Change Resistance: How do you know unless you look?
If you’re dealing with change at work, you may have noticed how resistant people can be and how difficult it can be to deliver changes at the required pace. Typical symptoms include painfully long meetings, lengthy email exchanges, slow decision making, conflict, missed deadlines and status reports reporting green till it’s too late. And if you’re responsible for making change happen I’m sure you’ll have noticed how often problems float upwards, ending up on your desk.
Change resistance can take many different forms, some of which can be hard to spot, especially when the pressure is on. The impact, however, is very evident: slow and expensive change pace and outcomes that fall well short of expectations. It comes from a lack of emotional engagement from those involved compared to their other priorities, so the key to accelerating it lies in that direction.
The good news is that it’s normally easier to address than most people think. The bad news is that in most change situations the feelings and attitudes of the people involved are not measured. Things like progress and burn rates are measured instead because they are perceived to be more tangible and they fit the standard corporate model for budgeting and top down command and control. And yet these measures miss the point completely; they are consequential, rather than causal.
Focus on measuring the level of engagement
Real success comes from engagement. Real success is defined by how those involved actually feel about the changes they are being asked to make. The huge body of research points there, countless case studies from successful companies confirm it, even our own instinct tells us. Give people a reason and they will go there willingly. Give them an even better one and they will go there faster. It really isn’t rocket science. If the reason to change is greater than the reasons not to, change will happen. But this is an emotional process first and foremost.
Companies like WL Gore, Google, Microsoft, Spotify and many others are already innovating faster. They understand how to switch on that creativity that’s innate in all of us, yet often stifled in a business context. They get people engaged.
Our priority is to help more businesses and more change initiatives to succeed by ensuring those they need to influence are fully engaged. And that starts with measuring the feelings and emotions of those involved.
Our own change readiness survey is specifically designed to test the level of engagement by asking carefully crafted questions. The responses are weighted in importance to deliver critical insights and offer targeted interventions that are proven to deliver results quickly. We can then test at regular intervals to ensure that the interventions are working as expected. Whether you use our version or create your own, make it a priority to measure how those involved in your changes are feeling about it, and keep measuring as you go.
If you’d like to know more about softening change resistance, accelerating the pace of change or if you know of someone else who could benefit then let’s start a conversation using the details below.
Mark has over 25 years’ experience of fast paced transformational change, often in highly complex and political situations. He co-founded Applied Change 10 years ago with a clear purpose to push the thinking on human behaviour and human centred change. Most recently he’s been working closely with University of the West of England (UWE) Psychological Sciences Research Group to develop simple, practical models and tools that re-orientate our approach to business change, starting from the human perspective.