Implementing Change-Overcoming the Resistance

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Have you ever been asked “you aren’t going to change everything are you?” as you start a new leadership role? You will encounter resistance to change as a leader yet you will need to be a Change Catalyst if you are going to help your organization achieve its goals and reach your potential. We explored how to successfully implement change while facing resistance in Friday’s post, Implementing Change, Part 1. Implementing Change lists 8 steps to properly making changes in the workplace. This is part 2 of a series of posts that will explore how to get your team on board. Today we will discuss the reasons why people raise concerns about the change and how you can help your team get past their fears and concerns.

Overcoming resistance to change is listed 5th of the 8 steps but in reality is a skill that is needed throughout the entire change process which is why we’ll discuss it first. You will need to demonstrate your personal committment to the change to effectively drive change in your organization. You can help by encouraging the team to focus on what they can influence. You will also help your team by discussing the long-term benefits to the team and the company.

You are likely to encounter issues and concerns as you discuss the pending change. Not every concern that is raised about the change is intended as resistance to change. Quite often, the concerns are raised by a member of the team that is sincerely concerned and wants to make the change successful. This team member is on board with making your company better and is bringing forth a concern that needs to be addressed if the change is to be successful. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that they are just stonewalling and resisting the change. If you do, you lose the opportunity to benefit from their experience and will alienate members of the team. Instead, embrace their insight and work with the team to find solution to the concern. This will strengthen your team as you listen to and work with them to resolve issues. It will also make the change implementation go smoothly since you proactively resolve these potential problems.

While you will find many of the concerns to be valid, other concerns will only be perceived issues. The difference is that these concerns are unfounded either due to a lack of understanding or because you have already addressed the issue. Either way, you as their leader need to take the time to discuss the concerns. Seek first to understand, then to explain. If you fail to address these concerns, you could lose some members of your team that become disillusioned because you are not listening to what they perceive to be valid concerns. The other problem with discounting these issues too quickly is that you could be wrong and your team’s concern could be valid. In this case, you need to work with the team to resolve the issue and not ignore it.

In addition to the legitimate concerns, either real or perceived, are some truly bogus issues raised in an effort to resist the change. While in my experience most concerns are legitimate, there are certainly people working in factories today that will raise bogus issues for a variety of reasons. Some are afraid of change because they are unsure of what the change will bring. Others are defensive because they think that need for change implies they are not doing their job well. There are a wide variety of reasons why your team may raise bogus issues but your reaction needs to be the same. Once again, seek to understand. Should there be any truth to the issue raised, you will need to resolve it. You will still need to discuss the issue with the team to keep them on board, even if it is a false claim.

Listening to your team will have several benefits. They will want to know that you are listening to them and taking their concerns seriously. Your listening and including the team in the process will increase their sense of understanding and ownership. It will also increase their trust for you and will keep them engaged. Their support which will be critical to your success.

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As a follow up note, I found a great blog post with tips on helping your team deal with change.  Check it out on A Lean Journey

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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7 Responses to Implementing Change-Overcoming the Resistance

  1. Pingback: Lean Tweets/Links of the Week 19.07.10 | The Lean Thinker's Blog

  2. Thanks, Jamie. That’s a great compliment coming from someone with your Lean experience!

  3. Jason Curlee says:

    once again great post Christian…curious if you have read “Switch” yet by the Heath brothers?

  4. Reno Lovison says:

    Fear of change is often overlooked as a stumbling block to improvement. Reduce people’s fear and change becomes easier. Also people will support what they help to create. You have touched on this and more. Nice post.

    • Thanks for the comments. You are absolutely correct about people’s fear of change. Open and honest communication can do much to overcome the fear by shedding light on the unknown.

  5. Thanigaivel says:

    I have taken couple of points from your essay which I will implement. I always remember and tell my team members, when you are seeking solution for a problem, you must first define the problem clearly. And it goes with your essay.

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