Resistance to Change and Learning Anxiety
Working as a change agent, you must create psychological safety for people and their peer groups to change; the fear of being seen as an outcast or deviant is enough to halt the best change efforts.
3 Ideas for influencing teams to change
Involve the team
Bringing the team together and involving them in the change. You include the team by going to them early and sharing the needed change…asking for their help and input then using their ideas.
- Example – I did this with a team of Machinists. The company hired me to facilitate change and team consulting. We called the team together, “Your numbers are dropping to x, and they need to be at y. What do you think we can do to increase the numbers to y?” There was fussing and complaining, and we listened wrote their ideas of flip charts and kept asking. After 45 minutes we had 4 actionable ideas that came from the team. We met again shared their ideas and created changes to how the work gets done, plus the performance appraisal and reinforcement system, and numbers went up in two weeks.
Informal training of teams and groups
Learning & development outside the training room & time. People & Teams test the change on their own and find what works. Management must be OK with the team changing the steps. As long as the change goal is met, you cannot micromanage the process.
- Example – Working with a large Coffee and Bake Shop franchise headquarters wanting the district managers to use Coaching & Feedback as opposed to authority & demands with the franchise owners. The district managers operated under a control and command system. Asking them to switch to coaching & feedback was met with significant resistance. We created a series of coaching & feedback job aids, tools & created small step task assignments for the managers to test out informally. In management meetings, we asked for what worked and what needed to be changed. The ‘informality’ allowed people to check and try it… many managers were sharing their questions + techniques that worked.
Sharing Progress and Reinforcing Small Steps
People resist change when they think no one is doing it…this is reinforced by peer groups creating confirmation bias. They only talk to those who are resisting the change. Therefore all they hear about is the resistance, none of the acceptance, leading them to believe everyone is resisting the change.
- Example – Consulting a finance team from a mining company we had to figure out a way to get the budget reports to the finance team on-time so profit, loss + budgets could be allocated to operations. For years the team emailed people, sharing data on who was NOT getting the budget reports to finance. This created the belief that many people were late. We changed the reporting structure to show the number of individuals who got their budget reports in on time. Posting public reports ( by the hour at first then eventually monthly ) to show who is getting things in on time, reflecting the allocation of $$ to their projects. This change in reporting increased their on-time budget reports from 45% to 96% in three months.
Fear of loss of group membership is stronger than management. Resistance to change is an opportunity to find cooperation and leverage the team to find what works and do more of it.