innovation and change

How to deal with people who resist change

It’s common in human nature to resist change.

Most people prefer the status quo even if it is less beneficial in the long run.

So it’s not unusual when you’re trying to persuade colleagues or senior management of an idea for change in your organisation that the brakes quickly come on and their eyes look the other way.

You need to bring them onboard in a way that is relevant to them.

You need to speak their language.

What ‘language’ do you speak currently?

If you’re a digital marketing professional who wants to drive innovation in your organisation you probably speak the ‘language’ of change.

What this is will vary. Friend of Togethr and digital evangelist Brian Solis says: ‘there is no one type of changemaker, but they all wear similar hats at different points in their journey serving as pioneers, data gatherers, storytellers and creators, influencers and case makers, advisors, teachers, relationship builders and champions of digital transformation.’

Changemakers will possess qualities that help them learn and experiment in areas where there isn’t much clarity. 

What senior management typically wants is clarity, evidence and reduced risk. The two don’t always marry.

If you want to avoid your new initiative being consigned to the ‘too risky’ pile before it’s even off the ground, you need to bring it to life with a compelling narrative, using stories of successful change. You need to humanise it with everyday language.

Have you gathered evidence others will believe in?

Experiments are a great way to build a story.

Find a way to run a small ‘test and learn’ experiment where you can gather data and feedback from a small group to create these success stories and sell-in your change ideas with evidence – from your own organisation.

At Togethr, we often work with clients to run these kind of experiments (or pilots) before the full roll-out of employee advocacy programmes.

When you’re building your experiment, move fast in do-do-do mode

This approach will help you to ask the questions you need to think about what you’re doing, in order to learn, adapt and innovate. So you are ready to answer the questions from your business leaders.

There are many ways of doing this.

We often base our thinking on David Kolb’s model of learning (adapted here by Jenny Campbell and the Resilience Engine)

1.    Do something

This is where many people start and stop, and where many experiments fail because they don’t go on to steps 2-4

2.    Notice what happened

Look at data, be truthful about the facts, without interpretation. This is about gathering all the evidence you can. It has to stand up to questioning from management. 

3.     Consider ‘so what?’

Consider the so what of the situation ie: what can you conclude from stages 1 & 2? Is there the evidence for that conclusion? What is that evidence? What does this teach you about what you should do next?

This step – concluding based on ‘so what’ – really matters, so make time for it and be honest. Don’t let what you wanted to find influence what you actually found

4. Adapt and change

Take what you’ve learned in steps 1-3 and plan to give it another go, but better.

The key here is to be bold but be methodical. Step into your role as change maker with the aim of bringing people along with you. 

Because when you have the confidence to lead with conviction and learn with courage, incredible things can happen and senior management will come fully on board.

We’ve seen it happen – many times.

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