In every organization I managed change so far, the business case for change was rapidly made. The decision makers than base their decision on the benefits towards the cost without further ado. From that moment a monster of resistance is set free. Sources of resistance can become infections and the whole process become obstructed.
Everybody who finds himself stuck in a process of change that went sour, wonders what they could have done different at the start. Let’s look at the start of a change process with a focus on potential resistance.
- First of all there is a big difference between identifying the cost of change and mapping resistance. Resistance will cost time and will delay the ROI of the change. It is therefore fair to say that resistance is the variable costs of change. Because of its complexity, it is not frequently brought in the equation of the change business case.
- Mapping the resistance is not possible, mapping its potential is. This is done by valuing the status quo of teams and departments and the position (or distance) they have in the core processes the change will interfere with. For each team or department you score the potential damage that full resistance will cause.
- Resistance will grow or fade away, often under the influence of involvement. Clever communication around change creates a pseudo-involvement that keeps many on-board. Effective communication tools are often used before and during change are brainstorms and workshops. Involvement differs from influence. Workshops used for influence are geared for informed decision making, and brainstorms used for influence are geared for first drafts of action plans. Workshops and brainstorms can be very effective involvers. In many cases where organizations organized sufficient workshops and brainstorms for people to get involved, the level of resistance was considerable lower.
- Recently we started to apply social media as communication tool to make the process of involvement more continues. Blogging, micro-blogging (Yammer etc.), interactive newsletters, video-casts, dedicated Facebook sites etc. have all been applied with great success. Still the real life meetings like workshops are necessary, but the frequency can be reduced dramatically. The results are that due to a near permanent involvement and opportunity to react and reflect, resistance could be dealt with in most instances.
Still resistance to change will be an important part of any managers change project, but at least the tools are proven and should be applied.