Episode 329: How to Overcome Resistance to Project Change Management (Free)
This episode is sponsored by The Agile PrepCast for the PMI-ACP® Exam:
When we talk about “change management in project management”, the words “resistance” and “tension” often spring to mind.
Consider the resistance to project change management for instance, when two organizations merge, or the fear that employees will feel when a part of their job is automated and some of their skills become redundant.
But the problem isn’t the change itself in spite of the difficulties that it may bring.
To discuss the project change management process with us today I’m very pleased to welcome back one of our favorite interview guests: Susanne Madsen (http://www.susannemadsen.com), whose book The Power of Project Leadership contains a large section on change management.
She says: Organizational change is vital for any business that wants to survive and thrive in our increasingly competitive and fast paced word. The problem is that many project leaders struggle to fully motivate and engage their teams in the process. They often move too fast, are too outcome driven and not sufficiently consultative in their approach.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode number 329. This is the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you so much for stopping by.
When we talk about change management in project management, then the words resistance and tension, they often spring to mind. Consider the resistance to change management for instance, when two organizations merge, or the fear that employees will feel when a part of their job is automated and some of their skills become redundant. But the problem isn't really the change itself in spite of the difficulties that it may bring. Are you PMP® Certified and want to earn 37 PDUs quickly and for less than $5 per PDU? That's no problem with The Agile PrepCast. It not only prepares you for your PMI-ACP Exam but also qualifies for a lot of PMP® PDUs. Visit www.agileprepcast.com/pdu for the details. To discuss the project change management process with us today, I'm very pleased to welcome back one of our favorite interview guests, Susanne Madsen. Her book, The Power of Project Leadership contains a large section on change management. She says, “Organizational change is vital for any business that wants to survive and thrive in our increasingly competitive and fast-paced world. The problem is that many project leaders struggle to fully motivate and engage their teams in their process. They often move too fast, are too outcome-driven and not sufficiently consultative in their approach.” So let's change that. Enjoy the interview.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Susanne, welcome back to the Project Management Podcast.
Susanne Madsen: Hello, Cornelius. Thank you for having me.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, this is like what, your 200th interview here in the program.
Susanne Madsen: I'm don't know but time just passes so quickly.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes, yes, yes. So, we want to talk about change. Let's start very basic here. Why is organizational change hard?
Susanne Madsen: Well, I think there are number of reasons for it. Basically, well, number one, we are not trained in it. And why are we not trained because it's got to do with people. And a lot of project managers are not very well trained and versed when it comes to interfacing with people. So I think if we consider that we have some technical project managers out there who are very good at being rational and logical in designing a new system or a new device, it's a completely different skills that we need when we're talking about organizational change. And also, I think that a lot of projects actually have that change element to them, to some extent. And where there's a large change element, we can really struggle because it's about human behavior and I think that's fundamentally why it's difficult.
Cornelius Fichtner: And what exactly do we mean by resistance to change?
Susanne Madsen: Well, that's interesting because resistance to change has become this label that we apply to people who seem unwilling to accept the change. But when we look a little bit deeper, well, what is it that they're resisting? They're actually not resisting the change, they're resisting what the change will present to them. So oftentimes, this so-called resistance will kick in because we believe that it will lure something. It could be status, or power, or comfort that we have. And because of the change, we feel uncertain now, you know, how would that affect us? So that's actually really what we are resisting to. We, it's almost like self-protection.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right. And you've already allured to this a little bit. But what happens if we as project managers are bad at managing this change and this resistance to change?
Susanne Madsen: Yes, so what happens is that the whole project is not going to be as successful because people are going to resist and that happens because as we said before, we treated us a mechanical as a logical process when we don't go and engage with people. So when change is badly managed, it's because we don't go in and connect with what is really going on below the bonnet here. Why are people feeling fearful? So, it's actually that emotional aspect where, when we don't manage change well, fear and uncertainty is allowed to propel out of proportion. And that will hinder people, that will hold people back.
Cornelius Fichtner: How does a good story help us overcome this?
Susanne Madsen: Yes, so imagine that you have an organizational change, so we can talk about some examples. One example maybe that we have two offices merging, that's a big organizational change. Or maybe we can look at a smaller one where we are talking about an office move. So, you might think, with an office move, that's really all about just moving people from A to B, isn't it? Well-
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, I know because I don't really want to sit next to Joe in the new place.
Susanne Madsen: Exactly, and you-
Cornelius Fichtner: And I'm way too far from the restroom and I no longer have a window seat and yeah.
Susanne Madsen: Exactly, it's open plan, you used to have an office. But what was, it's longer from your home, you have to commute it further. So this, all this stuff going on right? So the change story is really how is a manager, I'm not going to tell that story to my employees. I'm not going to say, yeah, that's it, suck it, you know, and see, and so what you're complaining about, it will be a new building? Or am I really going in and telling a story which tells people why are we doing this and how will it affect you. That's really what a good story. A good story is so important because people feel that they, well through a good story, people can feel they're part of it. They can feel that their fears and concerns are being met and that they're being listened to really and that should be important.
Cornelius Fichtner: You've mentioned being part of the story. How can I encourage my team and those affected by the change to be part of the story?