Resistance to change is a normal human reaction. We resist anything that removes us out of the familiar into the unknown. If you reflect on this at a personal level, you will observe that anytime there is a change in what is familiar and comfortable you will react. Without an understanding that this a normal reaction and that it is to be expected, leaders responsible for introducing business changes will potentially undermine the very outcomes they desire from the change. We don’t need to be surprised by resistance but can implement different tactics early on to prevent resistance from occurring.

Below are some useful tips we have found effective when introducing business changes to minimise or prevent resistance.

1. Anticipate resistance– We plan well for most parts of business changes with a strong focus on the technical aspects. We rarely however take time to reflect on the impact of the changes on people and their likely reactions to the change. If the change is particularly disruptive and requires a shift in how people do their jobs then resistance will occur. Thinking through who is likely to react is a critical first step in minimising resistance.

2. Plan for resistance – Armed with the knowledge of who is likely to resist then the teams responsible for delivering the change can be planful and proactive in how it is managed. This would involve thinking through tactics and approaches to address resistance even before it occurs.

3. Address the ‘Why’ – Most resistance occurs because people aren’t aware of why the change is being introduced into the organisation in the first place. The changes are sprung on them and as a result are a surprise. Not everyone likes surprises and the likely reaction is going to be resistance.

4. Solicit commitment of the leaders – We follow the lead of our leaders. If our leaders are not advocating for the change, then the change is likely not to be viewed as important. Leaders must model the right behaviours and walk the talk. Being visible during key milestones and events is critical and taking every opportunity to share vision of the change and desired outcomes is as important.

5. Adopt a structured approach – Implementing changes in an adhoc manner and hoping the change will stick is likely to create ripples in the organisation. Adopting a structured, planned and intentional approach to managing how the change is introduced in the business, will help alleviate the bumps that sometimes occur when new things are introduced.

6. Convert the biggest dissenters – These individuals may eventually become your biggest advocates once they understand ‘Why’ the change is being introduced and what is in it for them (WHIFIM). What’s in it for them is not necessarily of monetary nature but could be recognition. Once they are on your side they become your biggest champions and help drive buy-in and adoption.

Approaches such as denying resistance exists, or trying to beat it down (carrot and stick) ironically only serve to worsen the situation. So, what’s being done in your organization to manage resistance to change? Is it effective? What can you do differently?

Nyawera Kibuka is the CEO, Change Advisor and Prosci® Advanced Instructor for East Africa @ Cedar Consulting (http://www.cedarconsulting.co.ke)

Nyawera is passionate about seeing organisations manage change effectively and use that capability as a competitive advantage. Change is not ‘warm and fuzzy’ but requires a structured, intentional approach using the right tools and processes for the desired business results to be realised.