Great advice on managing organizational change:
But most of the time, people will embrace change – they just need to see what’s in it for them.
If you’re trying to change things, here are some tips:
- Solve a real problem. If you meet a genuine need, you don’t often find resistance to change. Well, you will, from the competitors who lose out, but that’s different. This is another kind of change that people love. When the polio vaccine was developed, people lined up to get it – even though getting a shot is no fun at all. It solved a real need.
- Turn up the purpose. Inside an organisation, change is often resisted because it is not clear how the new way of doing things will make things better. This is especially likely to happen when the organisation does not have a shared purpose.
Here is Nilofer Merchant on the importance of vision:
I see executives regularly saying that they want to “transform the business” or “win the market”, but they can’t point out an end destination. And when I ask, I usually get that, “just leave me alone” look. But here’s the deal. “Transform the business” could mean just about anything, especially to the people who weren’t in the core room where the discussion and debate happened. It leaves too much interpretation up for grabs. It is fuzzy. And fuzzy doesn’t help. Fuzzy means no one can help you do it fully because they need to keep checking in. Fuzzy doesn’t turn on the spark of creativity to generate ideas on how I can help you. Fuzzy creates a dependence, rather than allowing interdependence and action by everyone.
Her solution? Articulate a clear vision.
- Connect. You can’t meet genuine needs if you don’t understand the people that will be affected by the change. Your best strategy is to connect with them, and build that understanding.
I’m not trying to oversimplify this. Innovation is hard – if it weren’t, everyone would do it. Change is hard – if it weren’t everyone would adapt easily.
But if you’re finding that people are resisting the change that you’re proposing, that’s a very strong sign that you don’t understand what they need, and you haven’t articulated a clear vision of the future.