Recently, for a presentation on Change Management I reviewed the literature on aspects of Change Management vs. Change Leadership. My purpose was to better understand the emotional and psychological pressures on those responsible for delivering the Change for the organisation.
Indeed, for most, change is a stressful time. We know that some staff are reasonably happy with change and that others, maybe most, dislike change. My concern was more about the senior managers and leaders charged with bring it all together. We know from the experiences of most organisations that change is, at best, only moderately successful. Some suggest that up to 80% of change initiatives fail. So these realities set the background for those responsible to implement the change.
What is often forgotten is that organisations are, by design, conservative. The organisation itself resists change. By that I mean the organisation has systems together with checks and balances designed to ensure that the process is followed to the letter and any interference to that process will be resisted.
Over 20 years ago Robbins, S.P. et al argued that there were six major organisational causes of resistance to change which included:
Structural Inertia– organisations have inbuilt mechanisms to produce stability. When confronted with change the organisational inertia acts as a counter balance to sustain stability.
Limited focus of Change – organisations are made up of a number of interdependent subsystems. One can’t be changed without affecting the others
Group Inertia – even if individuals want to change their behaviour, group norms could act as a constraint.
Threats to Expertise– changes in organisational patterns could threaten the expertise of specialised groups.
Threat to established Power Relationships – any redistribution of decision-making authority can threaten long-established power relationships within the organisation.
Threat to established Resource Allocation – those groups in organisations who control sizeable resources often see change as a threat.
These six points set the backdrop for those leading the process to find the navigable waters to success. The final truth, that is most often forgotten, is that change can only proceed ‘one person at a time’. The truth is that organisations don’t change only people do. Is it any wonder that it is stressful for those charged with leading the change?
Please call if you would like a full transcript of the Causes of Organisational Resistance to Change.