Transformational Change is Here: are You and Your Organization Ready?

By: | May 2, 2017

The process of change in an organization or community can be chaotic. The failure of most conceived and executed change agendas are due to leadership’s failure to support and lead employees through the change process. Leaders often underestimate and are ill-prepared for stiff resistance from employees and stakeholders who believe that the articulated change is not in the best interests of the organization.

Though the vision for change may seem clear at the beginning, getting there can be messy due to conflicting agendas and lack of buy-in at various levels of the organization. Transformational change requires advanced “people and process” skills, resilience and consistency.

This blog will help you recognize where you and your organization’s stakeholders are if you are undergoing change, and it will also provide strategies that will help you deal with the ramifications of resistance to change.

Furthermore, there are three kinds of employee mindsets you may recognize as your organizational roles change. Each requires a slightly different leadership response.

Oppose and resist

Those who oppose and resist transformational change may request a reassignment, retire early and leave the organization or seclude themselves to their desk but remain on the job. More assertive ways to resist change include expressing dissatisfaction with the change at every opportunity, undermining or sabotaging the change directly or indirectly, and speaking negatively about the leaders and initiatives that are part of the change.

Lip service

Lip service is a reaction where superficial praise or approval is given to changes that are being implemented but that approval is not sincere. For example, an employee may say he thinks the new system for invoicing is a smart idea but in actuality, he finds it annoying or confusing. Often the can occur when middle management is overwhelmed and resistant to change that’s being implemented and may respond with some version of paying lip service during the process. When these conditions of insecurity in middle management exist, it can be a valuable warning that the organization is not ready to implement changes.

Employees who resist change can choose a safer alternative than vocal opposition. They can serve as a passive in-out box, transmitting the required information they are given, but providing minimal guidance, motivation or support to colleagues or staff.

When paying lip service, employees will obey written orders, but they will not be proactive and will most certainly not go above and beyond what is minimally required. In this mindset, employees say things like “it’s not my problem” or “this too shall pass, but they do not actively resist.

Early adopters

Some employees can become early adopters of the change. They could be motivated because they sincerely believe in the new direction or they are making a political calculation that the ship has sailed and they want to be on board.

The danger of unbridled support is that sometimes these early adopter employees try to use this an opportunity to settle old scores. There are certainly cases where their gung-ho attitude can become a smokescreen for overruling and minimizing employees who are having a hard time with the transition. Early adopters can also overlook the confusion and stress that other employees may be feeling during times of change and minimize or deny aspects of their own work history or past office dynamics under the guise of focusing on being positive and adopting the new changes.

Ideally, you want your managers to serve as advocates, coaches and role models for the change and encourage a reasonable and consistent effort by all employees to adapt.

The big question becomes, how can you get your organization ready to adapt to change and remain productive during the transition itself?

Reduce fear of the unknown

Most employees resist change because they fear the unknown consequences it may bring. Your team members or employees must be knowledgeable about the direction and impact of the change in order to resolve this kind of fear-based concerns from employees. Don’t surprise them. Prepare them.

Develop an effective plan

Creating a sense of urgency among your colleagues during a transformation does not make change materialize more quickly or fully. Change agendas fail in most organizations because there has been insufficient and ineffective planning before they are rolled out. Plan strategically, set goals and timelines that are realistic considering your available resources. Also, be well aware of the overall mindset of your workforce and the readiness of the entire organization to embrace change

Engage and convince your stakeholders

Plan the right strategies to increase stakeholder investment and help them become inspired by this new vision for the entire organization. Employees must buy into the vision so their mindset can shift towards achieving desirable results for the organization.

Anticipate resistance

Understand and expect that some people’s reactions will be negative to your agenda. It’s simply an inevitability. Go into times of change with a mindset that is more than ready to listen to reasonable concerns but that is not reflexively reactive, defensive or over-concerned about any criticism that arises. In many cases, there will be internal wrangling, confrontations, write-ups, protests and counter-protests as resistance to the change agenda. Try to turn your resistors into bellwethers, to better understand their mentality. Learn from resistors, don’t shut them out of the process entirely because along the way you may win a few over and build momentum and credibility among staff regarding the proposed changes.

Build trust

If stakeholders trust in the intentions of management to implement change, resistance will be minimal. To build trust, however, you must be transparent and clear in your activities and statements as changes are planned and rolled out.

Pay attention to the politics of the organization

There are so many sentiments that can cause resistance to change in any organization. Therefore, management should understand the organizational politics and initiate ways to address it strategically.

Be determined with focus and energy

Implementing a change initiative is always a difficult challenge but determination, focus, and skill will lead to desirable results.