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How To Implement Change in Your Workplace

New research suggests that not only are we not generally a fan of change, but implementing a change – especially in the corporate world – is often far from successful. Specifically, the study by Towers Watson suggests that between 50 percent and 75 percent of efforts to change fail and even those that do succeed often fall short of the original vision.

So why is change so tough?

Typically, when we call for change, it’s not a spur of the moment decision. Rather, it’s a process that involves identifying an issue or area for improvement, drafting a solution to this problem, and strategizing how to fix it. So if the problem isn’t the plan itself, what’s the biggest roadblock?

Evidently, it’s the people.

The first step towards overcoming the issue of your own employees being the roadblock is to identify the source of resistance. Sometimes, it may just be an individual, sometimes it may be a group or even an entire department. The issue becomes that if they have the potential to thwart the change you are seeking to implement, it is your job as a business leader to get them on board.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are three types of resistance:

  • Those who disagree: Even if the change you are proposing is for the good of the company and its employees, there are still likely going to be people who disagree with the strategy that you are implementing (or even the original issue!) and believe that they may have insight or experience that could help develop a better solution. For these people, your job is to listen and be open to changing your strategy should their input prove helpful.
  • Those who feel disrespected: Employees who have been in the company for a long time or those that have proved influential in the past may feel disrespected if they are not consulted about the proposed changes. Again, the solution is to listen to them and allow them the opportunity to weigh in or at least feel included in the conversation.
  • Those who feel rushed: When people feel rushed into a decision, they often don’t have time to digest the reason for change or cope with the new direction. The solution here is to determine whether any timelines can be adjusted to reduce some of the urgency associated with the change.

The next phase in ushering in change is taking the time to talk with the resistors. Here, the Harvard Business Review recommends keeping the following four ground rules in mind.

  • Forget efficiency: A call for change shouldn’t be ushered in via email, memos or webcasts. Instead, they require the often more cumbersome process of unhurried, face-to-face conversations, some of which will likely need to occur one-on-one. Is it time consuming? Sure. But it will help you head off many of the problems outlined above.
  • Focus on listening:No matter how brilliant your plan, your employes must feel like they are understood, and that means that they have to feel like they have been heard. Therefore, any conversations regarding the change should include no more than 20 percent of you speaking, with the remainder of the time earmarked for the person to speak their piece.
  • Be open to change.A resistor who senses you are listening only so you can get them onboard likely won’t share their true feelings about the change or help you implement it successfully. With that in mind, you must have an open attitude and be willing to modify your plans should it make sense to do so.
  • Commit to having multiple conversations. You aren’t going to get your workers on board with a single conversation. Rather, the folks at Harvard Business Review recommend that the first conversation focus on listening and diagnosing the cause of the resistance, that the second conversation focus on your goal and how you feel about their initial feedback and what changes you are implementing in response (where applicable). Further, they recommend that you space the two conversations about two or more days apart to demonstrate you have reflected on their responses, but no further than seven days later as this will make them feel dismissed.

Have you been able to successfully implement change in your organization? Let us know in the comments!

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