Digital Transformation: Dealing with Resistance to Change

Singapore is on it’s way to becoming a Smart Nation. The Government's vision is of transforming the country through technology and organisations across the nation are to fulfil their role in driving growth and competitiveness through digital transformation.

Transforming ways of doing business means that organisations are in need of change - and these changes need to be successfully managed. A study by Pieterse et al. (2012) has shown that up to 70% of change initiatives fail, regardless of having a strong strategy for them. These failed change initiatives not only miss their intended outcomes but also cost the organisation a lot of wasted time and resources (Foster, 2010).

There are of course many reasons why change initiatives fail. In the end, it is the employees who are the ones to implement or receive the change, therefore their commitment to it is crucial (Fugate et al., 2012). 

Changing the status quo means tearing people out of their comfort zones - employees may be experiencing confusion and uncertainty, which could make them want to go back to doing things the old way. Resisting change is one of the main causes of change initiatives to fail (Pieterse et al., 2012).

The following three context enablers of Dr Lily Cheng’s Real Change Framework serve as a guideline for going through change and dealing with resistance to it: “Addressing Emotional Responses”, “Building Trust & Credibility” and “Transformational Change Agent”.

Addressing Emotional Responses

While some of your employees may have been waiting for things to change for a long time, others may be comfortable with the way things were, thereby feeling resistant to adapt to the changes. As a leader, you need to acknowledge and respect the different kinds of emotional responses that your employees express.

Allow your employees time to disengage from and grieve the loss of the present state. By introducing a sense of positivity throughout the process, get them excited about the changes and remind them of the positive impact the changes will have on their work.

As digital transformation entails using technology to digitalise processes, more often than not this means your employees will be relieved of the burden of repetitive and boring tasks. The new digital way will take time to get used to, but in the long run, your employees will be left with more time to go after more interesting work.

Building Trust and Credibility

As changes are implemented, your employees may be experiencing confusion or uncertainty. You need your relationships with them to be strong and of trusting nature, giving them the support they need to embrace the changes.

For trust relationships to grow, your behaviours as a leader must be trustworthy. Keep your promises, admit when you’re wrong, don’t gossip about the people who are having difficulties with adapting to the changes and be competent and capable of your own transition. In the midst of change, your relationships to your employees must be the stable anchor people can rely on.

Make sure to establish credibility for yourself by practising what you preach. Be the role model for others and communicate honestly and consistently, creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. 

Transformational Change Agent

As likely as you will have people resisting the changes, some of your people and leaders will naturally be excited by the changes. Seek out the passionate advocates of your change and promote them as your transformational change agents who have the ability to stimulate creativity and inspire others to embrace the changes.

 Make sure these change agents are committed to their cause - they need to invest time and energy to promote the change. This means they have to be dedicated to their goal, despite being distracted by other work and projects.

The advocates you seek out are going to excite and support those who show resistance. And it’s not only others. You need to be well equipped as the role model for your change initiatives. How are you getting your people engaged with the change? 

As part of our series on change management, next week’s blog will be the extension of this post, explaining how the three process enablers “Communicating Change with Your Team”, “Involving and Engaging Your Team” and “Monitoring Change Initiatives” of the Real Change Framework play their part in sustaining your change efforts.

To learn more about how we apply the Real® Change Framework in our work of facilitating successful implementation of change in organisations, explore Real® Change here!

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