October 24, 2019

Three ways of dealing with resistance to change

What percentage of change programmes fail? We’ve all heard a big scary number, in the 70–80% range. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30% more likely to stick.

So last week when Saberr asked its inspiring community of consultants and coaches which was the biggest challenge that they faced in organisational change, it didn’t come as a surprise that resistance from teams was the top answer.

One thing is clear, blindly expecting frontline employees to cooperate and adapt to change is a futile approach. So how do you alleviate the inevitable resistance that comes with change?

1. Understand what it means for every single team

What will the change mean for this Solutions team? And for this Finance team? Will it make their jobs harder for a while? How will this team drive the change forward? These are the people who carryout most of the heavy lifting, make the day to day trade-offs and deal with your customers.

You need each team to realise for themselves why they can’t keep doing things in the same way and how the future is going to be somewhat different. Shouting this message out isn’t going to magically get buy-in.

For the change to be successful, teams should be encouraged to discover how they can drive the change forward and contribute to the new company-wide objective for themselves. You can guide teams through this process, but self-discovery is crucial to create ownership.

2. Understand the reasons for resistance

Some employees will have a gut instinct to resist change. The more organised, pragmatic personalities will have a natural tendency to be hesitant and weary of change, whilst others will have been marked by past experiences of failed change and view it with cynicism from the start.

But so many other times there’s a good reason for employee resistance. Some parts of your change programme may be unrealistic and should be iterated on. You need to understand these initial oversights and address them humbly.

3. Enable managers at every level

Managers are expected to lead their teams through change. These team leads bear the brunt of resistance and have a direct influence on how front-line employees handle impending change.

But they’re also adjusting to the change themselves, often negotiating with their seniors or competing for resources. They’re arguably under the most pressure.

Unless managers are empowered and supported throughout the change, how can they empower and support their respective teams?

We work with leaders of change programmes who leverage technology to apply these practices enterprise-wide. If you’d like to find out more, drop us a note at enquiries@saberr.com

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