Strategies For Managing Change – Resistance

IntroductionAny strategy for managing change needs to anticipate resistance. Resistance is natural, and it can come from employees, partners and even clients. You’re taking people out of their comfort level and probably introducing risk into their professional lives.Here are some ways to think about resistance as you incorporate overcoming resistance into your change management strategies.Who is Resisting?If you are making changes that are impacting clients, the degree of resistance will be correlated to the client’s view of the level of risk vs. potential benefit to them. Client resistance to change is so important that we’ve devoted a separate paragraph to the subject below.What Type of Resistance?For your employees, partners and others, it’s important to understand whether their resistance is passive or active.

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Passive resistance involves worrying, grousing and otherwise complaining about the change management strategy. Some call it whining, and sometimes they’re right. You can’t ignore passive resistance, even though it need not be fixed immediately. Passive resistance is a distraction, and it can slow your entire organization’s rate of learning and adoption of your change management strategy.Active resistance involves organizing others, refusing to participate in a change program or activity, and even sabotage or other serious efforts to malign the strategy.Active resistance must be confronted quickly. Acknowledge individual (or group) right to their opinions and concerns. Then define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and hold people to them.Your goal here is not to win people over, or even to bully them over. It is only to correct the behavior. If you can do that, you’ve gotten your active resistance to the same level as your passive resistance, and you can go on with addressing both. If people or groups won’t discontinue unacceptable behavior, you must find a way to separate them from your change program, to the point where they have no role or influence.Addressing Acceptable ResistanceNow that you’re at the point where you don’t have a behavior problem, you still need to get people past their concerns.Allow time for grievances. Listen to them. Try to find something you can actually address, since many times people will feel better just knowing that something they said was acted upon.If you’ve really been listening, the group will know that and they will likely be appreciative and jump on board. A few may opt out, but since you already handled the really violent objections earlier, this should not be traumatic.Client Resistance

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Any time you introduce client impacting change, you’re going to see the guard go up. Their first question is the always popular WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) and if you have a great answer to that one you can probably win them over quickly.Even with an answer, and especially without one, you can expect to have to do a lot of hand holding. You may need to repeatedly address what is changing and why. You’ll need to show that you have contingency plans so that there will be no disruption if things go wrong.Be honest with your client. If a non-disruptive contingency plan is not possible, tell them how you’ll minimize their risks.Consider offering incentives to clients for supporting the change management strategy. If they are going to incur costs to monitor systems while you’re making changes, help them recover those costs. Show them that you have their interests at heart.