Who resists change the most?

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Who resists change the most?

The results are in – which group resists change the most?

In 2017, 1778 participants from 85 countries took part in Prosci’s 2017 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking study. Maria and I contributed to this 2017 study. Previously there have been 9 studies completed which forms the largest body of knowledge related to managing the people side of change.

Here is a result from this 2017 research that does not surprise me – we see it often!!!

Most resistant group

Participants in the study identified the groups/levels from within their organisation as to where the most resistance came from in relation to the change initiative.

Middle Managers were identified as the most resistant group by 43% of the participants, followed by Senior Managers at 16% and Executives and Directors at 11%.

Add them together and that’s a massive 70% of resistance coming from the middle & upwards in the organisation.

I often hear employees cop the blame for not changing! The research respondents said that 25% of resistance came from frontline employees. That’s not much at all really compared to management.

To round the numbers up, there was 6% resistance from the group entitled ’Other.’

Would this research match your experiences?

So what can we take from this research?

My take is that when you are planning to execute a project/change initiative in your organisation, it is vital that you invest considerable time and effort in dealing with potential resistance in the management ranks. If 70% of the resistance is coming from these leaders in your organisation, what chance has the change got in being executed and implemented?! Employees are likely to follow the lead of their leader.

If all levels of management don’t advocate for the change and become sponsors of the change, your project is doomed!

What action can you take?

Here are 4 key actions I suggest you utilise to ensure your change is a success:

  1. Take your time and develop a strategy of how you are going to tackle your change initiative overall. Don’t dive into action, set timelines with little consideration, send blanket emails and plough through. People need time to understand and adjust. So plan, plan, plan!
  2. Resistance comes from lack of awareness. Spend time developing communication points to share with all levels of management to engage them in the change. Provide information on:
  • Why are we changing – what is the business case?
  • Why change now?
  • Implications if we don’t change
  • For specific Managers explain what this change means for them -‘What’s in this for me’ (WIIFM)

And don’t just send this in an email and think it’s done. Return to these points in meetings and presentations. Keep the messages consistently coming.

  1. Managers need to feel they will be supported through this change. That means supported to support their people. You need to develop communication channels, support mechanisms, coaching sessions to spend time with your managers, training in skills such as coaching and resistance management. A fear of being left isolated with no support to deal with employees will drive the resistance even more – especially for middle managers. You need to reduce that fear.
  2. Spend time with individuals. Have one on one conversations with each of your managers. Listen to them and understand where they are coming from. Change happens one individual at a time. Do not use the excuse that you don’t have time to spend with each of your managers individually. Provide specific information to them and try to uncover or at least anticipate the resistance from each manager.

Organisations don’t change. People do. Change doesn’t happen overnight because we are asking individuals to change. The key is we need to get each individual across the line. Spending time doing this will save you time in the long run.

And by taking that approach, you will see change in your organisation.

To be honest, with research results like this (which many people say to me doesn’t surprise them), I really don’t get why organisations don’t spend more time and money investing in their middle managers. They are the key to the execution of any strategy in your organisation!

Love to hear your experiences on this. What’s your take?

I wish to acknowledge Prosci – Best Practices in Change Management – Prosci Benchmarking report – 2018 edition for their research.

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