Photo of a conference room. Eyeglasses, a tablet computer, and notes are on the table in the foreground, two business professionals are deliberately out of focus in the background

By Charmaine Smith

Managing large-scale technology transformation is fast-paced, exciting, and truly challenging. As consultants, we are asked to discover underlying organizational problems and develop and implement tailored solutions that solve those problems and improve business practices. However, the biggest obstacle in the work we do isn’t conducting research and analysis, or devising complex solutions. The biggest challenge is often overcoming resistance to change.

Before we can develop an approach to managing resistance, we have to first understand the reasons people resist change.

Understanding Resistance

Illustration of a tug of war with people in business clothesWhile most organizations wish resistance would never occur, it is important to understand that resistance is a natural emotional reaction for coping with change, and is a necessary part of the learning process. Oftentimes, feelings of resistance must be expressed before a person can truly and genuinely accept the solutions being proposed and implemented. Understanding why individuals are resisting change allows organizations to better develop an effective approach to overcoming that resistance.

Why People Resist Change

The implementation of technology solutions can bring about a great deal of uncertainty and is frequently overwhelming to those being directly impacted by the change. While most resisters simply prefer the status quo over adopting something new, some will resist for political or self-serving purposes. Most people, however, resist change for logical reasons, including:

  • Lack of understanding for why the change is occurring
  • Lack of understanding for how the change will benefit the current state of the organization
  • Having a negative experience in a past change effort
  • Having no involvement in the development of the changes
  • Lack of leadership support
  • Lack of resources
  • Having an increase in workload
  • Fear of the unknown

Recognizing Resistance

Resistance should not come as a surprise. In fact, it should be expected. Being reactive to resistance when it occurs will limit your effectiveness in overcoming it, and may even hinder your efforts long term. It is important to recognize when resistance is occurring and identify the root cause.

In order to recognize when resistance is occurring, you have to listen to what stakeholders are saying. Dedicate time to assess all potential sources of resistance before a project launches and segment potential resistors by the behaviors they may have toward the change. These groups may include employees who advocate for different solutions or employees who were involved in the implementation of the current solution. Create a safe space for them to voice their fears, concerns, and frustrations. Conduct focus groups, forums, and anonymous surveys.

Recognizing resistance when it occurs and determining its root cause will better assist in developing strategies to mitigate and overcome resistance.

Overcoming Resistance

Taking a proactive approach to managing change paves the way for successfully combating resistance.

The key is to give people greater incentives for making the change succeed. Activities to consider when developing an approach for managing resistance include:

  • Communicating persuasive reasons for change supported by relevant data
  • Appointing change champions who are adept and respected within the organization
  • Involving key stakeholders and critical partners
  • Listening to and addressing the concerns of people being affected by the change
  • Making the incentive for change greater than the incentive to continue with the status quo
  • Educating and preparing people for the change before it comes
  • Taking advantage of opportunities to gain confidence

At DAI Solutions, we understand that the people within an organization drive change. For this reason, it is just as important to manage resistance during change planning efforts as it is to manage the change implementation itself.