Sunday, May 19, 2013

Change, or Resistance to Change, What’s the Problem

Change is the problem if for its own sake.

Change is the only constant, but most of the change management efforts fail. Indeed, change is difficult, some say, change is not a problem, the primary reason for change failure is resistance to change while the secondary reason is the inability of leaders to deal with resistance. 

What are the true problems of the change, or what’re the real roadblocks to step into changes?

1. Change is the Problem if for its Own Sake 

Change is clearly not just one thing. There is a positive change, negative change, and change as a response to changing external conditions and changes that are initiated because of external factors. There is disruptive change and incremental change. Change you want and change that is forced upon you. Some change is inevitable and another change is purely elective. One of the noble purposes of change is to pursue simplicity, how to well align business processes with organizational goals; how to improve clarity in communication, performance., etc. follow "keep it simple" principle, do it elegantly. And all leaders need to become change agents themselves, walk the talk

  • There are two types of change: proactive and reactive. Proactive implies anticipation of changes: external and/or internal, that will affect the company. Reactive is adaptive to change that has already occurred or is underway. The common denominator to effecting outcomes is communication, which by definition is a two-way street. 
  • There are good changes and bad changes: There is good and bad change depending on the outcome of the change process and final benefit of the person who is directly affected by that change. Change itself may be detrimental to ones well being. We also need to recognize that there are various approaches to change such as planned change, unplanned change, imposed change, negotiated change, and participative change. It is, therefore, safe to conclusively say that some forms of change may be difficult to be resisted. 
  • There are three change factors: Organizational Change, Technological Change, and Behavioral Change: Sometimes change is the problem, sometimes lack of change is the problem, sometimes the lack of clarity to discern the difference is the problem. Sometimes the problem is with the ability to plan and manage elective incremental change. Sometimes the problem is the inability to perceive a change in the environment and adapt when conditions require it. 

2. People Do Not Resist to Change, but Resist Being Changed

As say’s going, "people don't resist change, they resist being changed." Prevention of "R" is what most people call "good leadership." 

  • Two types of resistances are expected: Personal and Structural, and both need to be addressed effectively and efficiently. Change is inevitable, and the only differences are the reasons and goals behind the change and its scope and depth/breadth (Why the change, what you need to accomplish, what does it consist of and what does it impact). Overall, good anticipation in planning is key for a smoother execution, while regular updates and plan adjustments will enhance your chances of success. 
  • The five personalities are: Pathfinder (2.5% of population); Listener (13.5%); Organizer (34%); Follower (34%); Diehard (16%). (Lowest resistance = Pathfinders...highest resistance from the diehards.). People look for “What's In It For Me". Given this, change management needs to craft and most importantly deliver these messages at both the individual and group level, and most importantly reinforce these statements through consistent action. Resistance to change isn't necessarily the problem either since it’s a natural human response to the loss or fear of uncertainty, or to the hideous management of change. 
  • The person labeled a resistor may even share the same purpose as the sponsors: It is wise to look for a "positive intent" behind a "resistor," actions or opinion before making assumptions it's just resistance to change. If someone is "resisting" change, what's that about? Are they perhaps interested in "certainty," "stability," "think things are on the right path" or is it something else? It's a good idea to get clarity on what the "resistance" is all about and look closer to the reality of what's going on. Or they may just try to alert sponsors to poorly thought-out elements of their plan - or has better ideas. At a minimum, they need to be heard and understood - which removes some of the perceived resistance. Better yet, engage people in the design of change solutions so that issues can be surfaced and addressed early.  
  • Resistance to change is not a problem - it's a balancing mechanism: And it's also one of the change's biggest opportunities. If you can tap into, better understand and work with the energy of resistance you can also accelerate purposeful change. Resistance is a balancing mechanism that says something isn't aligned or set right. if approached/managed well, will point to where important learning is needed to come up with goals/strategies/actions that will actually work and, by virtue of engaging that part of the system productively, generate the buy-in needed to make something positive happen. The most important factor is multi-dimensional representation on your scenario team - management-dancers-finance etc. Most businesses need creative people, who can think outside the box, and key stakeholders in parts of the process as well - in order to get an external viewpoint. There is understandably tension sometimes between the creative and the administrative, but we continue to work through these. My view: effective leadership - whether artistic or administrative- involves creativity. 

3. Leadership, Communication & Engagement are Key 

Change is driven by a combination of the pull of the leadership and the push of the self-managed teams, the effective communication and deep engagement around change.

