What To Do Instead of Fixing Change: PART ONE
Let me share with you a critical observation and solution about managing change and “fixing change” that I have worked with for many years now.
The core of change management’s approach to resistance to implementation is seriously flawed. Until now, the core effort to handle resistance to change has been treating it as something that needs to be fixed. Yet an alternate approach is being worked with, and has been getting stellar results. The historical approach of finding smart ways to fix resistance, and thereby go about “fixing change” is far less effective than the approach explained here.
To explain the challenge with resistance in change management projects, let’s say my house needs the exterior paint to be redone. My wife and I know this. I even agree it’s important and a good idea.
I return home from work and it’s still light outside. My wife meets me at the door with a brush, paint, and sandpaper. “Paul, it’s nice today; please paint the house with me.”
The Unintentional Rise of Resistance
Despite the fact that I want the house painted, this approach has resulted in me feeling a great deal of resistance. I feel pressured and overridden. Though I may do the painting work—and I may refuse—I won’t get any pleasure from it and the end result will reflect that. Perhaps I will even deliberately sabotage my wife’s plan by doing such a poor job that she will insist we hire someone next time.
Meanwhile, my wife is bursting with enthusiasm for the project. She tries to motivate me. The painting needs to be done! It’s urgent! She has the best of intentions—and I get increasingly upset: I resist!
Failed change projects are significant blocks to the execution of strategy, contributors to erosion of company morale, and causes of financial losses. Resistance to change is also far more widespread a problem than many senior executives may know. So it’s no wonder that the notion of fixing change is a powerful one in management circles. What causes resistance in change management projects?
Resistance Close To Root Cause of Change Project Failures
Resistance is frequently listed as one of many symptoms of change initiative failure; however, it is closer to the root cause of failure than the others. In fact, resistance is a result of missing a critical step early on in the change management process. By ensuring this key action is taken, I have repeatedly demonstrated resistance can be dramatically lowered or eliminated, and this results in a much-improved opportunity for the initiative’s success.
A complete lack of resistance is surprisingly not the goal. Resistance can be a useful indicator of further opportunities for improvement. The problem is in the process. Leaders of change management projects are missing a vital element in their process, and that lacking piece is turning into the resistance they experience as the project proceeds.
The Problem to Fixing Change Is Within The Process
Many change initiatives are commanded into being from the executive level. The line employees who must carry out the change do not share in the idea, and this results in considerable frustration for them, their managers, and the executives responsible for the project. Line managers are often caught in the middle, between the friction of executive directives and front line feedback. When top-down-managed firms try to bypass the fundamental law at work here, they frequently fail. Money is not an effective incentive; resistance cannot be bought off.
So what is the missing factor? Co-Creation.
Co-Creation has two steps: a creation step, and a materialization step. When we want a cup of coffee, we first imagine it. Then we take the action steps to turn that idea into reality. But without the initial idea and the imagining of it, we could not execute the actions.
In the execution of change projects, if these simple laws of the creation process are being ignored, resistance and other issues will be the result.
In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll be investigating the necessary perspective shift required for a transformation in change management, as well as the surprising “blessing in disguise” coming from resistance in change projects. Read Part 2 here.
Paul Brand is a management consultant working with global blue chip organizations such as Shell, Heineken, Sony, ABN AMRO Bank, Ahold, and EON. Evolving from an operations perspective, Paul’s focus moved into providing specific expertise on growing and nurturing the innate ability to change.
Paul leads organizations through the confusion of change management from “just another management methodology” to the understanding that change management is about the development of people. With his book, Change Your Mind, Change Your Business, Paul’s purpose is to dispel the common misunderstanding and even negativity surrounding change management, and how you can begin successfully applying it in your own environment.
For a free assessment of your own change management skill set, and more information about Paul’s book, Change Your Mind, Change Your Business, click here.