The status quo is a strong force to overcome when implementing change in an organization. Change gets stuck when the organization finds a way to resist it and keep things the way they are. Surprisingly, the very people who implement change frequently do things that allow the organization to resist.
Change agents do the following things that make their change initiative resistible.
Accept Parts of the Organization “As Is”
Change often bumps into something that is seems immovable. Usually, that something is part of the organization’s culture, “the way we do things around here.” Often, the culture stands in the way of the change you are trying to implement. When you accept those elements of the organization as unchangeable, then it’s like trying to plant seeds in arid soil, and the initiative will not take hold.
Deal with the Symptoms of Resistance
What is often called resistance – push back, procrastination, going rogue, for example – are the outward signs of resistance and really just symptoms. When you combat the symptoms – by making logical arguments, getting bosses involved, creating rules – the result is greater resistance. The key to reducing resistance is to uncover and address the underlying source instead.
Assume Managers Know How to Lead Your Change
Changing an organization requires managers at all levels to lead change for those who report to them. For example, they need to model behaviors, communicate adequately, and guide people in the right direction. Left to their own devices, managers can fall short of doing what is necessary to lead change, and then your change lacks the support it needs to succeed.
Stay Silent When Something Needs to be Said
You can’t fix a problem that no one will admit exists. Even issues that everyone knows about go unaddressed because they are uncomfortable to talk about. Whether it is an individual who needs feedback or a team that is skirting an issue, staying silent means holding back progress. If the person responsible for instigating change is not speaking up, then chances are no one else will either.
Set Limits on Your Own Influence
When you drive change from the middle of the organization, it seems like there is a bubble beyond which you can’t have an impact. There may be people you think you can’t talk to because they are too many levels above (or below) you on the org chart. Or you allow politics or silos to dictate who you can work with. Setting limits on your influence leaves you feeling powerless and keeps your initiative trapped behind imaginary walls.
Some of the obstacles change agents encounter are self-inflicted. Watch out for your own assumptions, actions or lack of action that allow your change to be resistible.
For more on what it takes to design and influence irresistible change, check out the Influence Change at Work™ Toolkit.