A Publication of WTVP

Throughout my consulting experiences, I have heard several scenarios regarding how a new machine, technique, software or process was implemented, only to face resistance from the employees. As William Bridges stated, “…things can and do change quickly, but people do not—even though they are under strong pressure to do so.” In planning for the identified change, I believe we should take time to go one step beyond the setting of a vision, mission, goals and objectives to consider the positive and negative forces affecting the success of such a transition.

Force-Field Analysis Theory
The Force-Field Analysis Theory takes the position that the existing situation or problem (status quo) has been reached because of a number of opposing forces. Some of these forces (drivers) push toward a solution to the problem. Other forces (restrainers) inhibit improvement or solution of the problem. When the strength of the drivers is approximately equal to the strength of the restrainers, a stalemate or status quo is apparent. Until the relative strength of the forces is changed, the problem will continue to persist.

Take the commonly shared analogy of a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. When making the plan to exercise in addition to dieting, the person who considers what factors will make the success of exercising more likely to occur is considering the drivers to success. Choosing to attend a gym situated on the drive home from work increases the probability of frequent attendance; thus, the gym location is a driver to success. Let’s face it, once home and settled on the sofa, it’s difficult to leave the house again for the gym.

Diluting the Transition Restrainers
So what are obvious employee transition restrainers and how can we dilute or remove these restrainers all together? We know that some of the reasons why an employee might resent or resist change include:

• Perception of personal loss (real or imagined) of job income, status, contacts, working conditions, etc.
• Doesn’t see a need for the change
• Doesn’t like or respect the person or department that introduced it
• Doesn’t trust the person or the manner in which change was introduced
• Wasn’t consulted concerning the change
• Doesn’t understand the reason(s)
• Considers it a personal criticism
• Feels it will do more harm than good
• Requires too much effort
• Comes at a bad time
• Creates new burdens (more responsibility, more work, etc.)
• Wasn’t told personally (got information “second hand”)
• Manager doesn’t support change
• Don’t want to let go of the comfort that comes with the status quo

Restrainers to employee transitions exist because plans create or do not consider feelings of employee uncertainty and concern about their own competency and ability to cope with new job demands. How employees perceive change may be more important than the change itself! Change is not perceived as negative because of its unwanted effects as much as it is in the inability to predict or control it.

Employees view change as negative when they are unable to foresee it, when they dislike its implications and when they feel unprepared for its effects. Drivers for smoother employee transitions would include diluting or ridding transition restrainers, such as having a communications plan that addresses feelings of doubt, control and necessity and that involves employees in the planning for the change.

Managers play a key role in influencing their team’s desire to transition through change which affects the flexibility of the entire organization’s culture. Organizational culture is the product of its accrued leadership over the years. Take time to consider the drivers and restrainers affecting the success of your next improvement plan. You’ll have a much greater probability of succeeding if you do! IBI