5 Big Change Management Obstacles – And 5 Solutions

5 Big Change Management Obstacles – And 5 Solutions
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Change management obstacles are unavoidable.

From small change programs to large organizational changes, you can expect to run into plenty of obstacles.

This is both good news and bad news…

The bad news is that change management obstacles can have bad consequences, such as:

  • Increased costs and project timelines
  • Reduced success rates
  • Project failure

The good news is that these obstacles are predictable, which means they can be:

  • Scouted out
  • Planned for
  • Prevented and avoided

With the right approach, you can mitigate risk and avoid obstacles – sometimes completely.

Below, we’ll explore 5 of the biggest change management obstacles, along with 5 solutions.

5 Change Management Obstacles – And 5 Solutions

Every organizational change is unique.

However, the challenges and obstacles to change are not unique.

Below, we’ll look at what you can do to avoid, prevent, and mitigate them.

1. Resistance from Employees

Employee resistance is one of the most common change management challenges.

It can stem from a number of factors, such as:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Preference for familiar territory
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Poor communication

Employee resistance – like the other obstacles mentioned here – can slow down your change program. Or cause it to grind to a halt.

To fix and prevent employee resistance, focus on a few key factors:

  • Clear communication – Poor communication can make employees feel alienated and besieged by change. Avoid this by creating a solid communication strategy that keeps employees in the loop.
  • Stress benefits – Employees want to know “what’s in it for me.” Stress the personal benefits of a change program, and you can expect to see improved motivation.
  • Listen to employees – Invite participation from everyone. Though you cannot always act on employee feedback, opening a dialogue will lower many barriers. It will also help employees feel included.

These steps can greatly reduce employee resistance, which is one of the biggest obstacles you could face.

2. Resistance from Middle Management

Frontline employees are the only ones who can resist change.

If a change program threatens the status quo, middle managers can also resist.

The reasons for resistance from middle management are similar to those for employee resistance:

  • They don’t understand reasons for the change
  • They feel threatened by the change initiative
  • The change seems unnecessary, threatening, or irrelevant

These problems can be handled by creating a supportive structure, instead of one that mandates change:

  • Demonstrate the value of the program, from a personal and organizational standpoint
  • Identify and recruit open-minded supporters
  • Ensure that you have top-level change leaders who own the change program

Because middle managers have more power than frontline employees, they can be more harmful to a change initiative.

Ensure that you communicate clearly and work with them every step of the way.

3. Lack of Executive Buy-In

Executive support and buy-in is another major change management obstacle.

Without that support, you’ll face a host of other obstacles.

Budgetary constraints, delays, and lack of resources are just a few problems that come with poor executive support.

Also, employees will be less likely to support your program. Without visible sponsors, employees can easily read a program as being unimportant.

Make sponsorship a priority and gain buy-in as early as possible:

  • Sell the program, by demonstrating how it will benefit an organization’s strategy
  • If possible, demonstrate how the program can benefit a specific executive or department
  • Show the downsides of not changing

Whatever you can do to make your case, do it.

Executive sponsorship can mean the difference between success and failure.

4. Poor Leadership

Good change leadership is another key success factor.

Poor leaders can debilitate programs in many ways.  

A few examples include:

Leaders who issue orders, rather than lead – and kill employee motivation in the process

  • Poor communication – which leaves staff lost and unmotivated
  • Lack of vision – without vision, a change initiative can have no direction
  • Leaders who don’t accept responsibility – a leader who blames external circumstances won’t solve conflicts or find solutions

Management is just as important as leadership.

To successfully drive change, both are required.

5. Inadequate Planning

Poor planning is another culprit for poor results.

A comprehensive, well-structured change management program:

  • Analyzes risks beforehand
  • Develops a complete roadmap for change
  • Communicates early and often
  • Trains effectively, before and after the program
  • Uses data and metrics to understand a program
  • Obtains executive sponsorship
  • Creates a strong vision and story for change
  • Employs change leaders, champions, and advocates across affected areas
  • Adapts and improves continuously

Research has shown that the less structured and sophisticated a program is, the worse its results will be.

Avoid failure by planning thoroughly – after all, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared

Conclusion

Change management obstacles should not be underestimated.

They can be very detrimental to a program’s success.

In worst case scenarios, they can cause your program to fail completely. This, in turn, would mean a significant loss of investment, confidence, and forward momentum.

By following the advice covered in this article, you should be able to mitigate risk, prevent problems, and increase your chances of success.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.