How to Manage Resistance to Change Within an Agile Organization

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If you want your business to be successful, you know it needs to remain as adaptable as possible. You must introduce new products, make operational changes, and adapt to new competitors if you want to stay afloat. However, if there is enough resistance to change among your partners or within your team, you may find it difficult to introduce and embrace those changes.

What tools do you have to combat resistance to change and keep your organization as agile as possible?

Resistance to change and organizational inertia

Resistance to change manifests itself in a variety of different forms. Sometimes a single person is responsible for blocking a potential development because they are afraid of change or because they are uncomfortable with the prospect of doing something different.

In other cases, two decision makers cannot agree on what to do. In other cases, the opportunity for change never presents itself because the organization does not seek new ways to adapt.

However it manifests itself, organizational inertia will keep your business from reaching its true potential. So what can you do about it?

Establishment of an agile workplace culture

One of your first goals is to establish an agile workplace culture. Introduce and reinforce the cultural norms and values ​​to instill an agile mindset in your employees. The simplest iteration of this is adding concepts like flexibility and versatility to your list of core company values. Of course, if you want to get any practical use out of these additions, you have to go one step further and consciously hire people who appear flexible and adaptable.

Changing your corporate culture is a process that takes time, and ironically, resistance to change can get in the way. Be patient when trying to change the culture of an already established company.

See also: To fight resistance, you need to change your mindset

break up bureaucracy

You can also introduce more agility by breaking down all the bureaucratic structures that are blocking your business. Bureaucracy is an infrastructure designed to mitigate risk, so it has some benefits. However, many business owners eventually find that bureaucratic processes are simply a waste of time and heavily geared towards maintaining the status quo.

How to reduce bureaucracy:

Make faster decisions. Find a way to make decisions faster. Instead of taking every decision to a committee or spending weeks evaluating potential plans, make the decision immediately. Of course, high-stakes decisions shouldn’t be made on impulse, but they don’t require weeks or months of thought either.

Optimize workflows. Take a look at your internal business operations and see if you can streamline them to run faster and depend on fewer people. Instead of jeopardizing every decision or sending plans to several different departments, can you shorten the distance between an idea and an actionable change?

empower individuals. Consider empowering grassroots individuals to make more decisions and changes autonomously. Some organizations never change significantly because decision making is severely constrained and every decision has to work its way up before being approved. Organizations where employees have more independence and autonomy tend to be much more agile.

Make unfamiliarity and discomfort acceptable norms

One of the biggest causes of organizational inertia is a bias against the status quo, a cognitive bias ingrained in human nature that makes us uncomfortable with anything new or unfamiliar. You can’t change people’s personalities or natural tendencies, but you can make it easier for your employees to navigate unfamiliar situations by introducing unfamiliar situations more often. When everyone on your team is faced with something new or unexpected on a daily basis, they end up feeling much more comfortable with larger and more meaningful changes in the work environment.

Lead by example

Set a good example for the rest of your team. If you follow the same routine every day and refuse to change, your employees won’t be inspired to embrace unfamiliar concepts or change the way they work. On the other hand, if you are constantly trying new things and open to all sorts of new ideas, your team will be much more open to change.

Give individual feedback

If there are people on your team who are particularly resistant to change or unwilling to adapt, talk to them. Sometimes giving individual feedback is enough to change someone’s mind or encourage them to be more open to possible changes in the future.

Related: Stop Complaining and Change Your Mindset to Get Rich

Resistance to change is something that every company struggles with, no matter how agile it was originally planned to be or how much bureaucracy it struggles with. However, with the right strategies and enough determination, you can overcome resistance to change in your organization and begin a journey toward greater agility.

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