Insights | By Howard Tiersky
Forget about Change Management, Do This Instead
In this rapidly changing digital age, companies must transform to keep up with customer expectations if they expect to stay relevant in the marketplace. While there are many challenges to transformation, the number one barrier at large enterprises is organizational and individual resistance to change.
Traditionally, this is addressed through a process known as “change management.” But how is that working out for you? Many large enterprises struggle mightily with resistance despite implementing classic change management techniques.
Both the traditional practices and even the basic term “change management” may be inadequate for large scale transformation. After all, it's not just “change” you want, it’s transformation.
And do you really believe you can “manage” people’s emotional reactions to dramatic organizational change? No, you need to lead and inspire them.
So the first step to effective “change management” is to recognize that what you really want is something more like “Transformation Inspiration and Alignment.”
And how do you accomplish that?
Here's a 4-step framework to follow to inspire your teams to get on board with ambitious transformation.
STEP 1: INVOLVE THE ORGANIZATION IN SETTING THE DIRECTION OF THE TRANSFORMATION
People are far more welcoming of change when they have a hand in defining it.
Share the “burning platform” for change with your employees and ask for their help in further defining the details of how the company should respond to the issues it faces.
Give team members a voice what your future customer journey should be and how you can get there.
Finally, ask about what challenges they can see coming and how they think they can be overcome.
You can achieve this through workshops, surveys, interviews, suggestion boxes, or idea challenges or other means..
I provide more detailed approaches for this in my WSJ bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. Get the first chapter for FREE here, or purchase the book here.
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND THE POINTS OF RESISTANCE AND APPEAL
In a perfect world, you would involve the organization in defining the change, tell everybody why it’s great, and everyone would agree.
That’s rarely the case.
People get annoyed when old rules change and their “familiar” ways to success are shaken.
That’s why it’s important to understand the points of resistance for each department and level within the organization.
For example, a Senior Vice President and a store associate’s points of resistance could be entirely different.
What parts of the change make them feel worried, fearful, angry, cheated, ripped-off, or tricked?
Also, what parts of the change appeal to them? What makes them feel excited, encouraged, or supported?
There are many ways you can check the pulse of your organization like surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one sessions. Understanding the appeal and resistance to change can help you drive a successful transformation.
STEP 3: ADDRESS THE RESISTANCE
This is the core of transformation alignment. Once you understand the resistance you need to reduce it as much as possible.
There are three ways to address each area of resistance: eliminate it, overcome it, or accept it.
To do this you need to obliterate the reason for resistance. This works best with tangible, process or policy-level reasons.
For example, your sales team could be against the transformation because they are concerned that customers ordering online would reduce their commission. If you can, assuring them that they will continue to receive commissions for online orders can potentially eliminate that resistance. You may be able to do even better than eliminating it, in fact getting them excited about it, by highlighting ways the transformation could lead them to even more sales and commissions.
Another example of resistance that can probably be eliminated would be employees who will need to learn a new system (such as a call center CRM tool) and who fear that it will be implemented rapidly and without adequate training. By communicating a reasonable plan for training and a gradual rollout schedule, you significantly reduce that type of resistance.
Of course, key to using these methods is first being clear on what the actual resistance is, and not all points of resistance can be eliminated in this way.
Overcome the resistance
While Eliminating a point of resistance is taking away it’s validity, overcoming resistance is for concerns that cannot be completely removed, but can be conquered through a combination of reducing fear and emphasizing the positive opportunity of the transformation.
For example employees may be concerned that the increase in orders from a digital platform could overwhelm the warehouse and cause them to have an unreasonable workload. Since this in fact could happen (in fact it would be a good problem to have), you cannot totally eliminate this resistance by showing them how this will not happen. But you can reduce their fear of this type of surge by sharing plans to hire temporary staff or to add a third shift. Furthermore, if such a surge will create the opportunity for overtime and make it more likely the team will hit their bonus thresholds, you can create a positive outcome of the change that will help “overcome” the resistance.
Accept the resistance
While there are many ways to eliminate and overcome resistance, there will always be some people who won’t agree with the change and won't be on board. You may need to accept this.
There are times when those who are against the transformation could have a negative impact on the other people within the organization and all you can do is help them find a position somewhere outside of the company. Doing so can both demonstrate the company’s commitment to the change itself and also give you the opportunity to bring in new talent that is more aligned with the company’s direction.
STEP 4: EXECUTE, MEASURE AND ADJUST
Execution varies depending on what kind of resistance you are facing and what types of methods to eliminate, overcome or accept it that you’re implementing. It ranges from training programs to communications to new performance KPIs and more.
Executing these programs is not a one-time thing, but a continuous process.
Over time you will find some who were once resistant are now fully on board.
But there may also be people who don’t resist initially, but suddenly do as they get closer to the transformation.
The key here is to keep your finger on the pulse of your employees and continuously address any points of resistance that might surface.
In my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, I walk you through in more detail how I manage resistance and help our clients champion the change they are looking for within their organization. Get the first chapter for FREE here, or purchase the book here.