As practitioners of business analysis, we help facilitate valuable change in organisations. We help our organisations strive towards their organisational objectives, and in doing so we help to define, instil and reinforce change. Yet, whilst we may be progressing objectives that seem exciting and empowering to us, we might find that some stakeholders resist the change. We might even sense that some people fear change altogether.
When talking about resistance and fear of change, I am always reminded of a situation I observed over a decade ago, which is as relevant now as it was then. A contact centre was rationalising its processes and office space, and started to standardise workers’ desk space. It was seemingly positive and non-contentious—people would get new equipment—yet one seemingly insurmountable issue emerged. Yet it seemed so minor…
The Problem with the Post Tray
Historically some people had been given three post trays rather than two, and the new standard layout limited everyone to having only two trays. The people who had three trays tended to be people who had been with the organisation the longest, and they were very vocal and reluctant to give up their extra tray. This issue seemed to over-spill into general cynicism and resistance to the initiative generally. As a BA, it is easy to think people are being petty. I mean, how important can a plastic postal tray really be? Yet it is important that we find out.
In order to understand issues like this, it is important that we get closer to the reason for the reluctance or resistance. Perhaps, for example:
- The extra tray has become a ‘status symbol’ differentiating those who are perceived as more ‘senior’
- Staff weren’t consulted so don’t feel bought in
- The extra tray is used for a genuine purpose that wasn’t considered
Of course, there may be many other reasons too. These are symptoms of distress and disengagement and ignoring them is dangerous. Getting to understand the reasons, and truly empathising and engaging will help us co-create a solution that works all round.
Change Is Scary and Inconvenient
It is often the case that even valuable and beneficial change actually causes inconvenience in the short term. Sometimes it’s necessary for new processes and ways of working to ‘bed in’. Sometimes change might literally destroy knowledge that a stakeholder already has or may require significant re-learning. This can act as a major barrier to change.
It’s easy to think that as BAs we are immune to this fear of change, but of course we are not. When change affects us personally, we will feel just as unsettled as any other stakeholder. Perhaps it will help to consider an example…
Why Aren’t We Using Dvorak Keyboards?
If you speak English as a first language, you are probably sitting at a computer or device with a QWERTY keyboard. This keyboard layout was chosen back in the days of manual typewriters, specifically to avoid jamming. It is believed it was designed minimise the chance of two adjacent keys being simultaneously pressed. This creates more motion for the typist’s hands, more stretching, and (potentially) more strain than is necessary.
A layout that is reportedly superior—the ‘Dvorak’ keyboard’—which reduces stretching and strain was patented by Dr. August Dvorak & Dr. William Dealey in 1936. With the advent of computers, and no need to worry about jamming typewriter hammers, we could transition to the new layout tomorrow.
So, let me ask you this. If somebody came into your office tomorrow and replaced your keyboard with a Dvorak layout, how would you feel?
I know how I would feel—annoyed! I would have to re-learn a skill that I rely on every day (typing!). It would slow me down in the short term, and—even though I know there is a long term benefit—I’d struggle to be enthused. Chances are you’d feel annoyed too if this were to happen to you, re-learning is hard.
When change is implemented in organisations, stakeholders often have to re-learn in a similar way—and they are likely to experience similar justified feelings of reluctance.
Empathising with our stakeholders whilst ensuring we maintain an ongoing healthy focus on co-creation will help us achieve change that sticks. Ensuring that there is regular, clear communication, and that we conduct ongoing stakeholder analysis is crucial. Working to build buy-in and enabling stakeholders of all types to have a voice will help. But most of all remembering that change can be unsettling—and acting empathetically and ethically—will help us build rapport and collaboratively cultivate a shared solution.
What are your views, do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your experiences and tips. Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!
If you’ve enjoyed this article don’t forget to subscribe.
About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com