By Bronach Branan, CPA, ACMA, CLSSGB

Today, change is inevitable. Whether driven by technological advancements, market shifts, or a specific strategic initiative, every organization must evolve to remain competitive.

But when you’ve tried to make changes, have you ever felt any of these things?

  • There’s got to be a better way.
  • You wish everyone was pulling in the same direction.
  • When you attempt to make improvements, people seem to be stepping on each other’s toes.
  • When you try to streamline operations, important items seem to fall through the cracks.

If any of these resonate with you, you’re not alone. According to research from McKinsey:

 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their intended objectives

Amid these many failed attempts at change lies a formidable challenge: operational resistance to change. The resistance may come in the form of a person or a team, and even those with the best intentions for the business can get in the way of innovation and growth.

So what’s the solution?

In this article, the Operational Excellence Team from PBMares explores 3 best practice solutions we’ve observed for overcoming operational resistance to change.

Best Practice #1: Quantify the Value of the Change (Beyond the Financial Benefits)

Financial benefits are often an organization’s primary focus when implementing change initiatives. However, the most successful change initiatives tend to communicate and prioritize value outcomes beyond monetary gains.

Quantifying the broader impact of change can help garner buy-in and support from stakeholders across the organization.

How to apply this best practice:

  • Prioritize employee engagement by teasing out how the change will directly impact job satisfaction. High levels of employee engagement drive the change initiatives by increasing productivity, reducing turnover, and enhancing organizational resilience.
  • Emphasize the positive impacts the change will have on customer experience. Think of client satisfaction not only as an important outcome but also as a powerful “lever” to motivate employees involved in adopting and deploying the change. Quantify how the proposed changes positively impact customers. Of course, happy employees make for happy customers, but the opposite is also true. Research shows that what is good for customers is also good for the employees. This is especially important in the context of minimizing operational resistance to change.

Best Practice #2: Quickly Nail a Small-Scale Win

Perception can significantly impact reality for a change management initiative. Favorable perception can also elevate the trajectory of the project. So begin small with a quick win.

Demonstrating the benefits of change through a small-scale win can be pivotal when attempting to overcome operational resistance and garner support for broader initiatives.

By approaching change in small, incremental steps, the idea of continuous improvement will become less intimidating.

How to apply this best practice:

  • Identify low-hanging fruit that will have a high ROI for the people responsible for the lion’s share of the “dirty work” within the change initiative. Look for ways to efficiently eliminate wasted time and effort, accelerate production times, reduce defects, or allow employees to do their best work. Often, the best ideas for this low-hanging fruit will come from the employees themselves. More about this in Best Practice #3.
  • Prioritize communication. Communicate progress and successes to build some excitement and momentum around the change initiative. Recognize the contributions of team members involved in these first steps.

Best Practice #3: Commit to Allowing Employee Ideas to Guide the Process

Many organizations underestimate the collective wisdom and creativity that exists among employees. Employees are often closest to an organization’s problems and therefore better equipped to solve them.

Employees may not have answers for creating monumental change for the organization, but monumental change isn’t what operational excellence is all about.

Allowing employee ideas to guide the change process not only empowers individuals but fosters a sense of ownership and buy-in that is critical if the organization is going to overcome resistance to change.

How to apply this best practice:

  • Ask questions and show you’ve listened. Often, employee ideas will focus on eliminating noise or process steps. This is that low-hanging fruit we discussed above. Ask employees what improvement they could make to save them 5 minutes a day. Another powerful question is “What keeps you from doing your best work?” Then, give them the tools and the time to develop a way to implement that improvement. Finally, empower the employees to spread this finding to everyone else who does this type of work.
  • Prove that the organization recognizes how important employee ideas are to the change process. Give employees a process for generating and acting upon ideas to improve processes, satisfy clients more effectively, and save time and money. Find a way to recognize those who contribute. And finally, provide access to training programs, tools for ideation and collaboration, and dedicated time for brainstorming sessions. By investing in employee development and empowerment, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce.

Learn More

Every organization wants to remain competitive, delight customers, and retain its best employees. Organizations that find ways to overcome operational resistance to change will achieve significant improvements in efficiency, employee retention, and customer satisfaction.

Contact us today to learn more about Operational Excellence and the dramatic results you can unlock for your business.