Transforming resistance. (Managing Organizational Change), by Rick Maurer
HR Focus, Oct 1997 v74 n10 p9(2)
A considerable number of organizational changes fail. Recent statistics show alarming failure rates in the areas of reengineering efforts (33%), mergers and acquisitions (29%), quality improvement efforts (50%), and new software applications (20%). A recent survey of Fortune 500 executives found that the leading reason for such failures is resistance to change.
1. Change the role of HR. While "change management" may not have been part of HR professional's job description in the past; it has become a vital skill for the future. HR personnel have begun to play a more integral role in handling the difficult position of beating the bad news of downsizing, developing outplacement programs on a moment's notice and trying to help managers work effectively with the survivors of the most recent job cuts.
Employees tend to resist HR efforts because:
· they associate HR function with its traditional role as the company police rather than a business partner,
· HR's difficulty building strong alliances with other departments, and
· senior management's resistance to downsizing alternatives
To overcome the traditional role of police, and become a partner, HR needs to ask itself some key questions:
· Who are we as a department?
· How do other view us?
· If they do not see us in a favorable light, why not?
The answers will help HR to figure out why the perceptions of others have evolved along with the new responsibilities. Failure to change the perceptions of coworkers can lead to their unwillingness to partner with HR. HR needs to develop strategies that begin to build a stronger working relationship with other departments before they can try to implement new programs. Too often we avoid others who are important but who are unlikely to agree with us. Doing so only aggravates the situation, and friction and mistrust increase.
2. Identify the Resistance to Change: HR may also encounter resistance from senior management as it initiates alternatives to downsizing or whatever changes are occurring. There may be other options. Unfortunately, management is often opposed to even exploring the alternatives. Asking a number of critical questions will help HR learn more about management's concerns and will assist HR in helping them examine the consequences of using one option vs. another.
· Will this option help us move toward our vision for the future?
· Is this option consistent with our corporate values?
· What are the short- and long-term financial costs of applying this option?
· Will this option help us make a smooth transition from the current state to our vision?
· What impact will this option have on the people who must support us?
· What impact will this option have on morale, quality and productivity?
· How will corporate headquarters react to this option?
· What are the major benefits of taking this approach?
· What are the major costs and risks of taking this approach?
Once you have assessed the type of resistance you are facing, the next issue to address is how to overcome it. Contrary to popular belief, viewing resistance as a wall that must be destroyed is counter-productive. Resisters perceive that if change occurs then they must lose, which causes them to fight back. To move beyond the wall of resistance, don't battle it - embrace it. Get involved and listen to those who resist change. Trying to understand how they feel and why they feel that way will help you find common ground.
3. Overcome Resistance to Change: The most successful strategies to move beyond resistance and build support for change have six principles (touchstones) in common:
I have been in professional business for the past 35+ years. I was once Director of Human Resources for a bank holding company with 22 banks and over 2,000 employees. Of course, any management or supervisory position has an element of human resource management. And the human element is always, in my opinion, the element that makes a change successful or a disaster.
Conclusion: If you have the right human with the right knowledge in the right place doing the right thing, it is amazing how simple a change appears to be. I use the word appears, because the change may not be simple and the solution may not be simple, but the right human or humans with effective communication and correct information will make it look like it is. While this may be an over simplification, I believe the human element is still the number one factor in creating successful or less than successful businesses.