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Managing Resistance to Change

We recently conducted a series of change management workshops for a client. The workshop consisted of middle and line managers in an organization a couple of months into major systems changes. Getting ready for implementation, their interest was in how to manage resistance.

At the start of the workshops, before we ever got into the phenomenon of change, we asked them for their thoughts about change. “When you hear that a change is coming, how do you feel?” We scribed their responses on flips charts. Then we asked, “Given that, what should people do to lower your anxiety?” Again we scribed the responses and continued with the workshop. At the end of the workshop, we showed them how their input matched all the current thinking on managing change. The upshot was that the group understood change and knew what was needed to facilitate it: leadership and good communication.

So why is it that, according to Forbes, Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, etc., 70 percent of all change initiatives fail? A consistent theme is that change management does not start until just before implementation. There was no need seen for it during design: big mistake!

A couple of key John Kotter quotes:

“Producing major change in an organization is not just about signing up one charismatic leader. You need a group - a team - to be able to drive the change. One person, even a terrific charismatic leader, is never strong enough to make all this happen.”

“One of the most common ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about it beforehand. Communication of ideas helps people see the need for and the logic of a change. The education process can involve one-on-one discussions, presentations to groups, or memos and reports.”

These two quotes embody the essence of project success and form the basis for how Convergent Results organizes with our clients for guaranteed results. From the start, the design team is a joint team of our experienced consultants and the client’s most politically influential individuals in the line organization. They are selected to represent different functions and levels in the entire organization touching the change. They start working on any changes and designs day one of design.

Involving the people who are credible with their peers, has a heavy influence on the one-on-one discussions mentioned by Kotter. When they do the presentations, people listen. Our consultants train them in the design, communication and presentation skills so they can contribute comfortably.

Less time...not more

At times, some people expressed concern that taking the time to involve people this way would take too much time delay implementation. We have found creating this team at the start actually accelerates the schedule. They bring about significant change in less time that our clients thought possible. Mainly because this approach greatly reduces potential resistance well before implementation, not as it starts. The need to manage resistance is just about nil.

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