WHY PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE
AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
(By Henry Muguluma)
One of the most difficult things every ministry, business or organization faces is handling change. In fact, research shows that perhaps the biggest challenge to the managers, supervisors, ministers, team leaders and overseers of ministries and organizations (who act as the change agents within the ministry or the organization) is the resistance of team members or employees to the desired change.
In an average ministry or organization, change usually brings about the “10/80/10” rule. This simply means that 10% of the people (for example, team members or employees) will actively embrace the change; 80% will be fence-sitters; and 10% will actively fight this change. Sometimes some of the leaders and supervisors do not make it their job to recognize and understand this important rule. Several times the leaders forget to acknowledge that the 10% against the change will have the influence and ability to negatively infect the 80%. As such, several leaders do not always take time to focus their efforts on influencing the negative 10% – and yet that group is the real threat to the desired change.
What often causes resistance to change in a ministry, business or an organization?
The first cause is Uncertainty. Many employees or team members usually become nervous and anxious about the change and are primarily concerned about their job security and the ability to meet new job demands. Every so often, even when the leaders present them with the facts and try to answer all of their concerns, the internal emotional controls of the employees or team members somehow do not allow them to fully comprehend how the change will affect them.
The other cause is Threatened Self-Interests. Concerns in this area usually relate to personal power and position power within the ministry or the organization. No one wants to see their influence diminish within the ministry or the organization, and so the employees or the team members and even some leaders just decide to fight the change.
There is also the issue of Different Perceptions. Often times in an organization or ministry, everyone will have their own idea about the change. Thus, they may not see the change as benefiting them, their workgroup, or the people that are being served.
Another important factor is the Feeling of Loss. Over the course of time, social networks develop within the ministry or the organization and change disrupts these networks. For example, a schedule alteration might adversely affect a relationship through a change in working partners, or one’s status, security, power and self-confidence.
Also, people can resist change when the ministry or the organizational leadership does not implement the change in an orderly manner, that is, when the management of the transition is not done effectively. This can happen when the leadership does not always take the time to draw up a plan, allocate resources, and appoint a key person to take charge of the change process.
Finally, resistance to change can come about when the ministry leaders do not try to generate enthusiasm for the change by sharing their goals and vision and acting as role models; or when the leaders forget to try out small victories first in order to pave way for later success.
The truth is, resistance to change is a reality in many ministries and organizations; however, it is actually possible to reduce or even avoid this problem. Here are some few tips I can recommend.
Participation: keep the involvement of the team members or employees in the planning process at a very high level. When the members or employees can express their ideas and listen to others in the planning process, their own personal buy-in increases and makes the change easier for the organization or the ministry. It also has the potential to reduce the negative 10%.Education and Communication: keeping communication as wide open as possible reduces the anxiety and uncertainty about the change. When rumors are spread about the change (this always happens!), quickly put the facts forward through the information process. Consider having different methods of getting the same message out to the team members. For example, a change could be communicated at a general staff meeting, through email from the supervisor or senior administrators, work group discussions, one-on-one talks, among others.
Scheduled Implementation: different ways of implementing the desired change can be explored and adapted. These can include: a) making small changes, b) making only necessary changes, c) planning changes well in advance, and d) training the team members or the employees before the change occurs.Force-Field Analysis (FFA): the title may imply that this idea is from outer space, but FFA is simply a tool that measures forces that act for and against the change. Change agents list these positive and negative criteria (assets/deficits) and then attempt to tip the balance so that the forces for the change outweigh those against the change.
In line with the above, the leadership trainer and organizational consultant, Stephen R Covey also says, "Winning companies [ministry teams or organizations] do four things right; they slim down to a few key simple goals with clear targets and careful follow-through; they maintain high levels of trust with their customers [or clients], employees [or team members], and suppliers [or ministry donors]; they do more of what matters to their consumers [or the people they serve]; and they channel the anxiety of their people [workers] into results."These principles are indeed powerful; but more than anything else (this I say as a Christian and especially to fellow Christians), pray about the change before; during and after you implement it.