The Change Management Dilemma: How to resist Project Resistance

    Any change management faces project resistance. But with methods such as the Kotter 8 step change model or the ADKAR model, we come to the rescue.

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    Change management at stake: Minimal-budget-great-expectations mindsets, impossible deadlines, resource deprivation, scope creep … Break the circle!

    Almost every project deals with reluctance at some point − if not throughout the whole project lifecycle and beyond. Things can become difficult once not all stakeholders are as enthusiastic about the project as you are. Your project would not be the first to be cancelled halfway through − due to headstrong resistance. But where does this behavior come from? And how can you deal with it?

    First of all: All of us need to acknowledge that every individual travels with its own pace through a change cycle. Therefore, providing the time and space needed to process the change, is the important first step. Keep in mind that the one leading the change might lose the notion of how big the impact is for the ones who have to deal with it. Furthermore, resistance grows from 3 situations. Or even from a combination of the 3: Lack of understanding, lack of trust and unwillingness. Let’s go through all of them, to enable you to break the circle.

    1. Lack of understanding

    Often, lack of information is the source: Is the jargon unclear? Is there an overload of data? Are there different interpretations? Or do the stakeholders have no view on the full picture anymore?

    In these cases, you can cross information with others, to integrate different approaches, from different angles. To make your communication strategy visible and clear to all stakeholders, you can set up and share a high level communication plan. Use multiple channels to inform, adapt the information to the position of the recipient − and repeat, repeat, repeat.

    2. Lack of trust

    As hard as it may sound, the lack of trust can be in you as a person, in the role you are currently in or in your organization or company. This is a hard nut to crack − as people do not tend to speak out and be open about not having faith in you. Admittedly, it is hard to get to the bottom of this. But it starts with you.

    If you recognize possible lack of trust, ask yourself: Why has this person lost trust? What can you do to uplift your credibility? Admit when you or your organization have taken wrong decisions − and clear up misunderstandings. Ask them for advice by mapping the As-Is processes and work together on proposals for improvements. Get yourself out as representative of the change, and involve others within the project that have great credibility. Work on your relationships!

    3. Unwillingness

    This is the hardest one. Often, people see change as a threat, and go into defense mode to protect their job. The change could mean loss of power, influence or status. The specific change also might be useless to them, and they do not see or value the overall benefits from it. Perhaps they had a bad experience in the past, which makes them reluctant to have another go.

    Here, you should admit if certain things will be frustrating, will take energy and create stress, without minimizing. Acknowledge the frustration, be honest and give the stakeholders more space to get used to the change. Always leave a window open for feedback that can be integrated into the change processes. But also provide lists of all the benefits and new opportunities and make sure you share your strong communication strategy via a detailed communication plan. Wherever possible, involve the stakeholders to become participants − so that their enthusiasm is encouraged.

    Prevention is better than cure – even in change management

    Above tips will help you dealing with project resistance. But what can you do to avoid it beforehand? There are answers to this question, as well: With the help of change models, organizations worldwide are guided through the change cycles more easily. Let’s have a closer look at two successful strategies:

    1. The Kotter 8 step change model 

    According to John Kotter, a thought leader in business, leadership, and change, change in an organization is more likely to succeed when going through his 8 step change model:

    1. 1. Create a sense of urgency: Inform openly and honestly why action needs to be taken − with facts and measurements
    2. 2. Form a strong coalition of people with credibility, from the full width of the organization
    3. 3. Have a clear vision and strategy
    4. 4. Communicate and involve management and expert stakeholders, ask for feedback
    5. 5. Empower the team by removing obstacles
    6. 6. Celebrate success
    7. 7. Once the change is implemented, keep the pace high − no slipping of the radar; stay in the background
    8. 8. Anchor the changes by guarding the new procedures. 

    2. The ADKAR model by Jeff Hiatt

    This change management model guides change on both, individual and organizational level. Thus, it’s very interesting in terms of shifting the responsibility of change management also to the individual level: Everyone contributes to the success of change within the organization. ADKAR is an acronym that represents five tangible and concrete outcomes people need to achieve for lasting change:

    1. Awareness of the need for change: Do you understand why the change is needed, what is in it for you − and what are the risks if you don’t change?
    2. Desire to support and participate in the change: Are you willing and enthusiastic to support and engage in the change?
    3. Knowledge of how to change: Do you have enough information, did you receive proper training to know how to change? We are talking about behaviors, processes, tools, systems, skills, job roles and techniques here.
    4. Ability to implement required skills and behaviors: Are you able to turn the knowledge you have into action? If not, what do you need to achieve this?
    5. Reinforcement to sustain the change: Do not forget to recognize, to reward and to celebrate!

    (for more, see the ADKAR book by Jeffrey M. Hiatt)

    Used in conjunction, these tips represent a good guideline to safeguard the success of necessary change within your organization (or project team).

    Have you tried any of the methodologies mentioned above? What has worked for you, and what hasn't? Please share your thoughts on this topic with us through the comments below!

    For more inspiration, you check our blogs on how to manage user expectations when managing digital projects; the multiple roles of a Digital Project Manager, and also how to ensure a smooth cooperation between project management and service delivery.

    Curious about how to apply technology for better team collaboration, the smart way?

    Published on    Last updated on 07/09/2020

    #Digital Transformation, #Collaboration, #Digital Strategy

    About the author

    Clara Selis is Project and Engagement Manager at Amplexor, based in Belgium. In the past decade, Clara fulfilled several roles within IT projects. Starting as test user, trainer and adoption manager to business and functional analyst till project manager. Clara is a certified Prince2 and AgilePM Practitioner, Scrum Master and with 6 Salesforce certifications an experienced cloud consultant. While having a strong focus on the customer relationship, her biggest motivator is a happy team.

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