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Mitigating Resistance Through Effective Change Management Strategies

Resistance: we all know what it is, and we’ve experienced it in some shape or form in our daily lives. We’ve even seen it sensationalized on the big screen, with Luke Skywalker leading the charge against the empire – you know, “May the force be with you.” It’s also highly likely you’ve experienced resistance to change management within your organization. People, by nature, can be hesitant about any change to the status quo, especially when it threatens productivity or when it isn’t clearly communicated to a team. This is why effective change management strategies are important for organizations looking to avoid disruptions to productivity or efficiency that can stem from resistance. 

In the 15th century, Dutch peasants were concerned about mechanization. Yep, way back then, they were concerned that the introduction of looms would take away their jobs. Perhaps extreme, they threw their wooden shoes (sabots) into the gears of the loom, halting production. Thus, the word “sabotage” was coined. 

Let’s fast forward to today. Your organization has decided to replace outdated practices to improve the bottom line. Running a multi-billion business using Excel and a notepad will be eliminated. Current roles and responsibilities will require examination as the organization shifts to the future state.  

Why the Change Now?  

Perhaps you need to keep ahead of your competition, or your organization needs to remain competitive, or maybe the Board is exerting pressure to find a way to increase stock value. Whatever the cause for the change, you must get employees to adopt and utilize the new system quickly to achieve the desired Return on Investment (ROI). The goal of change management is to reduce the sabots being hurled into your organization to disrupt the implementation. 

Within any organization, resistance can be seen in a myriad of ways, such as when people feel that the change will impact their work, or if there is a lack of credibility for the people communicating the change. What is the track record of the person delivering the communication? What were the results of the past implementation? Was it a success or not? 

Simply put, resistance occurs when a fear of the unknown exists. When employees are unsure if a new process or solution will, in fact, work, they’re more likely to resist the change, reverting to old methods and refusing to adopt new ones. As a result, you’ll see a barrier to success inserted into the project – just as the sabots – and thus incurring potential costs and risks, such as a delay in work or a gap in productivity.  

Change Management Strategies to Overcome Resistance

Throughout my 25 years of change management experience, here are the strategies that I have encouraged organizations and their leadership to consider as they work toward successful implementation:  

  • Clearly articulate the vision. Give your employees as much information as you possibly can. Be open, honest, and genuine about what to expect.  
  • Have a plan and be flexible with that plan. Without a plan in place, you’ll struggle to get everyone one on board with the implementation. Thinking through a strategy that also provides for flexibility when things don’t go as plan is key for a successful transition. 
  • Be active and visible. Try Management By Wandering Around (MBWA). Of course, that was simpler before the COVID-19 pandemic, but leadership can still make an effort to be present and engaged with employees outside of formal planning or implementation meetings. Jump in on a Zoom call, even if you aren’t staying for the entire meeting. Pop in and say a few words. Be attentive. Be there. It’s that simple.  
  • Provide a feedback loop. While some decisions can’t be changed, organizations still need to listen to employees’ concerns. Surveys or focus groups can provide invaluable insight into employee hesitations—an extremely useful mitigation strategy. 
  • Celebrate the milestones. Look for quick wins. Celebrating your team’s success – no matter how big or small – demonstrates to your employees that you are committed to the organization, even amidst a change.  

The success or failure of any type of change comes down to the people. Are they prepared? Are they engaged? Are they supported? At Clarkston Consulting, our team has experience helping companies navigate change within organizations to mitigate resistance and ensure continued success.  

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Tags: Strategy, Change Management