You have analyzed the situation, identified a solution, the benefits are clear, and you are excited to announce the change to your team. But instead of enthusiasm and excitement about the solution, you are bombarded with questions and comments. The questions, appear to challenge the validity and viability of the solution and the decision to move forward. It feels like they are challenging your authority and leadership.
You conclude is your team is resistant to change and decide you just need to push forward. They are not. But it is what happens when you ignore the Law of Change.
The Law of Change
The law of change states that People will only move toward a change when they have internalized the need for the change.
John Kotter, a leading change researcher and author of the book Leading Change, found that over 50 percent of companies fail when it comes to creating and communicating the need for change. When the people involved don’t internalize the need for change, the failure of your change initiative is almost guaranteed.
Internalization is an active process. The process can either start or stall depending on what happens when the change initiative is introduced.
Think about any change you have encountered. It could have been a planned change for example taking a new job or promotion. Or it may have been an unplanned change like you need to set up a home office due to a pandemic.
The Most Valuable Question is the One Leaders Find Most Challenging
Regardless of what it was, the first question you probably asked was Why. This isn’t a surprise. Humans are hardwired to ask this and similar types of questions. We are constantly and unconsciously assessing our environment for consistency and predictability. Anything that is inconsistent, like that new change initiative triggers our early warning system. We use why questions; Why this solution and not that one? Why now? Why her and not me? Why should I? to help us make sense of the inconsistency.
I meet leaders who don’t understand the human response to change or the Law of Change. They describe feeling challenged, frustrated and even annoyed with many of the Why questions. Ironically, one reason for the leaders’ frustration is that they have internalized the need for change. Therefore for them, the solution is obvious and thus all those Why questions sound like resistance. Voila, the people asking the questions are labelled as resistant. And implementing the change just got harder and more uncomfortable for them and their team.
Leaders who are comfortable sharing, exploring, and helping people discover the need for the change until it’s internalized have a very different experience. One leader who was implementing new technology and work processes described it like this; “…just having them talk about it (the change event) …The conversations got them to see there was a problem then commit to solving the problem as a team.”
Help People Internalize the Need Then The Solution
Now let’s go back to that change initiative you are about to announce. You’re excited, spent months working on the solution, the benefits to your organization and your employees are clear. And so, you begin your announcement with the change event and its benefits.
That’s where the problem starts.
Starting the conversation with the solution puts you in the unenviable position of providing a solution to a problem no one else can see.
At 10 Simple Rules for Organizational Change, we teach leaders how to introduce change to build readiness and prevent resistance. In our change management certification program, we also introduce them to our four-step COPE communication framework for enabling internalization and building readiness.
The solution won’t matter if the need has not been internalized. That’s why your first goal when introducing anything that is different is to help your employees internalize the need. Then they will be ready to explore the solution.
Let us help you take change from the liability to the asset side of your organizational capabilities.