Introduction to people in the change processes
I’ve heard the phrase «this is all about people» a thousand times, but do we really understand what that means and implies?
People who lead teams where relevant changes are implemented or those who have experienced relevant personal change processes, we know that neither the most modern technology, nor the best methodology or strategy in the world change anything if it is not accompanied by a change of mindset in people.
People do not resist what we perceive that will bring us benefits (Would anyone reject a present of 1 million euros?), but obviously we will resist if we perceive danger or risk of loss or worsening of our situation or status.
We are going to analyze a little more in this article the considerations that we must take into account to reduce resistance and at the same time, increase the probability of success of the change process.
What do experts say about Resistance to Change?
John Kotter, an expert in change processes, identifies 4 reasons for resistance to change that could occur one or several at a time:
1.- Personal interest. Perception of individual or group threat, for the job, remuneration, personal interests, etc.
2.- Inertia or low tolerance to changes. This is a more cultural element that can appear above all, when things are going well, why change if things go well?
3.- Different assessment of the situation. This resistance appears when there is a disagreement between the promoters of change and those affected by change. At this point the difference is that everyone believes that change is necessary, but they disagree on how to implement it.
4.- Lack of information or misunderstandings. This resistance appears when people do not have enough information to assess the change, or the information they have received does not allow them to understand the true value of the change. This reason is usually related to the lack of effective communication, especially from managers to employees.
Faced with these causes of resistance, Kotter proposes 6 methods to counteract them:
1.- Training and communication: The most important thing is to explain to those affected by the change, why it is needed, who will be impacted and implications for people. Early and honest communication is very important, but continuous during the process of change, not just at the beginning.
2.- Participation and involvement: Ensuring that all those affected by the change are part of it, getting involved in it. The issue here is to maintain a balance
between involvement and avoiding delays and blockages.
3.- Facilitation and support: Through training, coaching, mentoring or simply listening to people’s concerns. The more resistance, the more facilitation will be needed.
4.-Co-option and Manipulation: Manipulation may seem unethical, but if other methods fail it could be an option, providing only part of the information to those impacted. Another option is to involve those who could generate more resistance, as part of the change (co-option).
5.- Negotiation with incentives: Both profit incentives after the implementation of the change or incentives to leave the organization.
6.-Coercion: It is the last resort for the damage to the trust that is generated, but if there is no other resource it is to explain the consequences of not accepting the change.
Another look at change resistance
All people have needs and desires. If the changes to which organizations are subjected cause people to perceive that their needs or desires are in danger, it will automatically lead us to resistance to change and failure of it.
Beyond the need to have a job with an adequate economic remuneration, there are other needs that we have, sometimes we are aware of or maybe not. To be aware of these people needs is key to keep in mind when we start a process of change.
Feeling that we are in a safe environment
As we have seen in other articles, changes usually produce worry, fear, stress and anxiety, among many other more or less intense emotions, and moret if the changes are imposed and not co-created.
We do not know if our job will continue to exist, if there will be changes in remuneration, how the change will affect us, if we will lose some of our privileges, if we will continue working on the same team, environment, locality, remote, etc.
In general, any element that for us is related to feeling safe that could be put at risk, will automatically cause us to generate, even unintentionally, resistance to change.
We are social beings who belong to a group, and we need to be able to trust the people who guide us. Lack of trust in the people who lead change processes is a key element of resistance to change.
The credibility of the people at the forefront of change is fundamental, if they are people who are not trusted, no one will believe them. Even if it seems good what they say, we will think that they are deceiving us.
People who do not have credibility and generate distrust are not good candidates to lead changes in the organization.
Self-esteem or Being up to the task
Another very important need is to maintain our level of self-esteem, to be sure that our talent and skills are still necessary and add value.
Even if we only lower a pint our level of self-esteem by a mere perception of not being up to the task, this can generate a tremendous disconfort and resistance.
Growth or Profit
Everyone, even if we have lost that restlessness and curiosity about the future of life (you just have to look at the curiosity of the young children that we also were), we need to learn, grow, advance, experience new things, see the benefits of new perspectives.
We need to visualize how the coming change is going to mean growth or a benefit for us, because otherwise, we will not see any value and we will generate resistance or apathy.
Although there is much written about well-being and it has many dimensions, in the field of change processes I always associate it as a priority with physical, mental and emotional well-being.
We need to eat well, sleep well, exercise, be serene, present, conscious, with an awake, creative and receptive mind.
If our well-being is altered by fear, stress, anxiety, etc., we will begin to sleep worse, to be more tired, to eat more sugars because we need energy that we do not get with restful sleep or nutrient-rich foods, it will cost us more to concentrate, see the positive side of what we live, etc.
It is essential to maintain or improve our level of well-being when we are in a process of change.
Need for control
In different degrees, we are all in our comfort zone when we have things under control, if that control over people, decisions or tasks we see that are put in risk with the process of change, uncertainty will immediately appear, at the same time that anxiety and resistance to change.
Need for power
Although these paradigms already seem more than the last century, they are still deeply rooted in intermediate and senior management positions in many organizations. If with the process of change I perceive that my position of power may be threatened, I will automatically move on to attack and resistance.
Strategy in the face of resistance to change
The key elements that we have to work on from day one are:
It is key to communicate the reason for the change (and its connection with the purpose, vision and mission of the organization), what will be done, how it will be done and who will be involved and impacted.
Communication and dialogue must be continuous and open, with a special focus on the groups impacted by change.
Each people impacted must understand how the change affects them and resolve all their doubts and concerns, as well as collect their feedback as an important part of the communication process that is always bi-directional.
2.- Co-creation of change: Beyond involvement and feedback, there is co-creation. And it is that asking for an opinion is very good, but «being part of» is even better, not only makes us feel part of the change, but be creators of it.
3.- Facilitation: Individual or group to allow the change to flow without delays or blockages. Helping people and teams manage the process in the most positive way possible.
4.- Leadership: A new paradigm of honest, inspiring, trusted and people-focused leadership is essential for change to be successful.
A true leader inspires, generates trust and acts as a vehicle of communication and cohesion, there is no more powerful tool than true leadership in a change process.