Monday, September 17, 2018

Change Management: Advice on Managing Resistance to Change


ASQ's Influential Voices were asked in the recent roundtable topic about change management, specifically:

It’s often said that people don’t resist “change” so much as they resist “being changed.” So, the job of change management is clear: In a nutshell, you must explain why the affected people should want to change, and thereby cultivate readiness instead of resistance.


What are some recommended strategies or tactics to help achieve successful change management?


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.

You'll want to consider these seven aspects of leading change if you want success:

Careful Planning
Careful planning saves time and money. Chances for success improve with a well-prepared disclosure and good communication; with careful weighing of potential resistance and its consequences; with a detailed timetable for execution.

Motivation
Employee resistance is often self-defense, and fear of losing security, power, or status. To offset such fears discuss potential new career paths, the necessity and advantages of different positions, the reason for the change; and show appreciation for loyalty. Some employee lack self-confidence and consider and change a threat. Teaching, training, and full support are good remedies.

Communication
Good communication is vital. Reasons for the change must be explained beforehand. Clear communication is the best investment, since resistance id often due to mis-interpretation, half-information, and rumors that precede the change. Easy-to-understand written and verbal communication should reach all levels of the organization.

Involvement
When employees get seriously involved, the situation becomes easier. It’s not “us” and “them” (management). The sooner people are involved in the plan, the more they become involved. Those on board early are supportive and spread the word. This prevents rumors and the build-up of resistance.

Trust
Credibility of management, based on past experience plays a key role. Where trust is lacking, problems multiply. The best remedy is honest information and better communication. These are stepping stones to future trust.

Contingencies
In spite of the best efforts, some resistance may remain. 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.

Execution
Once everything is prepared and in place, execution should be fast. A D-day must be set to introduce the new organization. Postponement is not recommended, even if there is a last-minute problem.


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.


I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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