Implementing organizational change can sometimes feel like fighting an uphill battle, especially when it comes to the widespread change associated with digital transformation. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page, which means the expectations, responsibilities and value are made clear to each person. Communication and change management strategies can make change much less daunting for organizations. In this blog post we’ll be looking at some of the reasons why change is so hard for us and giving you the tools and strategies you need to respond to these challenges.
Why is change so difficult?
Despite our best intentions, we often find it difficult to achieve long-term, sustained change. New Year’s resolutions are a perfect example. Every year we make plans to eat healthier, exercise more or get organized, and in the first couple of weeks we’re committed to making these small but impactful changes. Then something happens and we find it difficult to maintain our new habits and routines.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. There are many reasons why it’s hard for us to change our behaviour and all of them are grounded in human psychology. Here are two that come to mind when I think about making any kind of personal or organizational change:
Breaking Old Habits
Neuroscience gives us a glimpse into why habits are so difficult to break. Everything we do, think or feel involves neurons, or brain cells. There are billions of neurons in the human brain and each neuron connects with other neurons, creating trillions of synaptic connections. These connections are the circuits that underlie (and often reinforce) our habits.
The more we do something, the stronger the circuit becomes, the more habitual a behaviour becomes and the harder it is to change the connection between neurons. Although the human brain likes patterns, we’re also capable of responding to changes in our environment. This neuroplasticity is how we learn, grow and evolve. We may be susceptible to forming habits, but we can always create new ones with a bit of conscious effort.
It can also be difficult to change due to our fundamental misconception of how change happens. We tend to think of behavioural change as a single event, but the truth is that it occurs gradually, over time. In this age of instant gratification, where knowledge and results are often right at our fingertips, this can be incredibly frustrating.
We don’t always move through the various stages of change in a linear fashion, either. It’s common to move back and forth, cycling through stages until we become more comfortable and fully establish change. We perceive this as backsliding, which can be very demotivating and make our goal seem even harder to reach, but according to psychologists, this is the norm. Being aware of how change actually occurs may help us prepare for obstacles so we’re more likely to realize the change we want to see.
Habits are hard to break and we often expect instant results; both reasons shed some light on why change is so difficult to achieve on a personal and organizational level. This doesn’t account for the additional challenges that come with organizational change, like allocating the necessary resources, restructuring teams, managing different personalities, adjusting established processes, establishing a framework for accountability and so on.
Common Digital Transformation Objections
There are two common reasons why organizations are hesitant to embrace digital transformation. The first is—you guessed it—resistance to change in general. The ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ mentality can put businesses at a strategic disadvantage. Your team may be comfortable with manual business processes, but digitalizing these can reduce costs and increase efficiency so you can deliver exceptional service and increase customer satisfaction.
The notion that something must be wrong before it can be fixed precludes an agile, ongoing approach to business improvement. If you’re only looking to solve issues when they arise, you’re taking a reactive approach to business that may ultimately impact your revenue, customer churn and talent acquisition.
“We’re too small” is another common refrain from organizations when it comes to digital transformation. There’s no denying that digitalization can be a costly and time-consuming process that comes with many risks. But what is the alternative? If smaller organizations don’t leverage new technology, they risk losing business to larger competitors.
Small and medium-sized businesses and multinational corporations share many common goals. Do you want to increase revenue? Secure a larger market share? Increase customer satisfaction? The size of your company shouldn’t determine the sophistication of the tools you use. If anything, smaller businesses where people wear multiple hats can benefit most from tools that simplify and streamline business processes.
The challenges associated with digital transformation shouldn’t deter businesses from embracing organizational change. Anticipating the objections your team may have to digital transformation and using change management strategies can help you start your digital transformation journey with a clear plan and create a smooth transition.
Change Management Strategies
Here are some principles and best practices to consider before implementing any organizational change:
- Define what the change is. Simply saying the organization is going through a ‘transition’ will create more questions than it will answer and it may even set off alarm bells for employees. Step one for dispelling internal and external concerns about organizational change is determining exactly what the change is and communicating it consistently across the business.
- Set clear, measurable goals. One of the best ways to define change and plan for future success is to create SMART goals – objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. These will be clear indicators of how successful the organizational change has been and help you determine whether you need to adjust your strategy.
- Start at the top. It’s important to engage employees at every level of the organization, but successful change starts with senior leadership. A motivated and strategically aligned executive team can ensure multiple perspectives are accounted for, address any concerns and be digital evangelists.
- Communicate the value at every layer. We often spend a lot of time and effort ensuring everyone understand their role, specifically what is expected of them and what success looks like in their position. The one thing that’s often overlooked is the value for the employee. What value will this change provide them? How will it improve their day-to-day work? Clearly communicating the employee value proposition to your team can help overcome any reservations they may have.
- Measure and adjust, if necessary. Remember those SMART goals you set during the planning phase of your digital transformation or organizational change? You should set up a schedule to track your progress by regularly measuring them. Quarterly business reviews and board meetings are excellent opportunities to do just that; if you’re not meeting your goals, you can use these meetings with the company’s senior leadership to adjust your strategy with a view to hitting your targets.
Digital transformation is a significant opportunity for all organizations, regardless of their size, but objections from employees and concerns from customers can be a major deterrent. These shouldn’t keep you from realizing the benefits of digitalizing and streamlining your manual business processes. Change management strategies are an effective way of addressing internal and external concerns and laying the foundation for successful organizational change.
For a comprehensive overview of objection handling and change management strategies, download our free Guide to Objection Handling: