Inside Dental Technology
September 2012
Volume 3, Issue 8

Effective Change Management

Using resistance to improve your process.

By Deborah Curson-Vieira

When making changes in your organization, employee resistance is inevitable. First instincts are to either fight the resistance or to ignore it. However, both of these options create more resistance, causing a wider gap between the change you would like to see and the behavior of your team. Instead of fighting resistance, lean into it, and view it as an opportunity to improve the process. By actively engaging your employees during times of change, you can mitigate much of the resistance. Here are three tips for managing resistance in times of change.

Prepare for Resistance

Resistance should never come as a surprise. Even if the change you are asking employees to make will be a solution to a problem, there will be resistance to change. Moving from what the familiar to something new moves your team members out of their comfort zone. And even if the current state is painful, change creates stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.

Knowing that it is human nature to resist change, ask yourself, “Where am I likely to get into trouble? What specific groups or team members will be the source of resistance and what will be the likely objections?” According to the Change Management Learning Center (www.change-management.com), the following groups of people are the ones most likely to resist planned change:

• People who helped create the current process
• Employees who expect to have more work as a result of the change
• Employees who suggested an alernate process—one that was not selected as the new process
• People who have been very successful and rewarded using the current way of doing work

Communicate and Create a Shared Vision

Chances are that a majority of your employees are in the Millennial and Generation X age groups (born after 1965). Also called the “What’s in it for me” generation, these groups tend to be skeptical and need proof before they make changes. When you are communicating changes to your team, it is important to address the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how; but even more importantly, let your team know what is in it for them. Communicate how the planned change will affect their day-to-day operation and how they will benefit from the change. Furthermore, communicate how the team and the company will benefit.

For example, your laboratory has recently implemented a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system and you want your department heads to document conversations they have with dentists in the system. When you get to the “What’s in it for me” conversation, let the team know that by capturing this information in a central location, they will be saving time hunting down information that may be in random scraps of paper or in another technician’s head. They will be able to see an archive of who has talked to the dentist and what was said—streamlining communication. Communicate that the entire laboratory will be using this system, too, and, when they are talking to clients, they will know if there are any issues to be aware of before making the call.

It is also important to reassure the team. All of your team members, including resistors, need to hear the following:

• You can do this.
• You will have support.
• You will be able to have input into the change process.
• The team members will be able to evaluate the change to make sure it is working.

Invite the Storm, Listen, and Respond

In his blog titled, “How to Counter Resistance to Change” (dentalaegis.com/go/idt59) for Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman notes that people often feel powerless to change, claiming their only way to regain control is to resist. To avoid resistance, let people have a voice and let them make some decisions.

Look at your groups who are most likely to resist and solicit feedback from them. As change management speaker, Julia King Tamang, senior consultant for Contract Training for the Lern Institute (www.lern.org), says, “Invite the storm.” Whether one-on-one, in a focus group, or through a survey, give people the ability to voice their opinions and tell their stories. By allowing the team to open up about their hopes, expectations, and fears, you can overcome obstacles. There are a few principles you need to keep in mind before you invite the storm:

• Make it safe to speak. If some are really resistant to change, meet privately and truly listen to why they are opposed to a new process.
• Do not penalize or dismiss those who bring forth ideas and opinions. Recognize them for coming forward and thank them for their ideas, even if they will not work in the new process.
• Be open to change. The same rules of resistance apply to managers. Even though we think we are innovative change agents, we, too, can be wrong.
• Always come back to your goal. When you are considering changes, make sure they reflect your end goal and will get you where you want to go.

By listening and responding to objections, you create an environment of trust and respect. The more you engage and listen to your employees through times of change, the less resistance you will encounter.

About the Author

Deborah Curson-Vieira is the marketing and communication manager for Dental Prosthetic Services, Inc.

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