CH-CH-CHANGES. Why do we resist? And how can you maintain engagement while successfully implementing organisational change?
There is nothing permanent except change.
We all know this to be true. We live in a fast paced society that demands change. We want faster, better, easier. And we know that in business change is paramount to success. It's a given that if we don’t continue to evolve, we’ll be left behind.
So then why as individuals are we so naturally resistant to change? And why can the implementation of a change management process create more issues than it resolves? Surely a well considered plan, comprehensive team training and clear expectations are all that’s required? Not even close and here’s why…
Humans are involved.
Project management is a well designed plan, developed and delivered according to timelines and budget constraints. Change management however is all about making sure your project is embraced, adopted and effectively implemented. It’s not that humans are totally irrational beings. It’s just that change is new, it’s unknown and until it’s realised, it relies heavily on the personal perspective of the individual.
My Top 8 - why employees resist change
If you address all of these issues in your change management plan, will it be smooth sailing? Probably not.
No matter how well designed your plan is, how prepared you are prior to implementing your change process, not everyone will welcome it with open arms. Often those individuals most affected by the change (even a personally positive one) can be the most resistant. Each individual responds differently to change. Some will accept quickly, some will accept reluctantly adopting a wait and see attitude and others will resist vocally or by non compliance.
This brings me to a very important point. Just because your team doesn’t voice an objection, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
For many reasons team members may not voice an objection to change, but they'll object by non compliance. Or worse, start a movement. This type of objection can be a real issue as it’s often difficult to identify, can cause unnecessary delays and internal unrest.
Why is vocal resistance important to the process?
Too often business leaders perceive vocal resistance to change as negative. However, employee resistance can play a positive and useful role in organisational change. Team members willing to discuss their concerns in a professional manner should be encouraged as they help move the process forward and give a voice to others. It's likely to ignite debate, produce a better understanding of the proposed change and hopefully contribute toward a more successful plan.
All sources of resistance to change need to be acknowledged and people’s emotions validated. Resistance to change will continue, sometimes escalating, until employees are able to recognise the benefits and perceive those gains to be more valuable than the apparent risk.
Organisations don’t change, people do. So first the people involved must accept the change. Implementation of a new process or project is the easy part as it’s external to the individuals that perform it. To maintain engagement and consider the individuals needs, here's what I consider to be the most important aspects of any change management process.
My top 8 - how to successfully implement change in your business
This may seem like an extensive list. It's not. Plus the more you do it, the better you'll get. And yes, it's important to plan and prepare, but don't let it get in the way of progress. At some point you'll need to stop planning and get started.
You've no doubt considered why you're making these changes and there'll be no benefit in ongoing delays. Planning for zero resistance is a waste of time and you're setting yourself up for failure. Similar to any other business plan, you'll need to make adjustments along the way.
And remember that if the change requirements of your business are substantial or potentially complex, an external consultant can offer tremendous support with prioritisation and implementation. Here are a few key areas of a change management plan that may benefit from external support...
If you want business growth, you can't hide from organisational change. Embrace it. Commit to a well considered process and reap the rewards sooner.
*Team member changes can be an important part of organisational change and I'll address this touchy topic in future articles. But if you're currently faced with this issue and would like help navigating through it, let me know. I have plenty of experience having implemented highly successful organisational change within such companies as Telstra, Pacific Brands, Riviera and MAK Water.
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