Lean is in its purest sense a change management initiative, for it involves changing from a current state to a better state. Just as all change attracts resistance, Lean improvements also attract resistance to change, which may manifest as employees ignoring new processes, disagreeing with the benefits, making stringent criticisms, and more. Success depends on how effectively the leadership rises to the occasion and manages resistance to change.
Managing resistance to change is challenging and it’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. Expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. It’s far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in initiating major company changes is to expect that everyone’s reaction will be even remotely like yours.
You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change. You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.
Keep your employees informed. Communicate as much as you know about what is happening as a result of the change. One of the major reasons people resist change is fear of the unknown. If you communicate with employees and keep them informed, you put this fear to rest.
Answer the "What's in it for Me?" question. Generally people will accept change when they see a personal benefit. Employees who are involved in determining the benefits of change are less likely to resist it. Assist employees in identifying what the change will do for them.
Give employees some control over change. As employees begin to focus on the benefits of the desired change, provide them with the opportunity to control the steps to the change. Empower employees to become part of the change. There are several reasons people resist change, one of which is fear. Many people play "Gee, what if" scenarios over and over when a new idea is proposed. When you begin to implement your plan of action, it's essential that you invite those around you to identify how the change will influence them, benefit them, and improve their present situations.
Regardless of the catalyst for the change, it will be your employees who determine whether it successfully achieves its desired outcome. Organizations don’t change – People do – or they don’t.