Think about the last time you had to make a big life change. Was it easy? Most people are adverse to change. With this reaction to change on an individual level it’s no wonder that change on a large scale, within a community or organization for example, presents a challenge. Here are five obstacles to change on an organizations scale and five ways to combat those obstacles.
1. Disingenuous leadership: Cecil Johnson reviews “The Leader Within: Learning Enough About Yourself to Lead Others” summarizing, “Leaders must make a concerted effort to know themselves and the values and personality elements that shape their leadership behavior.” With out this self-awareness, she notes, you may no portray the leadership qualities you think you are to your employees. For change to happen in an organization, employees have to have faith in leadership that their organization is not going down the wrong path and that the leader has employees interests in mind during periods of change. Knowing yourself will lead to more genuine leadership.
2. A culture that is resistant to change: if you have a culture in your organization or community of, “well we’ve always done things this way” it can be more difficult to create change. People often fear the unknown. One way to combat resistance, according to a Forbes article by U.S. Air force Lt. Col Dan Ward, is to “identify where seeds of change are already cultivated and encourage their propagation from niche to mainstream.” You might think, but you just said this was a culture where things are always done a certain way! True. However, no culture is stagnant. So grab onto the niches of change and help them grow. This allows change to grow organically, which will help with buy-in from your staff and/or community.
3. Lack of staff support for the organization’s mission. Without staff buy-in, an organization has no drive. Building staff support of your mission starts at the hiring process. Jossey-Boss Handbook suggests, “Not only is it desirable that staff share a passion for the organization’s mission, but they must also be motivated by the way in which their role facilitates reaching part of that mission.” Hire staff that believe in your mission and are passionate. Then help staff see how they contribute the organization’s mission. A strong belief in the mission can help individuals get behind changes. Especially if staff can see how these changes will help the organizations accomplish the mission.
4. Under communicating your vision: Without your vision, according to John Kotter's "Leading Change," transformation efforts can easily dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, and time-consuming projects that go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all. ” Clearly communicate your vision to staff including how it fits into the mission. Communicate your vision at meetings, during one-on-one conversations, and at public events.
5. Lack of short-term Wins: According to John Kotter in Leading Change, “Running a transformation effort without serious attention to short-term wins is extremely risky.” Why? Because change can take a long time. Without short-term wins staff or community members may get frustrated and lost in the seemingly never-ending process to create change. Creating achievable short-term wins allows staff and/or community members to see and celebrate success. Create realistic short-term wins for your staff or community. These should be logical steps on your path the change. They should also be tangible and specific so that everyone can see and celebrate achievements.