bad experiences in the past. As mentioned above, implementing change into an organisation requires visible support and commitment from managers. Without this, there are no apparent advocates of the change and so no-one pushing the project on the inside.

Assign resistance managers

Getting the right people involved from the start to combat resistance will facilitate the change management process. These people will be well respected to help push positivity and influence innovation.

Senior leaders are in the perfect position to enforce the need for change. If they devote time to the project to demonstrate their commitment, employees will value their input and opinion.

Middle managers represent leadership within the organisation already and are the closest figures of authority to employees. Being openly supportive and advocating for the change will motivate employees to follow suit.

Appointing these resistance manager roles can not only reduce negativity towards the project but also minimise ongoing resistance once the project has come to an end.

In summary

Having a plan for managing resistance is an important aspect of the change management process. From the early stages of a project, there are many factors to consider for managing resistant user groups in a proactive manner.

First of all, standard change management activities should be as strong as ever, especially if there are already high signs of resistance.

Then, an understanding of who is resisting and why is required to address resistance upfront by making them a part of the change.

Lastly, resistance managers from inside the organisation drive the positive need for change during the project and the increasing desire for innovation in the future.

Click here, for more information on how Netpremacy can help with change management for your business.

fraja change and training coordinator at Netpremacy

 

Fraja Hodges

Training and Change Coordinator

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