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10 tips for Managing Change and Handling Resistance

This month we continue our series of articles on labour in British Dairying.

When you need to implement a new process or invest in improvements to your farm, how can you ensure that your people embrace the changes?  In this fifth article of a series on farm labour, British Dairying offers key factors to consider.

Many people dislike change, and some may even actively resist it, creating tension, conflict and a drop in morale within your team.  “There are some simple steps you can take to give you the best chance of successfully implementing change on your farm” suggests Paul Harris from REAL Success.

Here are Paul’s 10 simple steps to consider for implementing change successfully on your farm.

1. Listen

You may have spent time thinking through the change to a process or system or be ready to invest in new machinery and infrastructure but remember the team hasn’t been through that process yet.  So, outline your thinking but give them the chance to express their thoughts and ideas.  Show empathy and respect their views.  If they have doubts or concerns, don’t dismiss them – discuss them.  You’ll have far more chance of winning their support if you listen to and acknowledge any concerns they have.

2. Information

Remember, that you’ll need to provide sufficient information about the planned change depending on the personality style of your team members.  Some people may require more time and more information before they can fully digest or accept a change.  But for all that are affected by and change, however small, have all the information ready that explains what, how and why the change is taking place.

3. Train

Sometimes, a change can require staff to take on new tasks or skills that they haven’t used before.  Be ready to provide training and development to support the change and build the confidence in the team that they will be able to tackle the changes you’re planning.

4. The Change Curve

For all changes, however big or small, recognise that we all cycle through a range of emotions, from initial disbelief about a change being proposed, to possible anger and frustration, resistance (active or passive), giving up completely, seeking to understand the change and eventually embracing the new approach or idea.  This can take some people considerable time to process whilst others may move through the process fairly quickly – depending on their personality style.  So don’t view anger or disbelief as impossible to manage or view lots of questions as resistance.  Recognise that everyone needs to process the change and will do so differently.

5. Plan

When first outlining a change – even a small alteration to a process, think ahead to the questions that the team may have. Recognise that time may be required to listen to the team and plan this in your diary.  Don’t wait until a contractor arrives to start a new build before advising your team about the change.

6. Active resistance

If you’ve asked the team to wear a crash helmet whilst driving a quad bike, and you’ve discussed at length the reasoning, implications and secured buy-in, when someone then openly defies the new rule, you can deal with it directly as it’s obvious.  This is active resistance.  Take them to one side (privately), remind them of the new policy and make it clear you expect them to comply.

7. Passive resistance

When you’ve implemented a change and most people have embraced the new methods, you might notice a change in mood amongst some members of staff.  Has there been a split in the team? Is there a ringleader for the resistance? Passive resistance is comments behind your back, gossip amongst the team and one individual trying to influence another towards their point of view.  This is far more dangerous as it can spread negativity and resistance to change amongst the team.  Find its source and bring it into the open.  Cut off the oxygen supply to those who are spreading their views by making it clear that the change isn’t going to be reversed.  Stay strong and make it clear to the team that moaning about a change that has already been agreed, isn’t going to change the direction.  Eventually, the person attempting to spread negativity or resistance, will run out of steam without others to back them up.

8. Communicate

Keep talking.  Reassure people before, during and after the change.  Have regular meetings if the changes are significant, and smaller, informal chats with all staff who’ve been affected. Inform them regularly of the benefits of the changes and how they are helping the farm.  Use statistics and details of results to build up the recognition that the change has been positive for the team. The more you communicate, the more support you’ll receive for future changes.

9. Review

When a change has gone well – review what seemed to work.  When it doesn’t go well, review what didn’t work.  Change that is rushed through without involvement from the team will often produce more resistance than change where the team are involved.  Not every change requires team involvement but constantly review which changes have gone through smoothly and establish best practices.

10. Gratitude

It’s easy to move from change to change – particularly if your business is developing quickly. Remember to thank staff for their willingness to embrace changes and remind them of the benefits to them and the business.  A simple thank you can go a long way to gaining support for future changes.

REAL Success | 10 tips for managing change and handling staff resistance