3 Tips To Manage Resistance To Change

Mike Girdler

Make change stick There are many reasons why organizations experience resistance to change. For example, employees might feel the change will bring extra work, or …

Make change stick

Resistance to change at workThere are many reasons why organizations experience resistance to change. For example, employees might feel the change will bring extra work, or they may have contributed to that which is being changed. They may feel their jobs are threatened, or they might lose some power, they could view the change as another “flavor of the month”, or simply not understand why the change is being made. The fact is, resistance can play a very large role in undermining change efforts. A key to success is, very early on in your planning process, identifying the sources of potential resistance and developing a plan to deal with them before the resistance occurs. How do you identify potential resistance sources? Focus on the what, the who, and the how.

The What

What are the changes? Look at how things are done currently and how things will be done once the change is in place. Is there re-structuring? Will there be different processes and procedures? Will there be new technologies put in place? New reporting structure, etc.? Enlist the aid of subject matter experts and team members and compile a complete list of all changes and consequences. By knowing everything that will be affected by the change, you are prepared to assess who and how stakeholders will be impacted.

The Who 

The next step is to identify who are the stakeholders that will be affected by the changes. Compare the current state to the change state and see who the changes impact. List the stakeholders affected. For example, does the change impact executives, managers, front-line employees, a whole department? To identify any resistance, you don’t overlook anyone and capture all the stakeholders who are affected by the changes.

The How 

The third step is to bring it all together and analyze the impact of the specific changes on each of the stakeholders affected. Will the change result in down-sizing or lay-offs? Will there be different working relationships? Will people be doing different jobs? Reporting to different bosses? Using new technologies? You want to understand if the change is better or worse, and how big the impact is for each affected stakeholder. This allows  you to begin to connect the dots, and predict where resistance might occur.

Once you examine the changes and who they impact and how, you can begin to predict and focus on where possible sources of resistance in the organization are and why. For example, if the change is the introduction of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and customer service representatives are required to learn new skills or work different hours, there may be resistance because they may like the way things are now and not see the benefit of the new system.  Once you’ve identified all of the sources of potential resistance, like that in our example, and others throughout the organization, you can then plan on how you will use your training, communications, sponsorship support, and other change management planning tools to eliminate or mitigate resistance.


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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