Aberdeen Group has stated that 82% of all negotiated savings from strategic sourcing initiatives go unrealized. Why are companies leaving money on the table? The fear of change. Change is universal and constant. Presidents are elected on it, the masses wish for it, and bums ask for it. And, like the other constants in life -- namely, death and taxes -- people are terrified of it.

There are plenty of phrases used in business to cover up a person's or organization's fear of change. The ones you likely hear the most often range from "We're doing that already" or "We did that already and it didn't work", and the constant "We've done it this way for X amount of years and it has worked. Why change now?".

We deal with these challenges and resistance in relation to organizations spend practices. People viewing change as an implicit accusation that they were doing something wrong, or that their work wasn't good enough. Others may see a change in a business practice as a threat to or usurping of any established or presumed authority. Dr. Steve Nguyen, in an excellent blog article detailing change in the workplace, quoted a study from Schermerhorn, Hunt & Hosborn detailing eight reasons people resist change. They are:

  1. Fear of the unknown
  2. Lack of good information
  3. Fear of loss of security
  4. No reason to change
  5. Fear of loss of power
  6. Lack of resources
  7. Bad timing
  8. Habit
The article then lists six methods to deal with this resistance to change, from the same study. 
  1. Educate people about the change prior to its implementation and help them understand the logic behind the change
  2. Form task forces and coalitions to get people involved in the design & implementation of the change
  3. Provide support, in any form necessary, for those that aren't adjusting well to the change
  4. Incentivize the changeover for the stragglers and hold-outs
  5. Work on other ways to influence minds regarding the change
  6. Use authority and clout to order people to accept change 
These solutions are very effective when trying to affect change horizontally across an organization, or down to subordinates and managed assets. Difficulties persist, however, when trying to affect change from below -- whether that's getting a superior on board with new practices or generating sponsor approval with a client. 

In instances like these, Dr. Nguyen references a Harvard report from a J.P. Kotter, which listed steps necessary to implement change. The most important of these were to 1) plan to and generate short term wins and 2) consolidate gains and produce more change. To put it bluntly, rig an initiative to produce steady periodic successes, then use each of those successes to build credibility, putting you in line to successfully pitch stronger initiatives down the road. 

Change is hard. Persuading someone to change can be even harder. It's important to remember, however, that you want to be in the position of affecting change. Its when changes affect you, or your organization fails to adapt to a changing market, that trouble comes. 

We've shown you the science, now tell us the practice. How do you successfully pitch change within your organization?
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Nicholas Hamner

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