Fear may be one reason why leaders resist change. During this economic climate, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that company leaders would be nervous about implementing anything different that may rock the boat even more.
“Sometimes the writing is on the wall and organizations are triggered to change,” says Edwin Bosso, author of “6,000 Dreams: The Leader’s Guide To A Successful Business Transformation Journey” and founder/CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group. “In fact, members of the organization often are keenly aware that something needs to be done. However, despite that, management does not act, and the cost of inertia can be high.”
There are five reasons why leaders resist change, Bosso says, and ultimately, because of this resistance, their companies fail to move forward.
- They confuse important versus urgent. “Important issues are those that do not necessarily have an explicit deadline, like urgent issues, but can effectively have some impact, large or small, on a business,” Bosso says. “The confusion sets in when owners and managers spend too much time putting out fires rather than planning. For example, the company may know that it is important to upgrade its operations. But it doesn’t become urgent until later on, when the company looks at the output of its competitors that have completed transformation projects and have become a lot more cost-competitive.”
- They lack courage/leadership abilities. “It can be intimidating taking on such a challenge that, to some leaders, may seem like moving a mountain,” Bosso says. “Others are better prepared to take risks, confront reality, envision a better way, make plans, and then act on those plans to lead a change.”
- They misalign the incentives. Leaders cannot let their own personal incentives get in the way of changes the organization needs. “Misalignment of personal incentives can cause us not to act, even when we know it’s the best thing for the company,” Bosso says. “When we are in line for a promotion and higher pay, we certainly don’t want to take on risks that can potentially work against us.”
- They lack support and/or resources. “This is a set of obstacles that many leaders run into,” Bosso says. “The powerlessness can come from the lack of company means, organizational backing, human capital and resources to support the cost of a transformation. After a while, they run out of energy, or time, to make the case.”
- They lack a method. While some leaders know changes need to be made, the way to accomplish those changes may not be obvious to them. “In such situations, leaders often freeze up and put off the impending need to change, or they approach it through trial and error,” Bosso says. “Having a methodology is beneficial when taking on such an effort. Some leaders take the time and effort to learn what needs to be done, while others bring in experienced people to provide a method for leading a smooth and successful transformation.”
According to Bosso—who has worked with companies such as Heineken, Texas Petrochemicals, T-Mobile, Anheuser-Busch, Rohm and Haas, Campbells Soup Company, Kellogg’s and Morton Salt—leaders must understand that there will never be a perfect time for change. However, the right change often only happens if they force the issue.