Implementation Insights Blog

Implementation Management Associates help organizations around the world achieve large-scale, complex change. This blog discusses our insights into organizational change.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tips for Managing Resistance to a Positive Change

Tips for Managing Resistance to a Positive Change
Actions you can take to manage resistance on your project

While our first reaction to resistance to change may be to quash it as quickly as possible, resistance is not necessarily all bad. Any change brings resistance with it, whether the change is positive or negative—so it’s unrealistic to think you will ever eliminate resistance. Resistance is inevitable, even when the change is positive and will make the lives of individuals brighter. When brought out into the open, resistance can help us surface problems, find errors, or improve on ideas. But resistance can only be managed when it is overt. If you can’t see it or hear it, you can’t manage it.
What is Resistance?
The sooner and the more we know about why people are likely to resist a particular change, the better job we can do in applying tactics to manage it. That’s the reason why IMA’s Target Readiness Assessment can be such a valuable tool in identifying, measuring and surfacing resistance. We can use this diagnostic tool to develop a data-based plan for managing resistance.
In simple terms, resistance is just an attempt for an individual to protect or defend his or her own Frame of Reference. All changes bring with them a level of disruption of the status quo. It’s tempting to think that if the change increases efficiency, simplifies operations, saves time, offers greater functionality or provides any other business process improvement (like Six Sigma-driven improvements) , the targets of the change will open their arms in warm welcome. No amount of logic, however, addresses the fundamental resistance that is part and parcel of human nature.
Resistance to a positive change can manifest itself in several forms. Individuals may remain silent, or may simply work-around the new technology or process. In its more malevolent form, resistance may take the shape of sabotage or other types of malicious activities.
Recommended Tactics
Keep in mind that resistance slows down project implementations, so if we can apply tactics for identifying, surfacing, and managing resistance, we are working to accelerate project success and Return on Investment. So it is wise to develop a strategy for managing resistance, and this is indeed one of the essential steps of the AIM methodology. If you are dealing with a positive change, here are some tactics you can apply:
  • Don’t oversell the benefits of the change. Communicate realistically that problems existed before, and this change is not a magic bullet
  • Acknowledge that there is both positive and negative data
  • Develop a problem-solving climate. Even if targets aren’t involved in the “what” of the change, have them involved in the “how”
  • Create a safe atmosphere so that you can surface the resistance. This is not a one-time event, but a continuous process
  • Build confidence by communicating progress
  • Separate the content of the resistance from the process. Even if you disagree with the content, recognize and reward the fact that resistance is being brought out into the open
As agents of change, we can help our sponsors understand that we can’t combat resistance, but we can use it to our advantage. By applying the AIM methodology, we offer specific and practical tactics that will lead to implementation success, completing projects on time, on budget, and with all technical, business, and human objectives met.
IMA’s Readiness Assessment is tool you can use to measure and pinpoint the sources of resistance on your project or initiative. For more information on how we can help you conduct a Readiness Assessment in your organization, call 800-752-9254 or 303-996-7777.

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