written by: ||
People resist digital transformation for good reason. And you must navigate tactfully to overcome these barriers.
While you rally the organization around the transformation vision, do not expect everyone to come onboard.
Some people or groups will actively resist. And you need to know the sources of such resistances and anticipate how to deal with them.
So, I’m about to show you the top five barriers you’ll likely meet, and how you should deal with each of them.
Mind you that the people resisting transformation believe they’re doing so for good reasons. Some may be losing something central to their career. Or others believe their current skills may be at risk of becoming obsolete.
Here are the five common sources of obstacles that you must manage tactfully and overcome to succeed with digital transformation.
1. Power will shift and those on the losing end may resist
Any change to the status quo will involve a shift in power.
And so those on the losing end will actively resist.
It’s just a reality that transformation will not make everyone happy. So you need to anticipate how to handle people who feel frustrated.
For example, automating the supply chain process will improve efficiency by eliminating decision bottlenecks.
And of course, this is good for the future of the organization.
But think of those managers that currently make the decisions you’re about to automate. How will they feel?
Well, it depends. If those decision gave them privileges to allocate resources, then losing them will make them feel frustrated. And so they have good reason to resist the transformation. And the will do.
Because of this, most of them may delay to provide inputs other people need to move ahead. In fact, chances are high that they’ll do something to slow down the transformation process in some way.
As a leader you have to acknowledge their frustration and help them adapt.
- Give them a chance to vent their anger and frustration,
- Meet regularly with them to help them reorient their new normal,
- Give them new rights and responsibilities, even in other areas of the organization
Remember some of these people worked for years to take the organization where it is today. And you must handle their frustration with care and respect.
If you’re not the CEO, then you must make sure the CEO is actively involved. Most barriers related to power can be difficult to manage if the CEO is not involved.
Because it may even come to the point where some people must leave the organization for transformation to succeed.
2. Competency gaps may provoke fear and resistance
New ways of working will require new competencies, while making others obsolete, either of which is likely to provoke fear and resistance.
For instance, if you shift from selling products to selling services, or if you shift from a command-and-control management to a more empowering style, people will require new skills to cope.
And so, this shift may bring shock to those old school folks whose skills are at risk of becoming obsolete.
Imagine you’re transforming to a more data-driven organization. Then managers who have been making decisions based on gut feelings for years, will now need to learn to integrate insights from data into their decision making process.
As a result, they may need to learn how to pull data from the system. Which is enough reason for some to resist. At least for some time.
You could address this issue by taking action to equip people with the skills they need before they need them.
- Organize trainings to equip people with new skills ahead of the change
- Coach and counsel people who may have specific challenges when acquiring new skills
- Help develop new career paths for people, so they can regain visibility of their future.
One last thing! You must ensure everyone sees a clear image of that alternative future, before they’ll take the above initiatives seriously.
3. Self-esteem crisis may fuel resistance
You may have people whose work is central to their self-esteem. For such people, change often means a crisis in personal identity.
Imagine the company canceling outdoor marketing activities to focus more on digital channels. What will become of those folks that are highly respected for hosting and animating outdoor marketing activities?
In other words, they’ll find it hard to digest the fact that they’ll stop presenting products on TV and radio. They’ll feel a loss in self-esteem and identity. And they’ll stand as another barrier to the digital transformation effort.
Here’s what I think you should do to overcome this barrier.
- Involve people when planning changes so they can figure out how to start building new identities.
- Give people an interim period before formal changes are made so they can have time to practice new skills and behaviors to build new identity
- Coach them to take full advantage of the new reality and transform their careers
4. Changes to reward systems may provoke serious resistance
The new culture may bring changes to job titles, authority compensation, and perks. People will resist these changes if they feel they’re losing privileges.
If the new organization will be more decentralized, then people top at the hierarchy may find themselves sharing authority than they did before.
Likewise, automation in most cases redistributes tasks from humans to machines. And this means people will no longer be paid for the routine tasks that have been handed to machines.
And if this change is accompanied with a redistribution of compensation packages, people at the losing end will resist.
As a leader, you can minimize this resistance by creating new incentives and rewards that align with desired behaviors.
5. The fact that people will let go old relationships to build new ones may spark resistance
Changes to structures and systems may force people to form new relationships and create new social networks.
As you know, people took time to create those relationships. And they benefit from them to get things done.
The pains of starting over to create new relationships can push people to team up to resist transformation.
Think about it. Imagine your unit being dissolved and you’re sent to a new unit. The loss of old relationships that took years to establish, is enough reason for you to resist the transformation.
As a leader, it’s your role to help people better prepare for the transformation.
- Organize team-building exercises and encourage employees to establish new relationships before you implement big changes.
- Create communication channels that can enable people stay in touch with their friends in the organization, even if they work in different units.
That’s the challenge ahead. And I’ve just given you some tips to deal with it.
If you’ve not done so, then feel free to check this complete guide to leading and managing digital transformation.
And I’ll continue to share more tips in coming articles. So stay tuned…
Want to receive updates on similar topics?
Enter your email below…
100% Privacy ! No Spam