Want to curb resistance to real
change in your office? First, make sure it works.
I was recently asked this question: How do we approach
change in our organization so that our colleagues embrace
The traditional approach is to fall back into the well
defined discipline of change management. At the risk of
maligning an entire cottage industry, I like to sum up change
management as a loose joining of psychology, sociology and
coercion. Yes, some people are set in their ways. Yes, some
people truly want to live rigid, stoic lives. But in my
experience, these truly change-averse individuals are few and
far between. So, why is change so often hard to deal with in
Nearly every agency has made a shift in technology. Think
email systems, smartphones and agency management systems. An
inevitable factor to success is convincing our most loyal
servicing staff to change their ways. In fact, every time
I’ve been involved in an agency system change, the agency
principal inevitably asks me, “How many people will quit
because of this change?” The underlying belief is that
our employees are resistant to change. This is a strange belief
because it’s simply not true.
Our industry has lots of great leaders. They hit the road on
a regular basis, visiting their locations, talking to their
teams and getting a sense of how their company is doing from
the inside out. The next time you walk through your offices,
take a look around. How many of your servicing people are
bringing their iPhones to work? The next time you’re on
LinkedIn or Facebook, do a quick search to see if you can find
any of your change-resistant colleagues. I bet you will.
Your employees and colleagues aren’t resistant to
change. They’re resistant to change that doesn’t
work. They’re resistant to change that directly affects
them without creating a tangible direct benefit in return. Ever
try to get a top producer to use a prospecting or CRM system?
What’s in it for them? Their job is to foster
relationships, open the door and get your agency’s
experts in the room at the right time to seal the deal.
It’s not their job to track production and handicap odds
of winning next quarter’s business.
Our servicing teams have a similar problem. As an agency
leader, you have to think in broad terms. How do I get my
invalidated producers in the groove? How do we get our agency
growth back to double digits? Your servicing teams have a
different approach. They count clicks and minutes. When you
suggest a major system change, they worry that the clicks will
increase. When you add more clicks and more screens, you slow
them down without giving them a direct benefit in return.
Unfortunately, most agency system changes result in some amount
of this workflow bloat. Our service teams get cranky, and we
interpret this as resistance to change.
So how do we fix this problem? Take a look at the
technologies that we’re all adopting in our personal
lives. Every one of them makes life easier and allows us to
short-cut our way to connectivity, information and results.
I didn’t see any value in Facebook when I signed up in
2008. Now, I don’t ever have to talk to my cousin Larry.
I know about all the weird stuff he’s doing because he
updates his status 12 times an hour. Now that’s a useful
Innovation is only successful when it’s focused in the
right way. If we validate the need for innovation and change
against the following core tenets, resistance will dissipate,
often in its entirety:
- Every change imposed on a colleague should come with a
direct tangible benefit to them. If it does not, reassess the
- The “experience” a system provides is as
important as the function the system was designed to perform.
If the functions of my iPhone were only available in a
98-pound device that required a backpack to carry it,
I’d probably do without.
- Change management is required to convince people to
accept something you have decided to adopt without accepting
their input. If it changes your colleagues’ lives,
include them. More importantly, listen to their
- When people perceive they’ve had a hand in building
something, they will possess an irrational over-valuation of
it. It’s human nature. Query your decision makers,
stakeholders and yourself to assure that your decisions are
being constructed thoughtfully, rationally and with as much
neutrality as possible.
So, what is the short answer to the original question? Well,
let’s first change the question from, “How do we
convince our teams that change is good?” to “How do
we improve the lives of our servicing teams?” If we do
this, the original question becomes irrelevant.
Gagnon is The Council’s director of strategic
technology and president of Tiebeam Partners.