Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Overcome Barriers to Change

What is the biggest fear that humans have? Is it the fear of rejection? Perhaps speaking in front of a large group? In fact, most people are afraid of change. Why so?

Most people would agree that change is a difficult and uncomfortable process. Fearing that something would go wrong during the transition remains a huge setback in promoting change within individuals and organizations alike. But why do people fear change? A common explanation sounds like this "if it's not broken, don't fix it." Realistically, implementing change takes hard work and a lot of motivation, and some organizations may lack the capacity to do so.

How can organizations overcome these barriers of change?

Create readiness for change. If your organization's culture is continue doing things the way they have always been done, then change will be difficult. A first step as a change agent in your organization is to acknowledge to your staff that change is good and necessary. Take action by creating a welcoming environment for change- whether it be identifying threats in order to explore new opportunities and/or seeking fresh perspectives from stakeholders. Individuals will be less likely to resist change when burdens are reduced, new opportunities are presented, or additional rewards are available (Cameron).

Strong leadership. Such as Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, a strong leader should exhibit candor or be honest with yourself and your staff (Tichy & Charan). Share where you are, what your problems are, what resources you have and where you want to be. A realistic assessment presents change as more of an opportunity for organizational growth and development than a mere opinion (Tichy & Charan).

Re-evaluate and develop a clear mission. Sometimes organizations take on more than they can handle, resulting in mission drift and burnout from staff. Incorporate strategic intent, a process to define a broad vision, tailor it into a clear mission, and specify goals and objectives (Hamel). When staff feel that their work is meaningful they are more willing to adopt new ways to get the job done.

Strategize. The last two ways to overcome change are strategic planning and strategic management. Strategic planning looks at the current issues your organization think are problematic, attempt to extract root causes, identify external and internal factors (Renz, ch. 9).  Strategic management allows you to continuously evaluate your strategic plan and tweak it to ensure things are going as planned.

Like with all changes, it takes time to fully adapt and adjust. Hopefully these five tips will help your organization started.

Cameron, Kim. 1991. “Transformational Leadership.” In Developing Management Skills. David A. Whetton and Kim S. Cameron. New York: Harper Collins.
Charan, Ram and Noel Tichy. 1989. “Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch.” Harvard Business Review. No. 89513:110-120.
Renz, David O, ed. 2010. The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.