Too Little Focus On Barriers To Effective Change

In all change situations there is a (sometimes toxic) mix of both organisational and individual barriers. As most attention is focused on communicating the external reasons for the change (competitive pressures, cost problems, changes to the business model/operating factors etc) the organisational and individual dynamics of change are often ignored or down played. Yet effectively addressing these areas will create a much stronger people platform on which to build the change process:


Organisational Barriers

  • Structural inertia – people are carefully selected, trained, and rewarded in connection with their roles. When people are focused, changing things can be very difficult.
  • Work group inertia – strong bonds are made between people that form into rigid groups which can be resistant to any change that threatens their social norms.
  • Threats to the balance of power – changes to who is in charge, allocation of resources and reporting lines all can have a significant impact on change resistance.
  • Previous unsuccessful change – the baggage carried around about previous bad experiences can be a strong block on new change initiatives.
  • Compositions of senior management groups – dysfunction amongst these groups will severely hamper the change process.


Individual Barriers

  • Economic insecurity – will changes to my job threaten my future earning capacity?
  • Fear of the unknown – comfort and security are derived from familiar things, the opposite is also true.
  • Threats to social relationships – disruption to social groups threaten peer group satisfaction.
  • Habit – the way we perform a role becomes second nature. Change can move us out of this comfort zone.
  • Failure to recognise the need for change – without personal buy-in to the change an individual will resist it.
  • Demographic background – three major factors that contribute to change suggestibility: younger in age, better educated and less experience of the organisation they currently work in. The opposite applies.

With the potential barriers identified, the challenge is how to address them.


Techniques For Avoiding Redundancy


There is no sure fire way to avoid redundancy, however there is real evidence of positive discrimination around the criteria used for selection that can improve your chances of staying off the list:


How To Avoid Redundancy (Positively)

  1. Do the job you are paid to do brilliantly.
  2. Create as much additional value around your contribution as possible.
  3. Be a high quality, low maintenance person.
  4. Be reliable.
  5. Be easy to get on with.
  6. Constantly demonstrate flexibility and a “can do approach”.
  7. Learn at a faster rate than the pace of change in your industry.
  8. Build your internal network.
  9. Volunteer.
  10. Be pro-active in suggesting new ideas.

Think about how people are promoted, by becoming the obvious choice candidate. Avoiding redundancy is that same process in reverse, becoming the least obvious choice candidate.

For some people the above list will be too late. For them there is another set of criteria that can be equally effective in keeping you off ‘the list’, although they may find you placed on other lists.


How To Avoid Redundancy (Recklessly)

  1. Be the only one who knows how the computer system works. Make it impossible for anyone else to learn.
  2. Be too expensive to fire.
  3. Offer to work for nothing. You might think you are now, but you could go even lower.
  4. Go off work with stress to do with ‘the way you are managed’ just before the consultation process begins.
  5. Let it be known you have significant information that would benefit the competition.
  6. Become a drinking companion with the Business Editor of your local, or better still, national newspaper.
  7. Collect non-compliance data, especially around health and safety. A recent death (not yours) can help here.


Be Careful What You Ask For

Most people want feedback.  The people who don’t want feedback often really need feedback.


  • “How am I getting on?”
  • “Am I good at my job?”
  • “What do my colleagues think of me?”
  • “Do my customers rate me?”
  • “What does my boss think of me?”
  • “Do my employees respect me?”
  • “How can I improve?”

They’re all questions we hear a lot, but that people ask of themselves far more often.  Getting feedback is brilliant, but it’s not always honest or helpful.

Customers often go elsewhere without saying a word, not because they were unhappy, but because they think they might be happier elsewhere.  If they were unhappy they may have given feedback as a complaint, and that could have been fixed, building loyalty.  A lack of feedback can lose customers.

The same is true for employees, who may not kick up a fuss if they’re dissatisfied, but might just start scanning LinkedIn for job opportunities.

You may get overlooked for promotion, and not know why, when no-one told you that you don’t speak up enough in meetings, or dress like an executive, or what you think of as “plain speaking” everyone else considers rudeness.


Getting feedback is great, and the best way to get feedback is to ask for it.  Choose who you ask, when and how, carefully.  A direct report may be intimidated by the question, a customer may feel “on the spot”, you may catch your boss at a wrong moment.  Ask in a non confrontational way, when there’s no areas of contention, and you’re in a private setting to get the  best results.

Throwing the question out to everyone may not get you the results you want as the Sydney Herald found when asking for feedback on the monorail system:L


For those of you who don’t recognise the “feedback” received, here’s the source: