5 Ways to Help Stop Resistance to Organisational Development

You could have the most robust Organisational Development (OD) strategy. However, if everyone in your team isn’t convinced to stand behind it, it will gather dust in your cabinet.

Changing your staff’s attitudes is the first step to implementing any plan. But nobody is telling you that is an easy task to do. Why? Because over time routines become part of an organisation’s DNA. Your staff might know that the old routines are risking their jobs. However, they will still cling to them. That’s how powerful old habits are. Indeed, it will need way more than issuing orders and instructions at the regular staff meeting to break them. You might get out of such orders and instructions enthusiasm at the start and a few weeks of compliance. However, in the end, things go back to how they were before.
Now, how do you make this rigidity yield?

Two people planning on paper with sticky notes, sticky notes are dotted around the poster of paper

The image reinforces the notion of organisational development.

#1 – Fix Organisational Development Agents

Start with the agents overseeing the implementation of your organisation development plan. At least that’s what three scholars who came together in 2008 and published a paper on resistance to change recommend. Jeffrey Ford is a professor of management at The Ohio State University. Laurie Ford, Ph.D., is an expert in Cognitive Psychology and management. Last but not least, Angelo D’Amelio is a consultant on business management. Their paper is titled Resistance to Change: the rest of the story. In it, they express the view that the focus on resistance to change in the workplace has been one-sided.

“Studies of change appear to take the perspective, or bias, of those seeking to bring about change,” they explain, “in which it is presumed change agents are doing the right and proper things while change recipients throw up unreasonable obstacles or barriers intent on ‘doing in’ or ‘screwing up’ the change.”

Ok, doesn’t that make a lot of sense? I think it could…
What is their point? They are nudging you to put an equal emphasis on both those receiving and those overseeing the change. They want you to recognize that those managing changes do contribute to resistance through their own actions and inactions. This could be, for example, through breaching agreements or failing to cultivate trust.

#2 – Treat Resistance as Feedback

It is important to recognize that when members of your team aren’t enthusiastic or willing to see change through, they are sitting on feedback. This isn’t usually easy to do, especially when we take the inaction of others very personally, and which in turn becomes a battle of egos. Indeed, beneath the resistance is information that can help make the change even more successful. Heather Stagl, an expert in organisational development and the author of 99 Ways to Influence Change, has pointed this out in one of her public talks. Understanding the change formula will help too.

“The resistance behavior isn’t the real problem,” she has stated, “The real problem is what you don’t see.” In her opinion, resistance behavior is a symptom of underlying causes, which we can handle well if we first identify them.

#3 – Involve Everyone in Decision Making

Indeed, Heather Stagl does also point out that one cause of resistance is members of a team feeling excluded from decision making. They would be especially upset that management is making decisions that affect them directly without their input. Thus to maintain some control, they might slow down the change or at best, lack enthusiasm for it.

To avoid all these, she recommends you bring everyone in your team on board from the earliest stage possible. This will also avert the possibility of them getting the insinuation that whatever they’ve been doing so far isn’t appreciated. What also happens at the early stages includes defining the specific goals the change you are introducing is supposed to achieve. Also, it is at this point each stakeholder gets to understand how they stand to benefit from the change.
Involvement of team members in decision-making, setting goals and identifying of benefit breed sense of ownership, which can easily translate into enthusiasm for the change.

#4 – Match Resources and Organisational Development

There is always a new technology, regulation, best practice or process that you need to adopt to remain competitive. And at times to overcome resistance to some of these changes you need to realign your resources with the needs they present. That might mean hiring new skill, buying new software or hardware. It might also mean increasing a budgetary allocation to the department undergoing change.

It feeds into resistance if you don’t  facilitate your team with the right resources to implement change. In particular, you may need to equip them with new skills and it is only when that is not feasible that you should hire new skills.

#5 – Create a Visual OD Strategic Plan

Last but not least, you should present your organisational development plan in a format that is easy to understand and accessible to every team member. Remember, this is the plan to which they will be going back to for guidance and inspiration. Indeed, it is supposed to function as the roadmap. In this regard, visual representations tend to be the most effective. That is because the information is easier to digest than when it is in a text form

Some of the components of your plan should include the defined goals, context, core principles, and purposes of your organisational development. You can review this presentation for more guidance on this task.

You may also need to read The 5 Main Influencing Styles that Will Help You to Get More of What You Want. It will help you to convince your team to stand behind an organisational development plan.
Image courtesy of Flickr.

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