Companies undergo a process of constant change – whether it is adapting to new framework conditions or gaining new competitive advantages. During these adjustments, many of the associated change processes reach their limits or even provoke active resistance from employees. One thing is certain: It is better to prevent resistance than to have to react to it.
In 1969, famous psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published the results of her research into the way that humans deal with grief. Although this research may initially seem unrelated to the IT project environment, it has had a major impact on the understanding of change processes and has particularly influenced the development of structured change management. Based on this theory, it is possible to distinguish seven stages that people experience when dealing with change as part of change management:
Ideally, you should prevent resistance long before it rears its head. This starts with communication ahead of a change to make the “shock” in the first stage less poignant. For example, every employee would prefer to be personally informed of any changes that affect them by their direct superior – as opposed to receiving an e-mail from the CEO. But even the latter would be better than having no official communication and only hearing about changes from rumors doing the rounds. Communication is the key to proactive resistance management and the best tool for significantly reducing the fluctuations of the change curve.
If passive or even active resistance has already built up in the organization, the only option is to react. In this case, the main aim should be to reach and pass through the “valley of tears” as quickly as possible. To do this, it is important to understand the reasons behind the resistance. There are often misunderstandings due to a lack of communication or false expectations. Fear also plays a role – for example, a fear of unknown processes and systems. The best way to dismantle these fears is through intensive training.
IT projects can only be successful when they are supported by employees. The fact that changes can result in resistance should not be ignored – in extreme cases, this can cause entire projects to fail. Change management provides the methodical tools required to see change processes of all kinds through to completion, to respond to resistance, and to incorporate the aims of a project into an organization for the long term.
If you would like to find out more about the potential of resistance management, we are hosting a webinar on this topic in german language: Faktor Mensch: Erfolgreiche Digitalisierung durch Change Management.