Overcoming the barriers to change

BarriersThe biggest challenge when leading any kind of transformation is in overcoming peoples’ natural resistance to change. It’s the most common barrier to business turnarounds and the single reason that so many beautifully crafted strategies go nowhere. So why do people resist change, and how can you bring them around?

No Need: People resist change when they see no genuine need or no benefit for themselves. “I don’t see the point”; “All this is doing is making my job harder”; “There’s another agenda at work here”.

To bring them on board you have to convince them that you genuinely can’t carry on as you are and that there is a better way. But beyond that, you need to recognise that in any change, some jobs will get tougher. Identify them early and ensure those people understand the rationale, and feel their issues are understood and will be addressed.

No Say: The second reason people resist is that they don’t agree with the changes as you’ve described them, or more often, the way you intend to deliver them. “We need to change but not like that”; “They’re going about this all wrong”; “It’s not my job to do this”.

To overcome it, you need to justify how the changes help achieve the organisation’s purpose, and how they will benefit its customers. And more importantly, while you can set the goal and the vision, you need to involve your people in working out how that change will be delivered.

No Faith: The final reason people resist change is that they think it will fail; that it will be just another futile initiative – a waste of time. “It just doesn’t stack up”; “There’s no way they can deliver all of this”; “It will fail, this kind of thing always does around here”.

To get them to believe, you need to sell it in personally, and with absolute conviction, explaining why this time you will succeed. You need to deliver early wins in highly visible areas, recognise those who were involved, and continually talk it up to build momentum.

Bottom Line:  If you can’t persuade people that there is a genuine need for change, involve them in how it will be delivered and convince them, through words and actions, that the change will be successful, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they will put up resistance. In their position, you’d probably do the same.

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