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The Best Ways to Mitigate Change Resistance

Organizations must deal with new government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and a changing workforce—which all force change.  Change is pervasive and inevitable to the growth and survival of an organization.

To quote one of the most over-used quotes in business and Change Management (often inaccurately attributed to Charles Darwin):

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Unfortunately, the greater the change (and the larger the organization), the greater the resistance to change.  The 6 Change Approaches developed by John Kotter and Leonard Schlesinger is a model to prevent, decrease, or minimize resistance to change in organizations.  These 6 approaches are:

  1. Education and Communication
  2. Participation and Involvement
  3. Facilitation and Support
  4. Negotiation and Agreement
  5. Manipulation and Co-optation
  6. Explicit and Implicit Coercion

6change

All people who are affected by change experience some level emotional turmoil.   In fact, even changes that appear to be “positive” or “rational” involve loss and uncertainty.  This causes a resistance to change.

There are 4 basic reasons why people are resistant to change, as identified by Kotter and Schlesinger:

  • Parochial self-interest
  • Misunderstanding
  • Low tolerance for change
  • Different assessments of the situation

Now, let’s take a look at the 6 approaches to change.

1. Education and Communication

One of the best ways to overcome change resistance is to inform and educate people about the change effort beforehand.  Preceding communication and education helps employees see the logic in the change effort.  This reduces unfounded and incorrect rumors concerning the effects of change in the organization.  Once persuaded, people will often help with the implementation of the change.

2. Participation and Involvement

We can often avoid change resistance if we involve the potential change resisters during the design and implementation of change.  With a participative change effort, we listen to the people the change involves and use their advice.

Where we do not have all the information they need to design the change, or when they need the complete commitment of others to do so, involving others makes good sense.  Typically, participation leads to commitment and commitment is needed for the change to be a success.

3. Facilitation and Support

We should incorporate Facilitation and Support when resistance to change stems from adjustment problems.  By being supportive of employees during difficult times, managers can prevent potential resistance.

Managerial support helps employees to deal with their fear and anxiety during a transition period. In this case, the basis of resistance to change is likely to be the perception that there will be some form of detrimental effect caused by the change in the organization.

4. Negotiation and Agreement

If the resistance is because someone–

  1. will lose out due to change; or
  2. has power to resist

–we should involve Negotiation and Agreement.  Managers can combat resistance by offering incentives to employees not to resist change. This can be done by allowing people who are resisting the change to veto certain elements of change that are threatening.

5. Manipulation and Co-optation

If the other approaches won’t work, we can co-opt with those who are resisting change by bringing them into the change planning group.   Co-optation involves bringing a person into a change management planning group for the sake of appearances rather than their substantive contribution.  This often involves selecting leaders of the people who are resisting the change to participate in the change effort.

Unfortunately, this approach may lead to future issues if people feel they have been manipulated.

Are you a management consultant?  You can download this and hundreds of other consulting frameworks and consulting training guides from the FlevyPro library.

6. Explicity and Implicit Coercion

Lastly, as a last resort, coercion can be used.  This should only be used if speed is essential.  With this approach, managers can explicitly or implicitly force employees into accepting change by making clear that resistance to change can lead to:

  • Jobs losses
  • Dismissals
  • Employee transfers
  • Elimination of promotions

Do you employ any other approach to Change?

You can learn more about these Change Approaches and download an editable PowerPoint about the 6 Change Approaches here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

About David Tang

David Tang is an entrepreneur and management consultant. His current focus is Flevy, the marketplace for premium business documents (e.g. business frameworks, presentation templates, financial models). Prior to Flevy, David worked as a management consultant for 8 years. His consulting experience spans corporate strategy, marketing, operations, change management, and IT; both domestic and international (EMEA + APAC). Industries served include Media & Entertainment, Telecommunications, Consumer Products/Retail, High-Tech, Life Sciences, and Business Services. You can connect with David here on LinkedIn.

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