  • Leadership is the key: Effective, inclusive, sharing and trusting leadership is combined with effective situational / personnel management and planning. The top-down, externally driven attempt at creating significant change might be catastrophic for the businesses/situations. In other words, if the people of the business are 'connected', 'included', part of the identification and development of remedies and take-up of opportunities as they present and as part of operational and strategic planning, tell the story of the organization, past and present, through diverse eyes. This helps to acknowledge and give credence to everything that is good and should be preserved as well as to get a good handle on what it is you're changing.
  • Communication around change is essential: Change fails because generally it is not well communicated (especially the rational and the end game), that's a no-brainer, the process for implementation is not well thought out, lack to identify 'barriers' before they block the implementation and not gathering enough 'change-agents' to support the change. Also, the problem lies in simplistically equating resistance to change with a failure to communicate enough. Should leaders make time to listen to the real fears and concerns, it could provide them with an opportunity to (1) show the parties concerned how the business case for change makes provision for their fears and concerns - hence use productive influence to deal with resistance and obtain respect and buy-in in the process. It could also serve as an opportunity (2) to give recognition to those people that have "identified holes in the hull of the ship" that could cause the ship to sink on the change journey. Successful strategy and change implementation can only benefit from an organizational culture where people are encouraged to provide their inputs towards successful change as well as potential risks and mitigation strategies. 
  • Engaging around change is a far deeper, more difficult process: It includes listening and understanding the realities that people face (the multiple 'realities' that represent their 'truth') as much as it does to conveying information. It talks about connecting with people at an emotional as well as a rational level and working out the best way to meet multiple needs within a change process. Change enablement through appropriate engagement is an important element of dealing with complex change. It may take more time but as you learn - sometimes you need to go slower, to go faster. True engagement usually accelerates change in the medium term. If it doesn't, the reality is that it certainly informs the discretion about the change. After the deep engagement, if people still believe that the proposed change is not right for them, better pay attention to the wisdom in their views. Remember, they're a lot closer to the Customer interface and the real world of the business than most of the executives who launch change initiatives. 

4. Neither Change nor Resistance to Change (RoC) is Problem

Indeed, the sentiments expressed on change management make sense. However, if managing well, neither change nor resistance to change is a problem. Change should be viewed and embraced as a solution and an opportunity and not a problem. The resistance to change is a natural occurrence that needs to be addressed in a very well thought out change management plan.

  • Change should be viewed as an "opportunity:" It's the opportunity to either to solve a business problem or improve productivity or cut costs or improve a product/service. To achieve desired change, an organization must create an environment that enables effective collaboration, share and promote ideas, and provide necessary incentives for employees. Change itself is an acceptable concept in organizations and acknowledged by people, so change isn't a problem itself, the content & Context of a change may cause a problem. Change can be classified into long term transformation, mid-term organization's collective change habit or short-term sprint to reach certain performance goal, for mid or long term change, vision is critical, the future can be reachable, also inclusive, every participant see him/herself in part of picture; for short term change, communication is important to create sense of urgency, Make change cascade, set up right milestone, well align change goals and business processes accordingly.  
  • Within resistance lies deep wisdom (amongst other elements) and great energy: The resistance issue is the failures story of selling the ideas of change to people, not being committed to the requirement of change and the new paradigm that address that. Usually, compare change with a trip plan, destination change, path change, speed change, alignment of all (family) members all are part of the change plan, failure to convey, arrangement and commitment are called reasons for resistance. "Education" is often a missing key ingredient to overcoming the RC factor. Managers can communicate all they want about the coming changes and need for change but if you don't teach people why it is necessary and how the change will eventually benefit all they will not internalize the need and will naturally resist. 
  • Change is part of strategy: Strategic planning process should be cognizant of change from the beginning and should incorporate some of the core change management principles into its approach, involving those responsible/needing to support the initiative in creating this desired future themselves. The right horizontal and linear slices of the organization/network will offer a microcosm of the system and generate: (1) best-informed solutions and (2) committed action. More specific steps in managing change include: (1) Ask lots of good questions. Keep it simple, not simpler; (2) Accomplish change by identifying the pain points through unique well-developed processes. (3) Outline the implementation process with assignments, dates, and deliverable. (4) Remove cultural, organizational, and systemic obstacles. (5). Measure performance, create KPIs and monitor and measure before and after for validity and value proposition to the organization  (6) End results: growth, profits, improved culture, better communications, stronger organizational structure, and streamlined systems.  
Thereafter, neither change nor resistance to change is a problem. Instead, leadership, communication, and engagement are the keys to successful change or lack thereof is the problem. Everyone accepts that change happens. Some changes we embrace, some we resist. It is incumbent on management to identify and explain the changes first, and then what proactive or reactive measures (changes) are being taken to address it. Change Management is not a standalone subject matter. It is part of the strategy, which if done properly, includes the change in the process. 


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