Resistance is a common reaction to a change initiative. As organizations attempt to grow or improve, it must change. Change can occur for many reasons. When moving to an organization that is embracing Agile, there is often a need for a significant culture change since Agile is effectively a culture change.
Here we go again! It is comforting when things remain the same. Employees have seen change efforts come and go without any true commitment and may attempt to wait the new ones out.
- What can you do? The commitment to change must be clearly stated. The change initiate must be treated as a program, with clear motivations and rewards for change.
Fear of the unknown. Change is often defined by a journey into the unknown and it natural to resist what we don’t understand. For most, it is unclear what the change will entail.
- What can you do? Leaders should provide a vision of what the new world will look like
Lack of communication. Employees need to know what is occurring to them. As information trickles down from the top, the message can be lost.
- What can you do? Plan for continuous communications at all levels is important. Include various communication channels and messages from as many champions as possible.
Change in roles. Some employees like to retain the status quo and do not want to see their roles changed. When roles are vague, some don't know where they fit in the new culture, making them feel excluded. When they have no say in their new roles, they can feel alienated.
- What can you do? Discuss the role changes with employees. Give them time to adapt to the roles or give them time to try new roles.
Competing initiatives. Introducing an agile initiative when there are already multiple initiatives occurring can lead to employees feeling overwhelmed, causing them to resist. Hardly an auspicious start!
- What can you do? It is important for management to prioritize initiatives and focus on the higher priority ones.
Change for people, not leaders. When asked “Who wants change?”, everyone raises their hands. But when asked, “Who wants to change?”, no one’s hand goes up. This can be particularly true with leaders. Leaders want change to occur within their teams but are not particularly interested in changing themselves and this may be been prevalent in past change initiatives.
- What can you do? Acknowledge the change that the leaders must make and convey the leaders’ commitment to change.
New management's need to change something. New leaders often feel they must show they are action-oriented. They may reason that the change that worked in their previous company should work here. Some know their term is short, so they are not interested in long-term change. Some are unaware of what it takes to affect culture. Employees who are used to this scenario may resist.
- What can you do? Avoid what may appear to be random changes. Ensure the Agile change is aligned with better business outcomes and not just to do Agile.
It will not always be possible to identify and manage all types of resistance. However, it must be treated as a real and tangible activity. It is better to start addressing resistance to change in a pro-active manner. The more you review and enact the "What can you do?" tips, the more likely you will increase your changes of a successful Agile change (or any culture change).