Overcoming Barriers to Change to Avoid Getting Lost in Transformation

Lionel Grealou Strategy 1 Comment


Digital transformation is the new constant, no doubt about it: everyone talks about it, everyone recognizes the need to gain or retain competitive advantage, everyone wants to leverage value from new technologies, new requirements, new processes, new skills, everyone wants change… but not everyone wants to embrace change or even be the change.

Broadly speaking, resistance to change in the workplace occurs because most often employees do not have a choice or do not feel involved. This triggers a sense of lost control and uncertainty.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

It is critical for business change leaders and change agents to listen to their user base (end customers), understand the current pain points, demonstrate genuine concerns, find solutions within a given scope, communicate about the change, be positive about it, educate and prepare everyone for it.

Implementing new digital platforms require focus on successful and realistic outcomes. It requires honest and straight forward expectation setting, starting from what will actually be achieved with the new solution, new tools and / or new process. Change leaders need to clearly define the scope for change, communicate about it, set the right expectations about the art-of-the-possible. They must quickly narrow it down to the relevant use cases and story boards – including non-functional requirements and plans for negative testing. End users might be resisting to change, often as they focus on what can go wrong rather than what can be gained.

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.

Henry Ford

Many things can go in the way of successful change. While resistance to change is usually emotional or political rather than logical, it can be helpful to use some hard facts as a supplementary strategy. Effective business change management is all about understanding what underlies resistance to change, and cover all implementation basis across the following 10 principles:

  1. Tell a compelling change story and keep it simple: are everyone aware of the change and do they understand the rationale?
  2. Understand the working culture: how do team and leaders operate and behave?
  3. Be positive and confident about the change: how is success defined and how will it be managed?
  4. Change mindset at all levels: assess how every functions will be affected by the change and how they perceive the impact of the change?
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions too early… where possible, experience the new solution, before deciding to commit on the change: what must be demonstrated and made available at the beginning of the change initiative?
  6. Drive the change inside-out by involving key users in designing the change: who are the supporters and detractors and how should they be managed?
  7. Define a robust plan of action to avoid focusing on the wrong things: what are the key building blocks, how do they relate, what is the rationale and who is expected to do what, who needs to be involved in defining and updating the plan?
  8. Use relevant data to experiment in a transparency manner: what data is required to support each use cases and how will data be migrated?
  9. Be open to feedback and changing course: what adjustments are required along the journey?
  10. Avoid unwanted “consulting” jargon: how to communicate effectively, how to avoid an identity crisis by only focussing on what is important?

Change is not only about end users, but also their team leads and senior management. It should not be underestimated as it implies the need for business engagement at all levels of the organization.

Resistance to change is not inherently negative, as it can keep everyone honest about the change, why and how it needs to be implemented. It is important to focus on both supporters and detractors. This contributes to maintaining effective communication, engagement, education and support expectations.

People who help to plan the battle rarely battle the plan.

There is often an aspiration to convert detractors into supporters, or at least to manage them effectively to reduce potential disruption and negative influence to others. While dealing with people’s concerns about change may seem like a lot of hand-holding, it’s important for leaders to remember that they too had to process information and personal concerns before they were ready to discuss impact and implementation.

What are your thoughts?


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