Managing People And The Process Of Change – Part 1 Resistance To Change

One of the key issues facing business owners and anyone involved in turnaround management consulting is managing change. Once you have set your business objectives, you have decided what changes are needed. Is this enough? Will the changes simply happen? Or not? This article looks at the barriers to change and how turnaround firms go about change management.
The answer is that unless you make them happen, there will be no changes. And there can be many barriers to overcome with your staff that mean making changes happen will be difficult.
The barriers to change can be categorised into a number of problems dependent on the underlying cause as below. Each identified cause however then allows you to identify the action needed to address it.
If staff: Bain Strategic Consulting
* don’t know they have to change then the issue is one of information and the solution will involve focusing on the communication of the plan, goals and actions.
* can’t change it may be because they lack:
– knowledge of what they need to do, then this is an information issue as above;
– knowledge of how to do it, then they need training and support;
– resources (time, money, people, equipment) to allow them to do it, then you need to look at a range of project management issues in order to make the change possible
* won’t change because they don’t want to make the changes, then you need to understand what the underlying motivation for this is, before you can start to think about changes you will need to make in the business culture.
In many cases of course a situation may involve a combination of problems which will in turn mean that a combination of solutions will be needed.
Successful change management projects tend to require commitment to a strong programme of communication directed at dealing with each underlying problem; detailed project management to see the project through to conclusion; and a focus on staff motivation.
Much of what we do at work from day to day, and how we do it, becomes a habit and existing habits are hard to break. Achieving real long term changes in how a business operates will require significant effort to overcome often deep-seated resistance to change. You will have to lead people into breaking out of existing ways of doing things in order to create new healthier habits.
If you want to promote change, then the most effective way to do so is to use the pressure of external events as a lever to ‘unfreeze’ existing behaviour. This then gives you an opportunity to introduce the new behaviours that you will want to refreeze as the new habits of working that you want to have in place.
Staff can however be extremely reluctant to change for a wide variety of reasons which can include:
* Psychological – uncertainty, fear, disorientation (so change needs to be as swift as possible to avoid nagging doubt, but slow enough to bring everyone with it)
* Personal attitudes and beliefs – ‘we cannot deliberately under quote in the initial stages of an assignment (like everyone else in the industry does) to get the work as it just isn’t right’
* Group loyalty – the sales team may fight like cats and dogs amongst themselves, but just watch them stick together if you try and put production in charge
* Habit – ‘but we’ve always done it this way’
* Politics – ‘not if Joe is Business Consultant Certification going to be in charge’
* Physiological – the new roster of 20 consecutive night shifts is unacceptable
To unfreeze existing behaviour you therefore often need the heat of external pressure (a ‘burning platform’) before people will realise the need to move to a new position. So as one of President Obama’s advisors famously said, ‘Never waste a good crisis.’
But you cannot simply rely on external forces to provide sufficient pressures as few of your staff will have a real immediate appreciation of your position.
You will therefore also need to signal major change by making your staff aware of the situation and the need for action and by making change real; and this usually involves doing something that really makes people sit up and take notice.
‘Barnstorming ideas’ and shock tactics can be useful to signal that real changes are going to be made to happen. Some of these, and the messages they convey, include:
* Slaughtering sacred cows – everything in your business is potentially up for radical change
* Killing something big – is there a large visible project that can be axed (without threatening future development)?
* Clearing out non-performers – you cannot afford passengers
* Breaking a blocker – If someone is actively blocking change, they cannot be allowed to win – either you are with the changes and where we are going or you are against us
Obviously, if you can get your staff to want to change (‘buy in’) they are obviously a lot easier to manage and motivate than if you need to force them to change. Unfortunately, as discussed in the next article, the management style required tends to be dictated by the degree of crisis and speed of response needed.
So what changes do you want to drive in your business, and what external pressures are there on your business that you can use to help make these changes happen?

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