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Shipper Symposium Breakout: Demystifying Resistance to Change

Posted - August 3, 2017

At Transplace’s 15th Annual Shipper Symposium, change management expert Marcelino Sánchez shared some excellent insight into cultural inertia, organizational gravity and strategies for effective implementation and sustainable change. He asked a number of critical questions for today’s organizations that are trying to implement change, including: What’s wrong with the current paradigm? What can we do about it to implement and sustain effective change? For Transplace, that question also extends to: how can we help our customers integrate change into their organization? Here are some of the key points Sánchez shared with the audience.

According to a study by Towers Watson, most change fails to deliver the expected results. In fact, only 55% of change is initially successful, and only 25% is successful in the long run. However, failure is not inevitable. One of the first things we can do is realize that “resistance” is most often a label we use to blame others for our inability to influence their behavior. It is fundamental physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and we can apply this when understanding resistance to organizational change.

“People resist change” is a common but inaccurate axiom in project implementation that often results in responses that elicit the very resistance we try to minimize. Change really is all about people, so when it comes to implementing change in an organization, it’s important to look at ourselves and how we are leading the change. Are we effectively communicating the “why” of change? Oftentimes, the “what” gets communicated quite easily, but we’re not communicating the “why?”, which leads to confusion, fear and resistance.

You create acceptance by removing the factors that cause fear and anxiety through clear and timely communication from sources that people can trust. This is most effectively done through early and meaningful involvement of those impacted by the change.

Disrupting the status quo also requires that people become involved early and often. Asking the right questions and encouraging open and candid conversations can challenge old assumptions and behaviors. As you change conversations across the organization, you can overcome one of the most elusive reasons for a lack of meaningful change: cultural inertia.

And if you want to truly change the behavior and mindset of your people, you also have to align the right systems within your organization to reinforce the desired alterations and behaviors that help ensure sustainable change. Keep in mind that anytime you introduce change, you can expect a drop in organizational performance – so plan for that.

Here are some other tips Sánchez shared to overcome “resistance” and implement successful change in your organization:

  • Challenge your assumptions about resistance
  • When people push back, do not blame them. They are pushing back for a reason.
  • Listen and pay attention!
  • Provide evidence for the change that will increase trust and confidence in the change
  • Involve your people in various meaningful ways

Want to know more? The video here goes more in-depth into some helpful strategies for creating an environment that is more accepting of change in your organization.

How does your organization go about implementing important change?