“Our new system launches on Wednesday…”

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You wouldn’t believe the number of instances where the first time someone in an organisation hears about a change comes from an email that starts something like “Our new system launches on Wednesday, so we’ve organised a training session on Monday to get everyone ready”.

In the majority of cases this really hacks people off. And, they have a right to be frustrated. Things are changing and no-one is really giving them any time to process it and they probably don’t have adequate information. They just know things are changing.

So what are some of the best ways that you can avoid building up resistance when introducing changes?

Spend time passionately communicating the personal benefits of the changes, not just the business benefits

In most instances changes are introduced because they can make things better. People feeling resistant is often an unintended consequence and change leaders feel demoralised and frustrated that they have allowed this to happen. One of the best ways to avoid this is to spend time communicating the personal benefits of the changes, as well as the business benefits of the changes.

Understandably leaders often talk about the business benefits like higher profitability, quicker processing times, reduced expenses, or whatever it happens to be. But, what they don’t always do well is communicate how things will be better for those going through the changes. For example, will your change lead to happier customers and fewer complaints for staff to deal with? Will it allow you to invest in further staff development? Will it give your people another tangible skill to add to their repertoire? Will it lead to better bonuses? If any of these (or others!) are true please communicate them. Spend time thinking about why your people should be excited about these changes.

Build interest not just capability

Somewhat connected to the first point one of the most common mistakes I see is people rush to training. There is an inherent assumption that if people know how to use the new system, work the new process, or live out the new value, that they will truly adopt it. That’s not always the case.

As leaders cultivating desire and interest in the change is a crucial part of people moving through their personal change journey. So, training sessions alone aren’t likely to be sufficient.

Think about what sustainable adoption looks like

Businesses and leaders invest significant time and money in change programmes. New systems, new processes, new behaviours, new reporting lines, new technology, new information. Oftentimes these are great improvements on what’s currently in place. However, whilst so much time, energy and money is spent on the solutions it’s not always considered how these changes get adopted in the long-term.

It’s always disappointing to see massive investment in new technology and it doesn’t get used in a way that exploits all the value. Or when a new process is introduced and it’s used evangelically for the first few weeks, then some teams taper off and before you know it things are back to how they were and the expected benefits aren’t being realised. Or new behaviours get reduced to pretty posters on the wall but never translate into new ways of being.

You can avoid this by thinking about two things before launching the changes:

  1. What are the likely resistance points? — what are people likely to get stuck on? Where are they likely to push back? Spending time up front thinking about what people will find problematic allows you to think about how to troubleshoot before it happens.

  2. What is your sustainability plan? — after all that investment you want to make sure that you have a plan for how to monitor adoption. For example you could introduce compliance monitoring for new processes, or spot-checks on a new system. Or a ‘behaviours moment’ before all meetings where it gets spoken about and acted out. Whatever it is that you’re trying to change you need to think about how to monitor, encourage and celebrate success!

Change isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. With a little planning and intentional work it’s entirely possible to make it an enjoyable and successful process for everyone involved.