Change is good if understood

| March 8, 2012

Part 1: “My life is doomed!” – understand your audiences’  issues

Yes, change related to your business is inevitable. Resistance to that change from employees is just as certain. Sure, we are logical human beings and see the practical benefits of change. Yet we are also emotional beings and our thoughts might go like this:

  • If the company is cost cutting: “I understand how cutting my staff will save money and help the company … but what about my ability get things done on time, look good, and go home?”
  • If the company is doing a new IT implementation: “I understand new systems will save me time … but will I be able to learn it well enough, will my techie junior colleagues outshine me?“
  • If there is leadership change: “I understand re-organizing departments will make things more efficient … but who will I now need to impress, do they really know what we do, are they good people and will I like them?”

WIFM FACTOR = Questions asked when benefits  of a new method are not obvious
Simply said, the bottom-line for employees is “What’s In It For Me?” How is their life going to benefit, be threatened or made more difficult by this change?

A deep understanding of the professional as well as personal concerns of everyone who will be impacted by the upcoming change is critical.

In consulting we call this a Stakeholder Analysis. It’ll help you prepare for the reactions to your change, the most common I have come across are: 

  • The change process is being handled poorly by management.
  • There really isn’t a need for this change.
  • This change is going to make it harder for me to meet my needs.
  • I am not sure I have the ability to make the change.
  • This change will fail.
  • The risks to changing seem to outweigh the benefits.
  • This change does not fit with my value system.
  • I can’t trust those responsible for the change. I am vulnerable.

Remember that what Maryanne in accounting is feeling will likely be different to Ravi in Sales, Graham in engineering, Li in Operations, Ginny in Marketing and Busi as executive assistant to the CEO.

You’ll be amazed at how creative people can be in building anguish and worry in their own minds… and sharing it with anyone who will listen. Imagine the potential chaos!

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
       – Carl W. Buechner

Take the time to understand the unique thoughts that might drive resistance to upcoming change in your business. Then, make your people feel heard and understood, help them learn to see the need for change, the urgency of why now, acknowledge there will be challenges along the way, yet help them visualize how their own lives will be better when the changes are in place – and address their fears.

What was your most surprising resistance to change from an employee?

Look out for future “Change Communications” blog posts that will cover:

PART 2: “The journey to BFF” – the phases to drive buy-in for change
PART 3: “Making spaghetti stick” – critical principles for effective change communications


Category: Culture, Leadership, Operational Excellence, Strategy

About Jacqui Buchanan: View author profile.

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