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Have Obstacles to Change? Of course you do!

Address them through communications

Obstacles to implementing change initiatives are common and can certainly cause change project failure if they are not addressed. Obstacles can be business-focused or personal-focused, as shown in the table below.

Business-focused obstacles to change

Personal-focused obstacles to change

  • Lack of tools or technology to enable for success
  • Insufficient information about the “why” of the change
  • Poor/lack of communications
  • Change fatigue (too many changes happening in too short a period of time)
  • No, or limited, leadership support for the change
  • Distrust in leadership
  • Fear of impact of the change on the individual
  • Fear of losing status or autonomy in the organization
  • Disruption in the daily routine
  • Potential for job loss or a negative financial impact
  • A “we always do it this way” mentality in the organization

Implementing Positive Organizational ChangeThese are just some examples of obstacles to change; there are certainly many others that may arise. And, an obstacle identified for one change initiative may not arise in a future change initiative.

Identify Obstacles to Change

Obstacles to change can be identified in a number of ways,

  • Surveying to understand concerns of employees
  • Formal meetings, such as department meeting or focus groups
  • Informal meetings, such as casual conversations, “checking in” with employees
  • Review of past change initiatives and lessons learned from them

Certainly some obstacles we can just expect to be present. For example,

  • An organization that has gone through significant change in a short time period
  • Situations where leadership obviously and vocally does not support the change
  • Organizations where communication is insufficient, incomplete or perceived to be lacking in some other way
  • Organizations where employees perceive that leadership has hid information or lied

Take the time to understand what obstacles you might be facing prior to officially communicating and launching a change initiative. It is much easier to manage obstacles before a change is officially launched.

For one client, prior to the launch of a complex change initiative, Abudi Consulting Group asked employees what would concern them about the change. This question was asked to engage employees in conversations about change and surface any obstacles. The question was asked via an online survey, focus group sessions and through informal conversations. The data gathered helped to structure a communication plan to address perceived obstacles.

Communicate to Address and Manage Obstacles

Develop a communication plan with a focus on addressing and managing obstacles. For example, if an obstacle is concern over whether employees will have the skills and knowledge necessary to implement a new process; communicate about training that will take place to provide employees what they need to successfully utilize the new process. When communicating about an upcoming change, be sure to share the reason why the change has to happen and the benefits of the change to the organization and also to the employees.

Ensure communications enable for a variety of channels to get feedback, and actively reach out and look for feedback from employees. The more you communicate and engage employees in the change, the more you will remove any obstacles that may impact the long-term success of the change.

These are just a few ideas to improve your next organizational change initiative. Want to learn more? Purchase Gina’s book, Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach, J Ross Publishing, 2017.

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