We’ve all been through change in the workplace – from highly respected managers or executives leaving a company to process overhauls within a team or department. The latter is the focus of this post as it has been one of the most challenging scenarios for me as a team manager over the past several years.

Everyone’s threshold for change varies. Some thrive in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving. They see it as a challenge – an opportunity to learn something new. Others are more comfortable when there is an established process. If that process changes or even worse – it’s removed or replaced – management may find themselves faced with a team that will fight the change to the end.

So how do you convince a skeptical team that a change is worth their while? Ask yourself:

Does the change make sense?

The change needs to make sense for the company and its employees. There’s nothing worse than implementing a process just for process sake. Or implementing the latest trend without finding out if it’s even the right move.

Doing some basic research or speaking with other companies or internal departments that have implemented a similar change will help determine if it would be worth the effort. For a deeper dive, you may want to consider enlisting a consultant specializing in that specific process, methodology or technology. Depending on how pervasive the change is, a formal business case can help confirm feasibility and gain executive buy-in. 

Does the team understand how the change will benefit them?

Even though you have determined that change is necessary and doable, your team may not see it the same way. They may think that the current process works fine, so why change? This is where your research and data will be crucial to preparing the case for the team. Is the current process really working as perceived?

For instance, are other departments completing projects faster? If so, how? Maybe the current process is affecting customer satisfaction, or the leadership team does not have visibility into critical information. The team may not be aware of how their work is affecting others or how much more efficient they could be by making a change. Providing examples with data will allow them to see how much time they can save, improve customer satisfaction and contribute to the success of the company.

Will they have the opportunity to be trained?

Whether the change is small or large, it’s important to arrange for training especially if it’s affecting a team that has performed tasks in a certain way for an extended period of time. If formal training is not feasible, consider providing an internal ‘expert’ or outside consultant to help the team understand why the change is necessary and answer any questions they might have in a timely manner. 

It is also helpful to have a point of contact available in case issues arise during and after the implementation. The team will appreciate the investment you are making to guarantee their success.

Can the change be rolled out in phases?

In cases where the change is more complex, or the team is still showing signs of resistance, try rolling out in phases or select a project as a “pilot.” Taking smaller steps rather than implementing everything in one fell swoop will reduce any anxiety that the team may have. It also gives them the opportunity to be involved in any needed adjustments and see the progress along the way.

Change is inevitable but with effective communication, team buy-in and collaboration, you will have a much better chance of implementing other improvements with success. Teams that are subject to frequent, inappropriate and seemingly illogical changes will be reluctant to support any future efforts.

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How to Break Through a Team’s Resistance to Change

by Veronica Thraen / February 5, 2018

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