In any given organizational change, you have two options: You can either invest in readiness now, or spend your resources managing resistance later. There is no other alternative, and there isn’t a “no payment” option that we have seen in our 30 years of change management consulting.
Resistance is a function of the level of disruption of change. It is a way for people to protect themselves against changes in behaviors, reinforcement, work characteristics, power and/or status. Before starting any change initiative the following questions should be asked:
- How much resistance will we have?
- How will we manage it?
- How will we pay for it? (costs can be overt or covert)
On the other hand, if you can build readiness before the change occurs and while the change is going into effect, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, energy and resources. Remember, readiness is not built from the perceptions of the project team-- it is built from the perceptions of the Targets!
While you can never achieve complete 100% readiness, here are 10 specific actions you can take to move toward the readiness goal.
10 Specific Actions
- Target your resources early – Resistance starts early so don’t wait until it is running rampant to put strategies and tactics in place to manage it. Instead, commit resources early to readiness-building activities.
- Don’t underestimate the fear of the unknown –The first few steps into the future are always the most frightening! If you allow Targets to test their new ways with practice sessions or pilot programs, they can stick their toe in the water before having to jump in the deep end.
- You can’t communicate your way to readiness – Since resistance is inevitable and it definitely isn’t logical, no amount of communication will be able to overcome it. Most organizations assume if they just tell people about the change, and tell them more often, resistance will be eliminated. Communication is important, but it is only one element of managing organizational change!
- Communication must be translated into the Targets’ Frames of Reference – Getting an email from a high level executive about the “wonderful rationale” of your change is most likely going to cause more resistance than readiness. Communication must address the two most important questions from a Target’s frame of reference: “What’s in it for me” and “What does it mean to me?”
- Your communication methods must symbolize what you are trying to create – If you are going through a transformational change, your communication needs to be transformational, too! You can’t use the same old ways of doing something if what you are trying to tell people is that things are dramatically changing.
- You must have willingness before training will be effective – You can’t fix motivational issues with training. Skill building efforts will only be successful when individuals are motivated to learn.
- Effective training requires practice and immediate feedback – Training has to match real world job performance requirements and provide sufficient opportunities to practice. Trainees need to get immediate feedback on their performance.
- Own your past history to build confidence for the present – No project is implemented in isolation. If you have had an unsuccessful past history with lots of high stress during a change, you will need extra resources and time to create readiness for this one. Transparency around past failures is critical to building credibility for the future.
- Use involvement to give your Targets a sense of control – If you want to generate the maximum amount of resistance, just tell people what they have to do and how they need to do it! Remember the “3 I’s”. Influence, Input and Involvement. Giving Targets a sense of control is key if you want your change to be implemented with less resistance and at speed.
- You have to build readiness in the project team first – Just because someone has been tasked with being a Change Agent or on a change management project team doesn’t mean they are fully on board with the change either. Make sure you treat the project team members as Targets first. What’s in it for them and what does the change mean to them?
There is no doubt building readiness takes time, energy, and resources. But in our humble opinion... it’s worth it. If you don’t put the effort in now... you’ll be paying for it later in resistance.