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Change Resistance is a Myth!

by Elise Olding  |  April 9, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Yes, that’s right! I believe change resistance is a myth. It’s an easy way for those leading change to blame the organization for not changing. I’m going to suggest that as a change agent, the buck stops with you. To be effective with “Big Change” you will need to be adept at influencing change and make this #BPMshift. If your organization isn’t changing – examine your tactics.

If you gave someone in your organization 10 years of salary, do you think they would change? When an employee gets married, has a baby or moves – do they change? Of course they do! We are confronted with changes all the time, and regularly adapt to embrace them. Research points to neuroplasticity well into our adult years. As human beings we are built for change and will change!

I’d like to assert that “change resistance” is the by-product of two things:

  • A lack of choice
  • A fear of the unknown

People aren’t resistant to change, they are afraid of the unknown and not having a choice. Play with these two levers in your organizational change activities and you can begin to crack the change code.

Choice:  In the examples above – getting married, moving, etc., these events involved some element of choice. (Well hopefully!) The individual is an active participant and makes choices about how things are done and when. Create points of engagement and inject the opportunity for those involved in the change to have input about how things will get done.

Fear of the Unknown: We fear what we don’t understand. It feels “safer” to stay in a place that is uncomfortable, than to move towards an unknown state. Increasing the certainty of what the end-state looks like can decrease this fear. It’s not necessary to get into all the details, but frame the journey from where people are today to where they will be tomorrow. Tell a story about what tomorrow will “feel” like as an employee.

Some Ways to Start

Do a Pilot: Rather than a big bang change, start small by doing a pilot. Initiate the pilot in an outlying group – outside of corporate or in another country. Once you have some successes, share these. The success stories can help to increase certainty that this change can really happen.

Make Participation Optional:
Don’t mandate change, invite employees to participate. This gives them a choice. Leverage the early adopters to “encourage” the laggards to get on board. Peer pressure is very persuasive as is competition – particularly in the ranks of business leaders. Use these liberally.

Paint a Picture of the Future:
Create a story about what work life will be like in the future. What will be the “employee experience” – that is, how will it feel to come to work, to accomplish outcomes, etc.?

What Changes from Today:
Create a “From/To” diagram. What are the five defining attributes of how things works today and what are five defining attributes of how they will work in the future. This helps frame the change journey, again giving more certainty about the future. It also gives enables employees to assess where they are in relation to each change pair and create an action plan for them to make the changes.

These are just a few of my ideas and future research will cover some of these topics in more detail. What are your tactics? What #BPMshift will be needed to enable our organizations to deal with the increased pace of change? Please share!

Follow me on Twitter @eliseolding

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Category: bpm-strategic-planning  employee-engagement  gartner  organizational-change  

Tags: bpmshift  big-change  bpm  gartner  

Elise Olding
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a Research Director covering the complex challenges of organizational change and business transformation from a people perspective. Her areas of focus include organizational change, communications strategies and emerging trends in employee engagement from a hands-on practitioner view. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on best practices to achieve sustainable change and business transformation. She is a member of Gartner's Business Process and Transformation team. Read Full Bio

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