Friday, January 03, 2020

How to Deal With Stakeholders Resistance to Change

How to Deal With Stakeholders Resistance to Change
There is a simple truth about projects.

All projects result in change.

Some projects bring about small modifications to the status quo, and others introduce a large-scale transformation.

No matter the size or scale of the project, people resist change. Overcoming this resistance to change is a top challenge faced by organizations and project sponsors today.

The better we are at seeing what causes resistance, the easier it will be to build support for our ideas. In other words, if we understand resistance, we also understand the other side of that coin – support for change.

Rick Maurer identified in his book “Beyond The Wall Of Resistance” the three reasons for resistance.

1) I Don’t Get It
2) I Don’t Like It
3) I Don’t Like You

I Don’t Get It

This is about information: facts, figures, ideas. It is the world of thinking and rational action. It is the world of presentations, diagrams, and logical arguments.

Resistance may come from ...

> Lack of information
> Disagreement with data
> Lack of exposure to critical information
> Confusion over what it means

Many make the mistake of treating all resistance as if it is because of not understanding the change. Well-meaning leaders give people more information – hold more meetings, and make more PowerPoint presentations – when, in fact, something completely different is called for. For example...

I Don’t Like It

This is an emotional reaction to the change. Blood pressure rises, adrenaline flows, pulse increases. It is based on fear: People are afraid that this change will cause them to lose face, status, control – maybe even their jobs.

It is not soft stuff. You can’t say, “Just get over it,” and expect people to say, “Wow, thanks, I needed that.” It runs deep. When it kicks in, we can feel like our very survival is at stake.

When this kind of resistance is active, it makes communicating change very difficult. When adrenaline shoots through our system, we move into fight-or-flight mode (or we freeze like a deer in the headlights). And we stop listening. So no matter how terrific your presentation is, once people hear “downsizing” their minds (and bodies) go elsewhere. And this is uncontrollable. They are not choosing to ignore you, it’s just that they’ve got more important things on their minds – like their own survival.

Organizations usually don’t encourage people to respond emotionally, so employees limit their questions and comments to “I Don’t Get It” issues. They ask polite questions about budgets and timelines. So it may appear that they are with you, but they’re not. They are asking for more information while hoping that you’ll read between the lines and speak to their fears. And here is a really tricky part – they may not even be aware that they are operating on such a basic emotional level.

I Don’t Like You

So maybe they like you, but they don’t trust you – or don’t have confidence in your leadership. That’s a hard pill to swallow, I know. But lack of attention to this is a major reason why resistance flourishes and changes fail. And it is seldom talked about. Books on change talk about strategies and plans (all good stuff, to be sure) but most of this advice fail to recognize a major reason why change fails.

In this case, people are not resisting the idea – in fact, they may love the change you are presenting – they are resisting you. Maybe their history with you makes them wary. Perhaps they are afraid that this will be “a flavor of the month” like so many other changes, or that you won’t have the courage to make the hard decisions to see this through.

But maybe it's not you. People may resist those you represent. The statement, “Hi, I’m from headquarters, I’m here to help,” often leaves people skeptical. If you happen to be that person from headquarters, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to listen to you.

Whatever the reasons for this deeply entrenched resistance, you can’t afford to ignore it.

People may understand the idea you are suggesting (Reason 1), and they may even have a good feeling about the possibilities of this change (Reason 2) – but they won’t go along if they don’t trust you.

So How You Can Turn Resistance Into Support?

Here are a few ideas to get you started addressing the various levels of resistance. And remember, all three reasons could be in play simultaneously.

Make your case

> Make sure people know why a change is needed. Before you talk about how you want to do things, explain why something must be done.

> Present the change using language they understand. If your audience isn’t made up of financial specialists, then detailed charts showing a lot of sophistical analysis of the numbers will be lost on them.

> Find multiple ways to make your case. People take in information in different ways. Some like to hear things. Others like to see things. Some like pictures. Others text. Some learn best in conversation. The more variety in the communication channels, the greater the chance that people will get what you have to say.

Remove as much of the fear as you can – and increase the excitement about what’s positive about the change.

> Emphasize what’s in it for them. People need to believe that the change will serve them in some way. For example, work will be easier, relationships will improve, career opportunities will open up, or job security will increase.

> Get them engaged in the process. People tend to support things they have a hand in building.

> Be honest. If a change will hurt them – downsizing, for instance – then tell the truth. It’s the right thing to do, and it stops the rumor mill from inventing stories about what might happen. Also, honesty bolsters their trust in you.

Rebuild damaged relationships – and tend to neglected relationships

> Mea Culpa. Take responsibility for things that may have led to the current tense relations.

> Keep commitments. Demonstrate that you are trustworthy.

> Find ways to spend time together so they get to know you (and your team). This is especially helpful if the resistance comes from “who you represent” and not just from your personal history together.

> Allow yourself to be influenced by the people who resist you. This doesn’t mean that you give in to every demand, but that you can admit that you may have been wrong and that they have ideas worth considering.

In a nutshell: There are three reasons for resistance to change. I Don’t Get It, I Don’t Like It, and I Don’t Like You. Understand them and you can change resistance into support.
Posted on Friday, January 03, 2020 by Henrico Dolfing