People Resist Change

In this article, I will try to explain this phrase from the Information Systems perspective and give you some hints to overcome the possible resistance you will face while introducing a new business software to a company. We can also say that “Users Resist Change“.

I think I must define a scenario first:

Company XYZ Ltd. starts considering to replace their existing software with a new one. After a few inquiries, they realize the costs are too high, and they enter a silent state where they wait for the best time to make such investment. Typically, CIO and some midlevel managers are involved in initial inquiries. CFO and owning CXO are fed with information and they shape the inquiries. CEO has the last word. And when the right time comes, negotiations with software vendors restart. A rumor spreads throughout the company, saying that the existing systems will be replaced. First reactions from the users will start coming at this point. After a while, a decision is made and Company XYZ Ltd starts working with Vendor ABC. They work for one year. After a year’s work, they see that the software purchased is not really working and starts costing more than it was actually planned. Many of the users complain that the software is not good enough for them or is producing inaccurate or different output.
Result is millions of dollars wasted. And what is even equally or maybe more important is that a whole year was lost. So, we can call this as an unsucessful project.

Of course there are many reasons why projects fail. Only one of them is resistance to change.

But, why do users resist change? A simple answer to the question is “because, they are scared”.

At this point, another question rises : “What are they scared of?”

Many of us are not scared of changing cell-phones every six months. Many of the us are not scared of changing the way we live as long as the change has a positive effect on our lives. It is simple because we can control the change and we own the change. But when it comes to businesses or any other entity that involves masses, the masses are scared, because most of them cannot control the change and they do not own it. The same is valid when a company decides to change its business software. Some users will resist this change. There are 3 categories of users :

  1. Users who own the change. These are typically those who participated in the decision making process. They rarely show signs of resistance unless they voted against the new solution.
  2. Users who are actively involved in the change. These are typically the mid level managers and their key users, and they are normally forced to be a part of an implementation team.
  3. End Users : are workers, and low ranked employees. They are really the people who do the actual work.

Here are some of the major reasons why someone can resist change:

  • Negative personality, person is against everything in general,
  • Conflict between his personal goals and the new change,
  • Change is not communicated well with the person,
  • Person has false knowledge of new solution,
  • Fear of loosing control, power, status, or even job,
  • He lacks necessary skills required for the change, what is worse is that he is aware of the fact,
  • Person can have well established good relations with the old vendor, and he may not wish to loose it. Or Person does not trust the new vendor or project leaders
  • Finally, person does not own the change.

So, as you can see there are many factors when you are going through a change. Therefore we need to manage the change. In our case, it needs to be managed by both parties, Company XYZ and Vendor ABC.

Assuming that you are in the management of CompanyXYZ, here are some of the Change Management Techniques that you can follow :

  • Try to communicate well with your users and and let them have a voice. Remember that there are different levels of users and each of them may have different understanding. Level with them and empathize.
  • Show them the future. Let those who lack the necessary skills know that they will be trained, and they will gain additional skills which will elevate their carreer eventually.
  • After the decision is anounced, try to talk with everyone and humbley ask their commitment to the project
  • Be firm and committed while keeping a flexible and positive attitude
  • In case they dont trust you, there is really nothing much you can do.

If you are in the project management team of Vendor ABC, please first know that it is usually very hard to manage a project where there is too much resistance. But here are some of the things that you can be carefull about :

  • Remember that sales is not over yet, keep on selling your solution to as many users as possible,
  • Try to involve with as many users as possible during the analysis phase, let them have a voice,
  • Try to live and experience actual work in its place. It doesn’t matter if it is a factory floor, warehouse or even a construction site, be there.
  • Try to make meetings with as small teams as possible. Too many invited users may cause a competition between them. Too many ideas and discussions can cause you to get false input. Be careful and try to find the best way or sometimes the mid way. Never loose control of the situation.
  • Try to develop friendships and level with everyone. You will need good communication skills with all sorts of people. Do not exaggerate the communication.
  • In case of conflicts, do not push it too hard. Never but never argue with anyone. Try to understand the topic towards the upline of the resisting person. Remember that you may need to give up on your idea. And always keep in mind that “the customer is always right”.
  • Try to share some of your success stories (if any),
  • Therefore, socialize within the organization and be a part of their team

If none of these help, then good luck. Company XYZ needs to make a serious decision. They will either find another way to work with the remaining resistance or fire them or they should not go through the change at all.

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