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Six Tips on How to Deal with Resistance to Change

Change Management


In the last blog article we discussed how to innovate using design-thinking – and how it requires a culture that supports risk taking, divergent thinking, adaptive leadership and freedom to collaborate. In this article we are looking at how a culture that also supports change can accelerate and ensure business success.

Change management is one of the most challenging components of a project’s success, but having acceptance for the changes a project brings will help realise the benefits of the project.

Anything that will increase acceptance and engagement of a project is essential, which is achieved by involving and aligning teams early on in a project.

Otherwise known as leading change from the middle, this approach is achieved when project, programme and portfolio managers are equipped with the skills to respond to the complexity of rolling out projects, while at the same time accounting for inevitable change.

Smart project managers understand that it is their work on the day-to-day tasks that lead to change itself (the projects that affect organisational design, culture and processes) and will know whether the existing culture supports the change they are asking people to embrace. If not, they will take corrective action to ensure that it is.

To drive change effectively, project leaders must communicate up, down and sideways and increase support through relationships within their network, in order to help ease the transition process and ultimately, move the business forward.

Communication is one of the key relational skills which project leaders should have in abundance. One of the other key skills, which might be less well-known, is managing without authority – something which is becoming increasingly important in order to cope with the complexity of today’s business environment (which we are responding to with the launch of our Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme, in partnership with Duke Corporate Education.)

In this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) age for businesses, leaders need to be adaptive, as well as able to foster informal networks and influence those who are not necessarily direct reports. For more on how leaders can achieve this, read the article Adaptive Leaders Needed.

Managing without authority also requires examining the network of those who are affected by the change itself, as well as involving those change recipients early and often.

Effective change management is not just about designing and then telling people about it after the fact – it’s about involving them closely in the transition process itself.

Having a say

Keeping people informed and involved is essential to altering people’s thinking and behaviours. As people come to feel part of a greater initiative, so their sense of ownership also develops – something which would not have occurred if they had no say in what was happening.

In this respect, project leaders become change managers who collaborate with key stakeholders and thought leaders on other ways to influence an audience, in order to drive further involvement in the transition process itself.

If there is still resistance, alternative ways of approaching the change initiative are needed. The following tips are therefore designed to help deal with resistance to change:

  1. Identifying what the origin of the change is and the analytical, emotional or physiological effect it will have on the individual
  2. Boosting awareness through communication up, down and across the organisation
  3. Returning to the purpose of the change and the overall vision
  4. Engaging participants in the entire process
  5. Completing the past by acknowledging what happened in the past and moving into the future
  6. Building a change-friendly corporate culture by asking whether your organisation is set up to reward or punish change.

Every project leader should already know that projects, programmes and portfolios do not exist simply to get work done, but to get the right work done at the right time.

Project planners must consider how project implementation will affect others, making change an integral part of the equation. Without considering the impact of change and how it will make people’s lives better, managers are at risk of building a brilliant product or service that is useful to no one.

Managing change from the middle will ensure a smoother organisational transformation, which, in the long run, serves not only one group, but the entire enterprise.

For more on this, read the full article, Expanding Engagement and Inspiring with your Next Project by Strategy Execution’s Chief Learning Office, Tim Wasserman.

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About Nadine Rochester

Nadine Rochester
Nadine is the EMEA Marketing Director at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution

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