How to Overcome Resistance to Change

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Stop Cross SignalChange causes anxiety. The uncertain nature of the future state triggers fear, which leads to resistance. The potential effects on the business include:

  • Drop in morale
  • Productivity decline
  • Voluntary resignations
  • Impacts on customers
  • Delays in change implementation

In order to minimize fear and resistance, you need to corral people so that they are on-side. Here are several things you need to do:

1. Educate people about the cause for change

At the personal level, we deal with changes in family demands and personal needs. Though every change is not always predictable, we adapt and make modifications. Admittedly, some changes are drastic and could be consuming emotionally. For a business, it ought to change to remain relevance in the marketplace. This means the business needs to evolve, instigating changes in its strategy and how it operates. Change disturbs the routines people are used to. As human beings, we don’t like to be inconvenienced. By educating people about the necessity for change, you help them realize that maintaining the status quo is putting the business in jeopardy. The understanding creates a sense of urgency.

2. Instil the vision for future state

People resist change because they don’t know whether the future state is better. In fact, no one could guarantee the outcome. The only thing you could do is to set a target and have a good roadmap that takes you there. This means the management team ought to have a clear vision of what the future looks like. The vision and the roadmap must be shared so that people know what they are working toward and how they would achieve it. Though you might not have all the details, it is wise to share as much as you can. That way, people are more receptive about the change. You build trust.

3. Provide the tools and support to make the change happen

Going through the transition without guidance is like going through a maze with a blindfold. You could run into obstacles and it will take a lot longer. Some people might quit half way. Others might finish with bruises here and there. In addition to communicating about the cause for change and the future state, you need to provide adequate information on how the change would be implemented. Provide training if new skills are needed. Offer coaching to those who need them. Be available to address concerns. The champion for the change initiative needs to be available and be seen as an active participant all the way. Managers and supervisors ought to be advised of the strategy so that they could provide proper responses. They are closest to the people whose action determines how successful the transition would be.

4. Update on progress

Silence is not golden for change initiatives. When people don’t know what’s happening, they make guesses and create make-believe scenarios. A lot of energy is wasted. The best way to prevent this is to provide frequent updates. Share progress and results. This engages people. You send a message that they are part of a bigger team to deliver the target outcome. The communication also provides an opportunity for people to raise questions, addressing the concerns they have.

Doing the above is not meant to sugar-coat the potential necessity to move people to different roles or the need to reduce headcount. They don’t eliminate fear and resistance completely. However, they help to get people on board and adjust their mindset so that fear is addressed, providing them the ammunition to turn their resistance into focused energy for the transition.

© Connie Siu 2014. All rights reserved.

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