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.