Resistance to change isn’t always just hard-nosed recalcitrance. Most of the time, it comes from a place of strategic concern.
Consider the questions:
- Is this really the best use of our resources considering how tight things are already?
- How can we be certain that the payoff is going to be worth the investment?
- Are we sure that implementing new practices will deliver the efficiencies promised?
- Will more empowered staff actually lead to better outcomes than keeping the responsibility with experienced decision-makers?
All of these questions can be considered as a form of resistance to change, the kinds of things people would bring up if they weren’t fully on board with the proposed direction the organization wants to go in. At the same time, they are also logical concerns about project management implementation and whether the risk of the unknown is worth taking.
Understanding Why Resistance Happens
There’s a number of reasons why resistance happens, and most of the time, several of these can be involved at once. Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues:
- Burden of proof: A belief that proposed changes have not been fully costed or outcomes properly evaluated
- Inefficient use of resources: Concern that there are other projects in the pipeline that would deliver better returns
- Loss of control: Fear that decentralized decision-making (i.e., empowerment of staff on the ground) will decrease the control and responsibility of traditional management
- Loss of autonomy: A project management implementation that calls for a more horizontal approach to functions can bring a manager’s roles under the remit of another task team, thus reducing their independence
- Feeling that the decision for change is being taken without consideration of facts on the ground: This can often be a situation when a consultant or new project management team comes in and major changes seem to be being forced through without input from original management
As we can see, resistance to change can often be a mix of concern for someone’s own position as well as the future of the company. In this regard, workplace communication around new project management implementation needs to address both levels of the argument.
Fostering Effective and Inclusive Change
Implementing change that works, lasts and doesn’t destroy company morale requires considerate and effective workplace communication. Here are some ways to make sure that happens.
- Address concerns inclusively.
Asking people how they actually feel and letting them know they can bring their issues to you in private if necessary is a good way to find out what resistance is out there. Once you understand your executives’ concerns, you can tailor your responses to assuage them.
- Use solid business cases.
Whatever concerns or resistance there may be, it is always difficult to argue against a well-researched and composed business case. If the numbers add up and they show it will be better for the business, you’ve overcome one of the major pillars of resistance.
- Explain how roles will be affected.
Uncertainty is one of the most obvious and natural reasons for resistance. It’s generally not a good idea to take a step if you don’t know where your foot will land. In the same way, much executive resistance can be traced to uncertainty over future roles in the organization.
As with so many organizational issues, this can be addressed with conscientious workplace communication. Meet with the relevant management and outline how they will perform their roles after the change in methodology. Often it can be found that relinquishing responsibility at a day-to-day level means spending increased time on more valuable strategic planning, meaning responsibility increases rather than decreases.
Change can be a scary thing, making change management one of the most challenging fields in business today. With the right approach, however, you can steer your organization in a healthy direction.