Projects are about improving or fixing things. So it should be easy to get people excited about the change that comes from the completion of a project, right? Not really. People don’t like change. Status quo is easier. Here are the top reasons people are resistant to change.
1. Preparing for organizational change requires a lot of work. We have to learn new processes, systems, and new ways of doing things. This causes anxiety – what if I can’t do my job as well after the process changes? What if the new system is impossible to use?
2. There are uncertainties around change. We really don’t know how things are going to go after the changes are put in place. Uncertainty is scary!
3. The organization usually tells us why this is good for the business, or sometimes not. But what does it do for me? We don’t always get that message and let’s face it, what’s in it for me matters. We have to take time out of our very busy schedules to get ready for the change so we need to be motivated in order to embrace the change.
4. Many of the C levels in organizations didn’t get to the top by worrying about people’s feelings. They are not the touchy-feely type (I didn’t say everyone). They do know how to network and they can be friendly but the CXO doesn’t need to be expert in HR. Worrying about whether the people of the organization have concerns about the major changes in progress often isn’t at the top of the Executive to-do list. Unfortunately, you can’t ignore that the people of the organization have to change and there are going to be some negative opinions about almost any change.
5. Sometimes, the people really understand and want the change. However, if major changes often fail in the organization, there is no trust that this project is going to succeed or even be completed. No one likes to feeling like they are doing a lot of work for something that might be abandoned or just won’t work.
So most Change Management theories say that the leaders of the organization must convince people that the change is great, will be successful and improve the business and will improve the lives of the members of the organization. Here are some ways to help motivate the organization to embrace the changes your organization needs:
1. Clearly communicate the need for change early and often. Make it clear to the employees that there is a strong case for this change. The change will be better for the success, competitiveness and profitability of the company.
2. Talk with the employees to understand their anxieties, concerns and issues around the change and determine actions required to address the issues.
3. Determine what the change means to the individuals of the organization and how they can relate the change to a personal benefit. The employees have to make this change work. That can mean changing roles, responsibilities, learning new processes and systems. What do they get in exchange for all that hard work?
4. Monitor progress in preparation for the change to ensure successful change. Employees don’t want to tell their managers that they are struggling to prepare for change or having difficulty learning new processes and systems. There may be a need for additional training, guidance materials or simply helping the employee find more time to prepare.
5. Promoting the change as a marketing campaign (with the organization as the audience) can work wonders. I have seen a very large organization conduct a very successful major, transformational change across divisions around the globe. What was amazing about this change effort was that the leadership (from C level down to managers) united to motivate everyone in the organization. From the start of the initiative to the final phase, they ran a change campaign as if they were selling something to the public. Inspiration from leadership caught on well. Of course there were still some who were not happy about the change but due to the widespread and strong support from the leaders of the organization, everyone realized not changing was not an option. Significant organizational change across the enterprise is usually the most risky and problematic, yet this organization understood how to ensure success by:
• Tying strategic goals to the initiative,
• Clearly communicating the benefit of the change to the business, inspiring people to embrace the change,
• Tasking leaders and managers to determine the benefit to their direct reports and communicate this to the employees,
• Clearly, constantly and consistently communicating progress and successes,
• Conducting face-to-face meetings with employees to understand and address issues,
• Ensuring all leaders are united in promoting the change.