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Strategies for Overcoming Resistance to Change

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 07:47

By Leon Gettler

Managing resistance to change is a challenging job. This resistance can be covert or overt, it might be organised or individual. Realising that they don’t like or want a change, some employees could resist publicly, or they could do it verbally. Some might just feel uncomfortable. They might do it through passive resistance. Or they might do it without even thinking, through the actions they take, the words they use to describe the change, and the stories and conversations they share in the workplace.

Resistance to change threatens the success of ventures so it’s the big challenge for managers.

Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Bradley James Bryant says managers should deal with resistance by briefing employees about new initiatives and their progress and providing them with regular updates at team meetings. They should also select a group of change agents from key positions to help manage planning and implementation, develop key deliverables for each department, organisation and person involved in the new business strategy and tie successful implementation to compensation.

Specialists at Clemson University recommend managers identify employees’ goals and help them achieve these goals if they are aligned with the company’s strategy (eg personal development) and help employees develop new skills for the changed environment. In cases where employees are not easily persuaded, the managers should sit down with them and find out what they really want and try to negotiate some mutual arrangement that suits them.

One of the world’s most respected management thinkers John Kotter has eight steps to managing resistance.

1. Create a sense of urgency by identifying potential threats, and developing scenarios showing what could happen in the future, examining opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited, starting honest discussions, and giving dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking and requesting support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.

2. Form a powerful coalition of people in the organisation who can help drive the change. This can be done by identifying the true leaders in the organisation, getting an emotional commitment from these key people, getting them to work as a team, and ensuring that has a a good mix of people from different departments and levels within the company.

3. Create a vision for change so that everyone knows exactly what they are being asked to do.

4. Communicate the vision while addressing peoples’ concerns and anxieties. They also have to lead by example and, at the same time, they have to apply the vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews.

5. Remove obstacles by hiring change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change. Look at the organisational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with the change, recognise and reward people for making change happen, identify those who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed and finally, take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).

6. Create short term wins by going for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change and rewarding the people who get them done

7. Build on the change by setting goals, focusing on continuous improvement and analysing what worked and what needs improving

8. Anchor the change in corporate culture and make sure it sticks

Those steps would go a long way to reducing resistance.