Change is hard. Changing your organization is even harder - sometimes, nearly impossible. In doing the research for my new book, I discovered that a study at livescience.com revealed that nearly half of all smokers who have had surgery for early stage lung cancer go back to smoking in just a year!
So even the threat of death isn’t enough to force some people to change. And yet we all know that in today's world of disruptive, 24/7 change, responding well is critical to our success. So as you struggle with your employees, associates, bosses, and others to try to shift your organization's thinking - and before you jump out a window in frustration, it's good to have a reminder of the reasons people work so hard to resist change. Figure out which of these applies to you, and how to overcome it, and you'll be well on your way to seeing the birth of a transformed organization.
- It’s all about me. Most people are simply driven by self-interest. As a result, they view your ideas about change as an unfair imposition on their territory. Silos and walls start going up, and people want to control their turf. People have a strong desire to exert control over their immediate surroundings, and want to feel like they have a say in their own future. Like it or not, we human beings are territorial and want some sense of power. As a result, work to make it their idea. Bring them into the process early so they have a sense of ownership and feel like their determining their destiny, not just taking orders.
- The Message Gets Garbled. As in many business initiatives, misunderstandings happen, which then create a lack of trust. What people don't understand, they will resist. Just because you see why change is important, doesn't mean they will. Realize that you have knowledge they don't have, so make sure you're helping them understand all the issues and options.
- We Value Issues Differently. Different people have different opinions, and may see the cost as greater than the benefits. As a supervisor, you might not think much of where the coffee break room is located. But as a secretary, it could be very important. That's just a small example of how different issues and policies mean different things to different people. Before you announce any changes, get deep inside the organization and discover what matters to employees in different areas of the company. It may change your approach, or at the very least - what you prioritize.
- People Lack Confidence in the Decision-Making Process. Confidence in the source matters to employees. Sometimes they don't believe all the relevant info has been included in the process, or they don't trust the person in charge of implementing the change. If they're not confident that the cost is worth it, they'll fight against it. The key here is to be sure they're aware or involved in process.
Knowing WHY they're fighting change is at least half the battle. I actually consulted with an organization who hated change so much they had department-wide meetings about how to get rid of me. In spite of the fact that my changes brought in record income, higher salaries, better equipment, and even got rid of their outdated (and widely hated) dress code. Most people struggle with change, so you need to figure out where they're uncomfortable. When that happens, you can focus on what really matters - becoming the organization you were meant to be…
About the Author
Phil Cooke is a television producer and media consultant at Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California. His new book is 'Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing.'. Find out more at philcooke.com.