We hear “Change is the only constant” so often that we treat it as a fact, but how many people fully embrace change or make change happen starting from them? According to Mullins (2010), corporate management cannot do much if an individual is resistant to change. It that true?
Understanding Why People resist Change
Has it occurred to you that leaders themselves can be resistant to change? The following research shows that up to 67% of resistance arises from the managerial level onwards!
Fear of Unknown
Lack of clarity and understanding of the change, coupled with culture and habits, encourages status quo, especially when nothing is going wrong or situation is positive at the time – the “Nothing’s broken, so no fixing required” mentality (Tim Creasey, 2020).
Trust and Support
Lack of engagement with individuals may be perceived as lack of support, resulting in lesser trust in leadership (Tim Creasey, 2020).
The importance of leaders being able to build a mutual relationship that supports ideas, values hard work, takes care of employees’ welfare, needs, and their career growth encourages a stronger connection for individuals to support change initiatives (Nabeel Rehman, Asif Mahmood, Muhammad Ibtasam, Shah Ali Murtaza, Naveed Iqbal and Edina Molnár,2021).
If leaders are calling for change but brushing off ideas due to past failed experiences, how would we expect individuals to be speaking truth to powers? Most will take the safer course and slowly, this moulds the company culture to just do what works and nothing more (Shani Harmon, 2020).
Change Management Models
Kurt Lewin’s 3-Stage, ARKAR, and Kotter’s 8 Steps Change Models are the most popular. Compared side-by-side, there is similarity in the core context of these 3 (Samer Sheikh Hamdo, 2021), and Kotter’s model would be more comprehensive and detailed when used for larger corporations. These models ensure leaders are fully aware of the potential pitfalls to navigate, especially in the key aspects of human relations and communications, to maximize chances of success.
Exemplifying the need to keep pace with changes, Kotter proposed a combination of network and hierarchy systems in his 2014 ‘Accelerate’ book, representing how the system should focus on continuous assessment and ability to be agile, and react quickly to changes and opportunities. At the same time, he updated the model to overcome some limitations of the previous in being too rigid and top-down (Mark Connelly, 2020).
The Fall and Success of Change
One great example of the fall and rise of companies in relation to change are Blockbuster and Netflix.
Blockbuster’s Failure to Change
Blockbuster enjoyed huge success from 1985 till 2004 when they started to lose out to Netflix. They had not caught up with the technology for one, but mainly, they lost entirely on lack of change. They had lost their business focus, which should have been on the customer experience and their engagement. Their front lines became increasingly transactional (Brian Hampton, 2017) and their business model shifted towards higher penalty on late fees that drove more customers away. There was a lack of vision to shift towards online subscription which caused their downfall. Blockbuster resisted change because their leaders find it unnecessary due to their past success (Sean Wise, 2018). They were complacent, and leader Antioco was looking down on Netflix’s buyout offer in 2010, thinking they are just a small player and didn’t pay much attention to them.
Netflix’s Successful transformation
Netflix on the other hand had foresight on the upcoming trends. They had been following Blockbuster’s concept in the beginning, and it was tough competitor, which prompted the merger desire with Blockbuster. The merger didn’t happen, and Netflix was spot-on for the online subscription model, achieving 6.3 million subscribers in 2006 and never looked back (Tom Huddleston Jr., 2020). Of course, Netflix’s success was not entirely owed to the failures from Blockbuster, but it was their agility in managing change that has been key to their success. There is a strong culture of trust where its leaders assume responsibility for its strategy, allowing employees the freedom to make quick decisions. Netflix encourages empowerment over control and adopts the right approach allowing much agility in the organization. This approach has built a strong change culture at all levels in the organization (Brightline Initiative, 2018). They have been a $213 billion online entertainment giant since 2020 and still growing (Tom Huddleston Jr., 2020).
There will always be more doubters than believers as we understand from the law of diffusion (Roger, 2013).
As the above change model suggests, apart from setting a clear vision, Leaders will need to identify a group of strong believers to spearhead the change. Slowly, with small wins achieved, more will be converted into believing the change and together amplifying the new vision towards a new norm.
Overall, we can conclude that management can do a lot to overcome resistance to change, but it’ll take time depending on how well culturally it is being conditioned and led by its leadership. There is no one-size-fits all model and they are there to provide a structured guidance which are not limited to one model only – organizations should apply what’s most relevant to their circumstances. It is also crucial for leaders to recognize underlying causes for resistance and allow a certain degree of trial-and-error when executing change to build up trust and safety net. This allows room for errors and ensures close engagements with its people. After all, we are dealing with people, emotions, and relations. Ultimately, the environment of the organization must be well-prepared for constant change to cater its services to the desires of its consumers and keep its business relevant.
Are you prepared to be a Leader FOR CHANGE?
Navigate and Embrace Change | Simon Sinek
Word Count: 864 words
Brightline Initiative, (2018, 20th August). Netflix’s success demonstrates the importance of strategic agility. World Finance. https://www.worldfinance.com/strategy/netflixs-success-demonstrates-the-importance-of-strategic-agility
Brian Hampton, (2017, 14th February). What Blockbuster Taught Change Management. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-blockbuster-taught-change-management-dr-brian-r-hampton/
Mark Connelly, (2020, 12th September). John Kotter 8-Step Model Of Change. Change Management Coach. https://www.change-management-coach.com/john-kotter.html#Accelerate
Nabeel Rehman, Asif Mahmood, Muhammad Ibtasam, Shah Ali Murtaza, Naveed Iqbal and Edina Molnár, (2021, 2nd August). The Psychology of Resistance to Change: The Antidotal Effect of Organizational Justice, Support and Leader-Member Exchange. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.678952
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
Schmidt, D. (1995). Use and integration of computer-related technology in teaching by preservice teacher education faculty (Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1995). ProQuest DigitalDissertations. (UMI No. AAT 9610982).
Samer Sheikh Hamdo, (April, 2021). Change Management Models: A Comparative Review. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.24741.01764
Shani Harmon, (2020, 20th February). Change Management Is A Mindset. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/harmoncullinan/2020/02/20/change-management-is-a-mindset/?sh=5a53cf7c1f65
Sean Wise, (2018, 31st October). Blockbuster Failed to Master This 1 Thing, and It Made the Company Irrelevant. Inc. https://www.inc.com/sean-wise/blockbuster-failed-to-master-this-1-thing-it-made-company-irrelevant.html
Tim Creasey, (2020). UNDERSTANDING WHY PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE. Prosci. https://blog.prosci.com/understanding-why-people-resist-change
Tom Huddleston Jr., (2020, 22nd September). Netflix didn’t kill Blockbuster — how Netflix almost lost the movie rental wars. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/22/how-netflix-almost-lost-the-movie-rental-wars-to-blockbuster.html