Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Change Management Plans
When executing change initiatives, the temptation is to ignore the dissenters. Don't; that won't make them go away, and problems left untreated have the potential to derail change.
Spend as much time, if not more, engaging with those opposed to your plans as you do with your supporters. If individuals or groups are showing signs of resistance then ignoring them will not make them go away. There will be a basis to your resistance, which once uncovered allows you to respond. Only through sustained and focused communication and engagement can you hope to change their standpoint.
Even if you can’t change their view of the word, effective engagement with them will allow you to identify their concerns and fears and then either dispel them or do something about them.
In an early experience of a structural change programme, Mark (Wilcox) encountered a seminar room full of engineering supervisors who were invited to a workshop on their new roles as heads of multi-skilled teams of craftsmen. Whilst trying to run a workshop to the agenda and cover all the new skills and requirements from management for the new structure to work, there was obvious and explicit disinterest in the content. Detailed and probing questions were asked of every element of the seminar’s content, starting with robust and sceptical discussions about the changes.
As the facilitator it was pointless trying to continue with the content, with time being eroded by the group and progress being so slow. A decision was made, in real time in the meeting room, to abandon the agenda and open the seminar to what they wanted to discuss. A set of open questions were put up on a flipchart and explored from the participants’ point of view. The resultant heated discussion acted cathartically, releasing a wave of repressed discontent. Two hours later, the group decided it wanted to continue with the agenda and hear how their future roles would work.
What we both learned early in our career is that if you listen to what is not being said, and act when things are not going well, you can still make a positive impact. Resistance is not a natural state for most people; it’s a reaction to not being included or not being heard.
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