It's a fundamental tenet of human behavior to resist any change. In many organizations today, transformational change is the least understood, as well as the most challenging type to execute. Although the change may be well planned and implemented, most times, there will be some level of resistance. One must remember that change interferes with the culture, behavior, and mindset of employees, and as such, to implement change successfully, you have to manage resistance.
Any change to an employee’s psychological contract will fuel resistance. But even more critical, if the organization cannot adequately evaluate the impact of the changes taking place, this will lead to the non-fulfillment of the company’s strategic objectives.
What can any company do to mitigate resistance to change?
Use Change Agents
Employees should have a role in the designing, planning, and implementation of the change. Get your employees involve, have change agents within your departments, and give them the responsibility to engage their fellow staff members about the change in an attempt to sell the vision. Who are change agents? A change agent is an individual or group that helps effect change in an organization. The change agent motivates, inspires, and leads the change by example, to influence a positive outlook of the change to their fellow employees. Once the reality of change starts to manifest itself, many people tend to react negatively, and as such, change agents are a vital asset to mitigate resistance.
Resistance to change is really ‘resistance to uncertainty’ and to overcome resistors, the leadership team must ensure that communication plays an integral role in the process.
For example, an initial reaction to change may be shock or denial, as employees react to the challenge of the status quo. Communication has to be a priority. Although employees may be able to absorb a limited amount of information, management must ensure that their employees have a natural pathway to access more information if they need it and to be patient enough to answer any questions that come up. The importance of communication during any change is critical and essential. I have witnessed the failure of change simply because management did not understand the vital role communication plays during the process.
A critical success factor in mitigating resistance is the communication of the vision. Fairhurst (1993), indicated that vision serves to inspire action, focus attention, and create a new social structure in the organization. Moreover, Fairhurst further articulated that a vision that’s understood is more likely to engender a favorable reaction to the change. Management must recognize that vision is a vital tool that inspires people to believe in the change, and as a result, the leadership must first envision what the change will be and communicate that vision to their staff. It is the responsibility of the leadership to give individuals, especially in the initial stages, the ability to see beyond their eyes in an attempt to mitigate resistance, but more importantly, to win the hearts and minds of staff, and generate that positive excitement about the change.
As mention above, anyone leading a change must commit to communication and to ensure the vision of the change is consistently communicated to their employees. Moreover, to make the change stick, an organization culture often determines if the change will succeed or fail. Employees model their behaviors from the actions of their leaders and as such, the leadership must consider their leadership values aligned with the core values of the organization in an attempt to:
1. Create the right environment and
2. Lead by examples
If the leadership does not “walk the talk” of the change, and show commitment to the process, the whole change process will be derailed. Your communication will have no impact if the leaders demonstrates no loyalty to the change, and as a consequence, the organization will always be in a whirlwind of change with no end in sight.
The culture of a company is directly influenced by the CEO, feeding off the urgency of the leadership team. If the company wants to reduce resistance, a culture change should be a priority because well established routines can be a severe blockage to any type of change. Any company, regardless of its size, location, industry, or sector, will be involved in some form of change, it is inevitable. The world is extremely dynamic, and as the leader, you will have the responsibility to lead the change by example.
Change is challenging, and leaders have a critical role to play in delivering sustainable change in an ever fast-moving and demanding business environment. Resistance is inevitable; however, if the leadership shows commitment to the process; genuinely communicate and embrace employee feedback, the change process can be very successful and your organisation can make a difference in the world.
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