In my 40+ years of Change Management Consulting, I’ve seen a lot of resistance to change. In fact, I’d be surprised if someone could come up with an example of resistance I haven’t experienced! To many of my clients, resistance is one of the most frustrating aspects of implementing a business change. But, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
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If you are undergoing a business change, whether it is a minor procedural one or transformational in scope, chances are you are going to come across someone, somewhere in the organization who doesn’t like what’s going on. Truth be told, you’ll probably come across quite a few people who disagree with the change. Whether your resistance is out in the open, or lurking in a dark corner somewhere, trust us…it is there.
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One of the most common questions we get in our change management consulting is how to overcome resistance to change. Our clients look a little frustrated when we tell them, “you can’t.” But it’s true. It doesn’t matter if a change is perceived as negative or positive, if it is transformational in scope or a small procedural one, resistance is going to occur. And the fact of the matter is, you can’t combat it, solve it or overcome it. Instead, resistance needs to be surfaced, understood and then managed.
If your organization is implementing a change, whether it is transformational in scope or a minor procedural adjustment, you will face resistance. It’s inevitable...someone, somewhere is going to let it be known they don’t like what’s happening.
We’ve all experienced it. The quiet whispers in the break room; the angry outbursts in a team meeting; the under the breath mutterings in the hallways. Phrases like, “This is never going to work.” Or, “I’m not changing the way I’ve done my job for the last umpteen years.” Or one of our all-time favorites, “We tried this years ago, and it didn’t work.” Change Agents and Sponsors face these and many other forms of resistance on a daily basis.
If your managers think they know everything about resistance to change… they might well need to think again. In our 30+ years of Change Management Project Work, we’ve seen many implementation projects where leaders say they understand resistance is a natural part of the change process, but are still taken by surprise when they actually start to experience it. Especially if the leaders view the change as an upgrade or improvement!
The emotions Targets feel during an organizational change can easily be compared to a monster roller coaster. There are ups, downs, curves, slow climbs, fast descents, unexpected speed changes, and head-snapping starts and stops. But we know what you are probably thinking. You think this time it is going to be different because this change is a positive one! It is going to make things better for everyone involved. So why are people still grumbling?
There is no doubt building readiness for change takes time, energy, and resources. Ensuring you have the four factors of Sponsorship, Cultural Fit, Agent Capacity and Target Readiness allows you to build readiness at speed. However, in our 30+ years of Change Management industry experience, we’ve witnessed a lot of Change Management Consultants who miss one of the most powerful tools available for building Target readiness: involvement.
Sponsors are the key drivers of transformational change. What they say, what they do, and what they reinforce on a daily basis determines 50-70% of the likelihood of achieving value realization for the transformation. So, what do you do when they are the ones who are reluctant to change?