Finding 1: Over half of the participants in the latest change management study cited mid-level mangers and front-line supervisors as the most resistant groups to change in the organization.
Finding 2: Poor support and lack of alignment with "middle management" was listed as one of the top three obstacles to change.
But that is not the end of the story. Overcoming resistance from managers is just the beginning of a blueprint for successful change. Take a look at the next four research results:
Finding 3: An employee's immediate supervisor was a preferred sender of change messages in terms of communicating about change.
Finding 4: Engaging managers and supervisors as effective communicators was number two on the list of what participants would do differently next time in regards to communication.
Finding 5: Involving supervisors as resistance managers was the number two tactic for managing resistance with employees.
Finding 6: An employee's direct supervisor was cited as the most effective provider of reinforcement during change.
These last four findings cause us to take a step back and consider how effectively we've engaged managers as leaders of change. Managers are one of the most important allies in making projects and initiatives come to life. They interact constantly with the employees whose day-to-day work is impacted by the particular solution, and their role is crucial when it comes time for the change to be adopted throughout the organization - i.e. when benefits are actually realized.
Role of managers in times of change
The 2007 benchmarking study also looked deeper into the role of managers in times of change. Participants were asked to identify the most critical roles managers and supervisors should play when changes are being introduced into the organization. The top five responses were:
Communicate with direct reports about the change (Communicator)
Demonstrate support for the change (Advocate)
Coach employees through the change process (Coach)
Engage with and provide support to the project team (Liaison)
Identify and manage resistance (Resistance manager)
Through their words and their actions, managers can mobilize employees around a change to how they do work - improving the level and speed of adoption. Or, conversely, they can be a significant barrier and impediment to your change.
The importance of managers in times of change is clear, and there is a growing body of knowledge around the role that mangers and supervisors play in times of change. The critical question is: How well are you preparing your managers and supervisors to be great leaders of change?
Treating managers first as employees experiencing change
Prosci's new Change Management Process for Managers and Supervisors tackles this problem head on. A manager who is resistant to a change cannot effectively lead their people through that change. This seemingly simple observation has tremendous impact and consequences when overlooked in organizations. In fact, it is often overlooked as project teams get caught up in the technical activities of designing and installing a solution.
The degree to which you are able to engage managers and supervisors is directly tied to the benefits your project will deliver to the organization. Prosci's new Change Management Process for Managers and Supervisors (shown below) is a research-based approach to mobilizing this critical group. By following the process, you will be able to effectively:
Demonstrate the importance of your managers
Set expectations around their role
Build their support and buy-in for the initiatives underway
Give them the tools they need to support their direct reports
Help them build their competency as "great leaders of change"
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.