The biggest obstacle in achieving successful change management in any environment has nothing to do with technology. It’s not compatibility, interoperability or platform alignment. What stands in the way of successful change management, all too often, is a combination of pride and fear.
At first, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t taking pride in one’s work something we should all do? For as long as we can remember, fear has been a healthy counterbalance to rapid change. So how, you may ask, are they obstacles to effective change management?
It’s because pride and fear are the enemies of empowerment. Grab a sharpie, write that on a piece of paper and tape it up over your desk. Pride and fear in the workplace will cause people to close their minds, reject new and better ways of doing things, act defensively, and seek to point the finger at team members rather than working collaboratively with them.
If you encounter this is your workplace, I’d like to share with you how you might begin to remove those barriers. It all starts with honesty – with yourself first of all.
1. Give it a Voice – Whenever I detect a colleague shutting down suggestions for change, I always ask, “Why do you not like what you’re hearing?” Quite often, there is a deep-seated and mostly unfounded fear that is causing them to reject the new way right off the bat. It’s often based in a fear of losing control, becoming obsolete or simply being rejected.
As IT professionals, we deal with obsolescence all the time. It’s natural to develop a fear that one day there might be a new process or technology that will make us antiquated. The fact is we all deal with fear of rejection, and possibly ridicule, daily. I find that when I ask for feedback without judgement, people are usually relieved to have the opportunity. More often than not, the simple process of unloading fears makes people feel better and more open to accepting new ideas. Though, it can take many conversations before they are fully comfortable.
2. Make it Personal – If you have kids you’ll know that it is difficult to get them to do something if they don’t understand the “why” behind it. “Why do I have to do that?” is something parents hear over and over again. Similarly, making it clear why a change is happening and how it will benefit them will go a long way to help overcome the fear of change. Talk about issues that are relevant to what they do on a day-to-day basis. Approach the benefits of change through their eyes.
I recognize that no matter how simple it might sound, the journey to an open environment is a labour of love that takes patience and perseverance as you will need to encourage, and consistently reinforce.
It may also help to talk about how the change will benefit other members of the team. I believe that the best teams are comprised of individuals with different skill sets, and that diversity makes for well-rounded teams. So, when I talk about how the change will benefit an individual, I also talk about how it will be better for his or her colleagues. Our first reaction may be fear but deep down, everyone wants to be part of a team. Show how embracing the change makes them an excellent team player.
3. Confront Pride with Empowerment – Unhealthy pride in the workplace is often the result of an individual becoming the sole gatekeeper of a specific process or technology. They have everything mapped out in their head and if anyone wants to navigate this terrain, they have to go through the gatekeeper. This is how they conserve power and ensure they are needed.
Naturally, any change that would alter this world order will step on their sense of pride. So, it’s important to show how they are becoming an agent of positive change within the organization. This is not about threatening their job or authority. It’s about how they will be empowered to build systems and deliver services faster than the traditional way. You could say, “This will enable us to greatly reduce time to market and you’ll be a huge part of making that happen.”
The bottom line is pride and fear will always be a part of any workplace. They are unavoidable human emotions that are easily triggered; and a certain amount of each is healthy. Patience, and taking the time to adapt the message to each individual, will help you develop them and the entire team into one with a healthy balance and one that grows to embrace change.
Want to discuss further? Give me a shout and let’s start a conversation.