Change management + expert negotiation

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A frequent discussion on my Change Management Practitioner courses is that Change Management is not the most appropriate title for our profession. Perhaps “Change Encouragement” or “Change Motivation” is more relevant?

I have certainly thought that over the last week as I have observed a number of negotiations to get people to change their ways of working, none of which have gone well. These disasters have led to the termination of a supplier agreement and the removal of a Programme Manager from their programme. Obviously I want to draw out the lessons to prevent similar mistakes in the future and these are my conclusions:

Situation 1 – blaming, not learning

This was just toe curling to watch. The Manager involved made mistakes, mis-calculations and misjudgements. However, as each problem unfolded he spent precious time listing all the environmental factors which were to blame (the classic example of a poor workman blaming his tools). Everyone else got on and fixed the problems but this Manager was still moaning about the unfairness, and how the odds had been stacked against him. This blaming took all his energy and drowned out any chance of learning how to do better next time. He showed no awareness that he had taken wrong decisions, and what led him to these decisions. His team lost faith in him because they could see he wasn’t developing his ability, but was stuck blaming everyone and everything other than himself.

Situation 2 – defending, not listening

This lack of persuasion led to the end of a supplier partnership. When one party is resisting change, defending the change, talking at the other party doesn’t move them to your point of view. Defence of the change just creates an adversarial situation where the resister puts their point of view (against) and you put forward your point of view (for). I watched this back and forth conversation last nearly an hour, at the end all that had been achieved was greater entrenchment of each of the views. Resistance must be listened to. The mindset needed is to step back from “selling” the change, to recognising that the Resistor might be raising risks and issues that you have thought of. Your listening has to be genuine so you have to prove you are hearing what is being said by asking why the person feels the change is wrong. A two-way conversation gives the Resistor a chance to be heard. Telling them why their view is wrong infantilises them, implying they are too stupid to work out what’s right. Being told you are stupid is not a successful persuasion strategy!

Situation 3 – telling, not asking

The Manager involved in this situation has a lot of expertise so has fallen into the trap of giving instructions rather than working with the team to create joint answers that everyone signs up to. His view is time is tight and it is quicker if I tell them what they have to do. Psychologically, the problem with firing instructions to people is that those given the instructions feel patronised. They are being told what to do so they are being infantilised, so the best you can hope for is compliance. People might do what they have been asked but there is very little chance they will go further than the absolute minimum. After all, the instruction isn’t their idea, so they have no emotional connection to it. To generate involvement and support, ask people what they think needs doing, ask them how they think should be dine, ask them in what order to do things and who to involve. Each of these questions respects the opinion of the team member, and this respect gets their support.

If dealing with resistance to change is an issue for you, join me on my Change Management Practitioner course for lots of techniques and practical examples.