When I assumed my training company command as a young officer, I was the first female leader in the history of the organization. In addition, I replaced a very popular leader. He was the epitome of the military leader displayed on the recruiting poster. You know the type – tall, confident, and male. Needless to say, there was a little resistance to the new leader. So how do you overcome resistance?
Resistance to change is a natural reaction to change and part of the process of adaptation”
– Osland, Kolb, Rubin, & Turner, 2007, p. 643
The equation D x V x FS > R is Bechard’s Change Formula for overcoming resistance to change. According to Bechard’s formula, change occurs when an institution becomes dissatisfied with the status quo (D), develops a clear and specific vision for the future (V), can identify the first steps for action (FS), and these collectively (DVFS) become greater than the resistance to change (R) (Center for Leadership & Organizational Change, 2006).
As leaders prepare to deal constructively with change, education and communication, participation and involvement, and facilitation and support are three tactics which can increase the commitment to the change by members of the organization.
So how does a leader effect change? According to John Kotter, “people change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings” (2002).
Leaders can increase dissatisfaction with the status quo by creating a sense of urgency through education and effective communication addressing the reasons for and the benefits of the change. Therefore, it is critical for leaders to avoid the most common mistakes, which can lead to resistance and destructive inertia.
In his books Leading Change and The Heart of Change, Kotter provides an eight-step framework for leading successful change.
1. Increase urgency
2. Build the guiding team
3. Get the vision right
4. Communicate for buy-in
5. Empower action
6. Create short-term wins
7. Don’t let up
8. Make change stick
As leaders anticipate the first steps for action, they should solicit input and encourage participation and involvement from key members of the organization including individuals who are resistant to the change.
To ensure the change sticks, leaders must provide support, encouragement, training, and resources to change the mental model of the individuals affected by the change. In addition, creating short-term wins will build momentum and solidify the change (Kotter, 2002).
As leaders change their organization’s mental model, shaping the environment through a collaborative process is crucial to overcoming resistance.
Kim D. Moore
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