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What to do when a team is resistant to change

As consultants, sometimes we have clients that need many hours of training and help understanding what they should be doing in order to make the end product successful. Although we are hired to make a difference, to change the way our clients do requirements and make products, sometimes we encounter people or teams that are resistant to change. So, what do you do in this situation?

Let’s take an example from a recent project. Despite our best efforts, we had a team that refused to change. The manager of the team knew there were issues and this person’s attitude was, “eh, this is what we have to work with”, rather than having the attitude to train and better the team. This person had many roles to fill, other than being a manager, and had to prioritize all of their tasks and there were other tasks that took priority over this one. At first, we just filled in the gap: what they wouldn’t do, we would. This caused strife within the project because issues and specific information was coming from the wrong team, so others thought that we were trying to sabotage the project when we actually were working towards the success of the project and we were not comfortable releasing a product with major flaws.

Another approach we took was to give pointers on how the team can improve. We let them know how we found issues and gave them a checklist to go through prior to submitting their items for review. However, this also led to strife because it looked like we didn’t think others were capable of doing their jobs. This caused some to feel pressure to do more and feel that we were threatening. As consultants, we don’t want to be perceived in that way, rather we want to be a knowledge center that is open and can be referenced.

Ultimately, we sat down with key players and try to figure out how to improve this part of the organization without stepping on toes. Some limitations were determined, but ultimately everyone was on board with improving the organization for better success of the product.

Improvements are still being made today. I don’t think the issue would have received the attention it has without the trial and error of finding what may work versus what did not. Through experiencing this issue, I would recommend the following approach when presented with a similar situation:

  1. Bring attention to the issue
  2. Explain the impacts to the project, focus on financial impacts
  3. Get your ducks in order: ensure you have support from key people within the organization
  4. Get people together to formulate a plan of action: be sure to be inclusive, manage the time so the relevant topics are discussed and so that you keep on track
  5. Take action on your plan: be supportive of those who need to change habits; always HELP and never be pompous or arrogant
  6. Monitor results and modify your plan if necessary. Also, make sure you get the opinions of others who are directly involved to ensure all are happy with the results.

This is a simple list and all situations are more complicated. However, this list will keep you on track to get improved results and taking action is always better than sitting back and not enjoying the ride.

Do you have experience with a resistant team? What actions did you take?

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