Changing the culture of a complex system like a destination model requires a leader’s mindset at least as complex as the system that has to be changed. In most of the cases, the change entails moving forward towards a more complex system, which not all leaders are ready to tackle. For instance, moving from Patriarchy to Partnership requires that Controlling leaders share power and lose part of the control, which is the scariest thing they could do. Instead, Complying leaders have to take on power and risks, challenging their worst fears.
As it is explained in the section “Four levels of leadership”, every type of leader has its own challenges, and overcoming them requires a great deal of courage, humility and mindfulness, among other attitudes. There are many reasons why cultures are difficult to change, so long as the cultural values are deeply ingrained into the policies and practices of the organization. Therefore, when leaders want to implement change, not only they have to review the organizational goals and behaviors, but also the KPIs, the professional profiles needed and the training procedures.
Barriers to change. Throughout the change process, leaders are likely to come across many barriers that block or deaccelerate the change progress. The main ones are the following:
- “Not-invented here” syndrome: workers mistrust the new methods that have been developed outside and have not yet proven to be successful in their organization. In this regard, many may feel that “alien know-how” challenges their corporate pride, especially in the top management levels. People believe in what they have seen to work.
- Feeling threatened: many employees may feel that they are rather likely to be part of the problem than to be part of the solution, and so they feel threatened by change. Their natural reaction may be to resist in group, to make it impossible, believing that the leaders are not likely to replace them all, because it is too costly.
- Business as usual: many people are so used to operating according to certain procedures that it is really challenging for them to change them. They have serious difficulties adapting to new rules so long as the old ones bring them security and confidence. They are likely to follow the inertia of the old procedures as soon as they hesitate about the new ones.
- Misunderstandings: lack of communication effectiveness is one of the most current obstacles to implementing culture change. So long as change entails shifting to another operating system and not just some operational changes, complexity always arouses many questions and misalignments that expand the chances for misunderstandings.
- Different assessments: no matter how brilliant the change leaders can be, it is difficult to prevent the employees thinking by themselves and so they have different assessments and opinions about the problems and the solutions, the advantages and disadvantages. This is likely to arouse discussions and at least, to slow down the change process.
Strategies to manage resistance to change. In accordance with the level of resistance, there are some strategies to tackle it ranged from the least to the most extreme:
- Education & Communication: employees need to understand the logic of the change effort, the reasons why they have to create change. Education and communication can be an effective practice to convince them to buy into the change and clear misunderstandings.
- Participation & Involvement: another effective way to engage employees into the change effort is to let them participate in the design of the process, as active players of the challenge, instead of letting them play only a passive and reactive role.
- Facilitation & Support: beyond the mentioned strategies, manager’s coaching, mentoring and support is likely to be necessary in many cases, to help some employees deal with their fears and insecurities during the process. This may entail dedicating time off work with them.
- Negotiation and Agreement: when resistance is stronger, this may be tackled with a negotiation including an incentive system to stimulate them to perform according to the change planning. This makes them feel empowered instead of feeling obligated.
- Neutralizing resistance leaders: most organizations have some informal leaders, with a more or less strong influential capacity on the rest of the group. Neutralizing their negative influence on resisting change may be a solution, by convincing, relocating or firing them.
Beyond the strategies in accordance with the resistance level, it is important that the change instructions are personalized for every type of worker, or even tailored individually in some cases. Individuals’ performance has to be tracked and rewarded according to redesigned metrics to sustain and stimulate the intended behaviors and focus of attention.
This blog post is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, freely downloadable in this weblog. You may check the Whitepaper’s references to know the sources used for its elaboration.