12 Ways to Reduce Resistance to Change - Part 1

It may go like winning the lottery, or like the grim reaper running amok.

That is the likely spectrum of emotion you will encounter on announcing your change plan to the team or the organisation. No matter how brilliantly researched, planned, and executed, you will meet resistance to change. Why? Simply put, our brains are hard-wired to protect us in a myriad of ways when we feel threatened. So what does that mean for your people?

What does the research say?

As with anything to do with change, opinions vary. My preferred view goes something like this – as a percentage of your workforce, 10% will be change-phobic. 15% will challenge the planned change, and 50% will require conversion to your plan. 15% will happily chase the change, and 10% will be the change champions you need to build a critical mass to initiate the change planned.

Sounds quite daunting, doesn’t it?

It might seem somewhat off-putting, that around 75% of your workforce might resist change in some shape or form. However, help is at hand, as I'll set out in two posts over May and June twelve ways to reduce resistance to change, all tried and tested personally.

First things first!

The classic Stephen Covey mantra is very apt in change scenarios. My first thing first is to advise you to focus your energy, time, and commitment on the 50% who need conversion to your plan, and use only limited time in dealing with phobics and challengers. Why? Because you will build critical mass for your plan much quicker that way, and your efforts will not founder then on the shores of negativity. So, utilise your chasers and champions, and harness their energy in reducing resistance to change and converting the 50% who need convincing!

The first six tried and tested ways

The ideas offered below are tried and tested, building layer upon layer in your efforts to convince 75% of your workforce that change will be positive.

  1. Try, wherever possible, to increase ownership of the change process, providing time and space for authentic engagement. Creating and sharing knowledge and making plans coherent does pay off. I know – I have done it, many times. It works well because it helps people, and you avoid surprises.
  2. In building ownership, seek a group consensus as best you can. You will not please everyone. We are human, after all, filled will all the foibles, idiosyncrasies, and opinions that go with it.
  3. Provide information and feedback, even if the process is slow. I once had a staff team who said that they preferred me to say there was limited progress rather than say nothing. Humans are social beings and prefer interaction.
  4.  Your communication, energy, and enthusiasm will build trust in your ideas or the common ideas negotiated with your staff. Help to grow that trust by being conspicuous, available, and interested in their thoughts, fears, and beliefs.
  5. Too many leaders erroneously believe that regular business can continue uninterrupted during a change process. Those leaders do not appreciate the impact of "implementation dip" and the strain that places on individuals, some more so than others. So, wherever possible, try to reduce burdens on the staff, not increase them with their day job and their change activity.
  6. When they surface, as they inevitably will, recognise people’s feelings. That is not to say that you should be complicit with them; but people would instead prefer you to see them as human, rather than a machine or a number.

That is it for this month’s six tried and tested posts.

I would welcome your ideas on my six suggestions or any other ideas you have for reducing resistance that you had in the past or are currently encountering.