Before I begin the finer points of the resistance management plan I am going to propose, let me first point out something about change management that is often an issue. Resistance is one of the bigger hurdles that a change manager has to deal with most of the time, but that does not mean, necessarily, that charging headlong against resistance first and foremost is the proper solution overall.
The Lewin change model proposes just such an approach, and this is one of the reasons (along with it being overly simplified and outdated) that it has been deprecated in most civilized circles.
This doesn’t mean that a good Resistance management plan isn’t called for, but it does mean building that plan around something beyond strict brute force, at least partly. But, that said, you do need a plan for dealing with detractors and dissenters when affecting change in an organization, and this is one of the bigger stumbling points that most struggle with. So, I’m going to propose a fairly simple and organic way to handle resistance without resorting to Lewin-esque brute forcing.
#1 – Build a Case and Present Benefits
The first thing to do is, before you even identify who the dissenters are in the group, that you hold a powwow with everyone, and show them your case for change. If you have a change model set up, then you have a case clearly defined.
Explain to them what issues are present that this change seeks to remedy, and show them the benefits of remedying these issues. Show them that it not only makes things better for the organization, but for them in their daily processes within the organization. While change may be frightening, and being shaken from one’s well-worn routine may be inconvenient … issues they deal with grudgingly that may now be eliminated will sell most of them on the idea from the start.
#2 – Sequential Reveals
Ok, this is one that my colleagues argue with me over, but to heck with them, right? Sequential reveals basically mean that you, on a frequent basis (probably per smaller cycle in your change model), you show everyone the positive results of change that’s been put into motion.
The idea here is to reinforce and cement the case made in the initial step, where you promised everyone the change had a good reason and would bring about a less stressful experience in daily processes for everyone. By showing them that they’re dealing with less crap, and that things are genuinely working better, then the stresses they are coping with in adopting new things will seem justified. You just need to stay on this part, of showing them how real the positives are.
#3 – Positive Reinforcement
When milestones are met with individuals and with groups in the organization, as far as achieving change (these milestones being up to your change model), it’s important to reward the hard work and bravery of everyone. This will incentivize those still resistant to change, if the promise of eliminated nuisances in the first two points haven’t. It will also promote continued cooperation from those no longer dissenting.
#4 – A Final Point About Communication
In closing, any good resistance management plan stands to benefit from maintaining close, personal communication with the individuals involved. Make sure they understand you may be approached casually, with any issues, complaints or even suggestions they have. Even if you can’t act on their suggestions or requests, you can learn a lot about who’s still resisting, and why, from this parlay. Don’t underestimate the power of this.