As many organizations cycle through the planning and execution process for the new year, it’s not uncommon for leaders to face resistance from their team or organization during the process.
Resistance to change isn’t a challenge singular to any organization; every leader, regardless of industry or location, will face resistance to change. Strategic planning and the change that often accompanies it just happens to be a topic that can spark this resistance.
During a recent facilitation with North Slope Borough School District in Alaska, we were struck by a presentation given by the Superintendent on this topic. Here’s the takeaway from this presentation and some of the ways you might combat or prevent this resistance during the planning and execution process.
The Five Reasons We Resist Change:
- The Status Quo is OK – Often, people are quite content with the way things are. So, if they’re comfortable with the ways things are and don’t see the value in change, why should they?
Being crystal clear and upfront about what your organization’s vision of success looks like and how achieving that vision is beneficial to your team, customers, and other stakeholders is essential in combatting this position. Acknowledging that where your organization stands today is probably okay, use the inspiration that accompanies your vision of success to help motivate your team.
- Someone is Personally Threatened – Change can often represent a significant personal threat to someone.
Communicate that your strategic plan isn’t about personal vendettas or pushing people out of your organization. Instead, approach planning as a tool and roadmap to align your organization’s resources and people towards achieving a common vision. One person can’t execute an entire organizational plan; it takes a team dedicated to the process.
- Too Much Work, Too Little Return – Strategic planning often results in a big project or a prolonged focus on a single priority, leaving some to believe that there is simply too much work without a return on the investment.
Make sure your organization understands that strategy isn’t achieved in days or weeks, but rather months and years. Each person should understand how their contributions are helping drive the organization to achieve its long-term vision – even if that contribution is a daily operational task that doesn’t seem to make a huge impact.
- They Don’t Trust their Leadership – People can be resistant to change if they don’t trust their leadership.
During strategic planning, one clear way to battle this force of resistance is being open and clear about how your leadership team came to each strategic decision or change and how it will impact the organization. To take this a step further, support each decision with corroborating data.
- Some People Flat-Out Don’t Believe in Change – People believe that change simply doesn’t have a chance to work, so they won’t even bother.
This is where you’ll have to dig into the inspirational side of leadership and strategic planning. Strategic planning is all about defining your desired future state and creating a roadmap to get there. Every person is an integral part of the roadmap and needs pushing in a unified direction toward your vision of success. Be inspirational, if not even a bit cheesy, when communicating this. If you can inspire your overall team, the stragglers will likely follow.
Strategic planning and the change often accompanying it isn’t easy. But, we see the results planning brings for organizations who stay dedicated and vigilant to the planning and execution process. As a leader, we hope you’ll pass these tips on as we have and reference them when you stand in the presence of resistance to change.