Have you ever really thought about this question?
I think the problem is that the people who are making the change don’t understand the real problem. Most of the time we think it is a communication problem. We think that if we just communicate and communicate people will understand the change. But guess what? They won’t.
When we dig into change, what we find is that it isn’t the changes themselves that people resist. It’s the losses and endings that they anticipate experiencing and the period of transition that they are resisting.
Studies have shown that what people fear the most is the loss of something. Whether it’s a loss of money or status, or the loss of power and control, or maybe just some freedoms. What these studies have shown us is that if we don’t first address the loss then we can never really get to the new thing we are trying to accomplish.
That’s why it does little good to talk about how positive the outcome of a change will be unless you deal directly with the losses and endings your team will experience as a result of the change.
As Bill Bridges says in his book Managing Transition, “Accept the reality and importance of the losses that your people are feeling. Don’t argue with what you hear from them. In the first place, it will stop the conversation, and you won’t learn any more. In the second place, loss is a subjective experience, and your “objective” view (which is really just another subjective view) is irrelevant. Finally, you’ll just make your task more difficult by convincing people that you don’t understand them—or, worse yet, that you don’t care what they feel.”
Bill goes on to say, “Make sure we don’t overlook two things: first, that changes cause transitions, which cause losses, and it is the losses, not the changes, that they’re reacting to; and second, that a piece of their world is being lost, not a piece of ours. This is important because when you put yourself in their shoes you would react the same way when it’s part of our own world that is being lost.”
These are such great thoughts. When I look back at projects and decisions we made to change our organization, the mistake we made was to jump right into the what and the how and how great it is, but I realize now that people weren’t really listening to me because they were still trying to deal with the loss.
Next time you set out to change something, remember no change management process will ever work unless you first deal with the loss your team is feeling. Show care and concern and when you do this, then a whole new world of success is ahead of you.
Until next time…I’m Marty, make every minute count.