Change Management: 5 key reasons why people don’t change?

A few weeks ago I had one of my best weeks in a long time. I met with some very smart and successful people from various levels and backgrounds. We were all assigned a mission so close to impossible that, to make it happen, simple out of the box thinking wasn’t going to be enough.

We did everything a team would do – brainstorm, think, argue, challenge, draw, conclude – and came up with a solid framework to address the challenge given to us. However, throughout the week there was a common theme – we could do everything with the latest technology but one challenge we could not come to a conclusion on was “How to change the people to do the impossible we were looking at?”

One evening I realized that as we much as we were discussing change for other parts of the organization, it had already begun for the people in the room. And while this team was suppose to change the face of the organization there were mixed feelings when the change was about them.

As I observed people closely over the next couple of days, here are some of the key reasons I identified as to why people don’t want to change

  1. It’s about ME factor – We can act as change champions for others but when it comes to ourselves, we get alerted and have to examine it thoroughly. Lot of questions loom over our head – how difficult will my life and my job become? What will it mean in the future? Will I have the same leverage as today? What about my personal brand? These questions become the first obstacle in why people resist change.
  1. Social impact factor – almost all companies have departments, functional teams and informal circles. Once people get past the “Me factor”, next up is their group. How will the change impact the role of their group? Will their power and/or position get diluted? What will be the new office dynamics? This is the social thinking in which people tend to extend their reservations to others, mostly in a negative way. It becomes a further barrier due to group effect.
  1. “In the change” factor – people who are selected to drive the change (change agents) go through their own set of questions first. What will be our role in executing the change? How painful will it be? How will we be measured? What if the change is not successful? Is it really worth it? Will this propel our careers? People have second thoughts on going through the process because you generally don’t make a lot of friends when initiating change at a massive scale. Primarily it’s a personal risk-reward analysis.
  1. Fear factor – fear is the biggest thing in our lives. In large companies it plays a prominent role due to organization structure, bureaucracy and culture. What are the executives thinking about the change? Are they withholding some information? Can we keep everyone happy in the process? What if we burn some relationships in the process? This fear is primarily in the extended relationships that generally hang by a thin thread and people don’t want to let them go.
  1. The historical experience factor – one of the strongest emotion people have is – that’s how we have been doing it, and have done it successfully. We all live in the glorious past and have successes that we want to extend into the future. We should. However people are not able to make the leap from the past to the new challenge that would require a significant shake up. A radical change often required radical thinking and transformation of ideas, people, processes and technology. While past successes can be leveraged, they are never enough.

change mgmt factors

As we met the last day, I looked at everyone in the room. It was interesting to see people in various stages of change cycle and which factor(s) were influencing them. The change had already begun without people realizing that they were in it. I was in it too!

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