How To Overcome Resistance To Change

How To Overcome Resistance To Change

Your people have very good reasons for resisting your attempts at change. Do you know what they are? 

“Those who master change persist and persevere. They have stamina. They are flexible. They expect obstacles on the road to success and celebrate each milestone. They keep arguing for what matters. And who knows what might happen?”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

The construction industry is resistant to change.

Contrary to popular belief, however, this is not because the industry is too conservative, too male-dominated, or too old. Aside from being offensive, this reasoning is superficial, it is defeatist and it obscures the real reasons why we languish so far behind other industries in our adoption of technology and best practices. 

Here’s the truth: There are good reasons why your organization is resistant to change. Once you understand those reasons, you can change how your organization introduces, executes and assesses change. You can lead an organization that embraces change. Here are the four main reasons why your efforts at change are failing, and some proven solutions.

1| You don’t practice effective change management.

Other industries understand that change management is a unique area of expertise, informed by decades of real-world studies with a great many effective, proven best practices. Ask around at any large capital projects organization, though, and chances are you won’t find anyone with a job description that includes change management. Without anyone to guide them through periods of tectonic change, employees have bad experiences characterized by uncertainty, fear, confusion, poor morale and plummeting productivity — it’s no wonder they resist change.

Solution: Hire a change management professional to help your organization execute change.

2 | You fail to engage employees affected by change.

All meaningful change will have a direct and immediate impact on the work your team members do each day. This is true whether you’re implementing a change in technology (like a new computer program) or a change in procedure (like Advanced Work Packaging). Employees need to understand the impact of change, and they need to be engaged in articulating how their job descriptions and duties will change as a result. Change is more successful when employees buy into change and choose to adopt it of their own accord.

Solution: Don’t dictate change. Explain the change rationale, establish an understanding, and let your team be involved in the assignment of responsibilities.

3 | You don’t acknowledge that change is hard.

There is no such thing as easy change; if it’s not hard, it’s not change. Leaders need to understand and publicly acknowledge that change means more work. Change means new systems and protocols, new skills, new responsibilities, new people, and very often a new definition of success. Risks and threats are real: People can and do lose their jobs in times of transformation.

Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter established Kanter’s Law to explain how miserable and grueling the middle of change can be. “Everything looks like a failure in the middle,” she writes in the Harvard Business Review. “Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.” What’s worse, many capital project organizations don’t even make it through the “miserable middle” of change, and another abandoned project reinforces employee cynicism surrounding change initiatives.

Solution: Acknowledge that change is hard, provide support, and reward employees for hard work — especially during the miserable middle. Take them to dinner. Give them a day off. Say thank you.

4 | You train by telling, and you don’t train enough. 

Change cannot be accomplished without training. If you embark on change without training, are guaranteed to fail. Your team will not have the skills required to succeed, and worse, they will know you’re not serious about transformation. Exceptional training focuses primarily on answering the “why” question: Start by explaining why the organization is embarking on transformation, and your people will truly understand why change is necessary. They’ll be more likely to buy in and will better understand execution priorities. Don’t just stand up front with a powerpoint – engage. Most importantly, teach by doing — you cannot teach a boxer to box unless she steps in the ring; why do we think we can train people for capital projects without letting them go several rounds?

Solution: Train your people before, during and after the implementation of change. Then train them again.   

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