Change is inevitable. The world is constantly evolving and organizations need to transform to keep up with that pace of change. However, it’s all very well recognising the need to change and making initial steps to implement change, however what do you do when people resist? It’s a tough one. Over two thirds of digital transformation projects fail or return no value and that's because of people-related issues. Resistance to change is a huge blocker for any transformation program and it can often be hard to manage and reduce.
No matter how well business change is managed, it’s hard to eradicate all resistance but there are certainly a number of steps that you can take to minimise that resistance and it's all down to basic human psychology.
One of the most prominent theories within behavioral research is that the fear of loss greater outweighs that of similarly sized gains, a theory known as “loss aversion” coined by Daniel Kahneman in the 1990's. His argument was that any shortcomings to the the status quo are regarded as losses. The gains have to outweigh the losses by two to four times before people find alternatives attractive. This is often something that is disregarded in change management efforts and one of the main underlying theories behind why people resist change.
Here are some key reasons why people resist change:
1. Loss of job or change of role
Within a company, any change or technology advancement will include working smarter and reducing costs. Often people can be fearful that their jobs will either be reduced or, worse, lost all together. Where that is the case or not, it's so important to effectively communicate the vision of the change and actively involve people in that journey. There should not be any "shock surprises" along the way as this will make people mistrust the program and the leadership, leading to heightened resistance.
2. Fear of the unknown
People will typically only take steps towards the unknown if they genuinely believe and feel that the risks of not changing are greater than those of advancing forward. Taking a step into the unknown is hard. What if it doesn't work? what if it makes me (or my team look) bad? Do I have the technical or leadership competencies to actually follow this through? Does this mean extra work for me- I'm hardly coping as it is? all these questions can lead to more anxiety and means people will be less likely to look at any change favourably. Again, this is not rocket science. Get people involved at the earlier possible stages and spell out the benefits of what the program is trying to achieve and most importantly- what does it mean for your people?
3. They don’t understand why the change is happening
If people don't understand why the change is happening in the first place, you are much more likely to resist it, particularly if they have done the same thing for many years. Many still have the mentality that "if it's not broken, dont fix it". If your people can fully understand why the change is taking place and why it will be significantly better/ easier than the way it has been done previously they will be more inclined to accept it.
4. Poor communication
You absolutely must consistently and clearly communicate throughout the change lifecycle. That doesn't mean a blanket 3 page email to the whole organization telling them what's happening at the start and then completely fall off the radar. Also, make your communications exciting and eye catching to rise above the noise of daily business and be heard. People have a 7 second attention span, make sure you are simplifying the complex in a fun and engaging way and ensure you are taking your people on the transformation journey with you. There is no such thing as “too much communication” in change.
5. Change fatigue
Many organizations are undergoing a significant amount of change. This can be exhausting for people having to get used to a constant state of flux and they can become turned off and become disengaged very quickly. Significant efforts need to be made to ensure that your people do not feel overwhelmed with the pace of change and that they actually have the bandwith to cope with the change instead of burning out. This can be achieved by implementing change in incremental steps and allowing people to adapt at each stage.
6. No involvement
Involving your people in the change effort, actively consulting them and seeking their opinion can reap massive rewards not only in terms of reducing change resistance but also to gain valuable information from the people who will be carrying out change. On the contrary, if you don't involve them in any way, you will almost always experience resistance as they may feel the change is being forced upon them and truly believe that “their way is better”.
7. Organizational politics and mistrust
Some people will resist change as part of a political strategy to express their unhappiness with change. Equally, if they do not believe the person in charge is “up to the job”, this can also cause massive implications when trying to implement anything. Any sign of mistrust either at a team level or organization level can be detrimental. Make sure you are positioning leadership as a strong force that is confident in the teams capabilities to drive change.
8. Perception of historical change
If previous change initiatives have failed or caused more problems than solutions, many will take that as a sign for how future change will go and will be much more likely to resist the change. By involving your people and communicating with them from the start, this will build confidence and trust in the direction of the program and people are more likely to feel invested to make this succeed.
Ultimately, for any change to be successful people need to be on board with it. They need to be clearly and consistently communicated to and fully understand why the change is happening and what their role is in ensuring that change is successful. No change management effort will ever have 0% resistance, that's just life but there are lots of steps and actions organizations can take to minimise that chance of resistance. Make people your focus and your priority then tools and processes come next. There's a reason why it's people, process, technology in that specific order.
G2G3 have helped our clients to achieve successful transformation through immersive simulations and bold programs of communication. We have a passion for behavioral psychology and our solutions engage, educate and enable your people towards positive change, whether it be implementing new ITSM tools or processes or transitioning to DevOps or implementing new cloud technologies- we have the expertise to make that change a reality for your people. and significantly reduce the chance of resistance in change programs.