It’s human to resist change. For organizations that have been around for a while, efforts to manage change often find barriers in the form of institutionalized standards and processes. In comparing change resistance to the immune system, an Advanced Management Journal article in 2009 makes the point that while immune systems benevolently protect us from foreign objects, sometimes they fail us miserably by attacking the body it is designed to defend.
This can apply in any company. Some employees are willing to take the plunge and forge ahead in order to keep their work relevant to what is happening in the present tense. Other employees hold onto existing traditions and methods knowing that if it has worked in the past, and is not failing the organization now, why change? These employees will fight change like the immune system fights a virus, and in extreme cases will sabotage the initiative to the detriment of the organization’s health. The article’s authors have categories for the spectrum of change acceptance. Each have their positives and negatives, but all give insight to the way communication can be made pertinent for all employees and allow for momentum in the change effort:
- Innovators: Arm with information on how the change could revolutionize the organization to operate on the leading edge.
- Early Adopters: Give insight on how change might empower individuals to do their job better and be more competitive in the marketplace.
- Early Majority: Allow the creation of “change pockets” where those who are open to change can begin to apply solutions to every day processes.
- Late Majority: Listen to key concerns and the solutions possible to make the change effort stronger.
- Laggards: Find out the reasons why resistance is so high and where possible, bring relevance by describing why that status quo is more dangerous than the change effort. Leverage this message as part of the urgency to the change effort to the entire organization to nip any sabotage effort in the bud.
Lastly, make sure your leadership is in step with the change effort. Success communicating change is only as effective as the manner in which it is applied by leadership. Before you try to convince your organization that change is critical, make sure you have strong support from leaders with the most credibility and respect.
Article: Ann Gilley, Marisha Godek, and Jerry Gilley. (2009). “Change, Resistance, and the Organizational Immune System.” Advanced Management Journal
How does resistance to change manifest in your organization?