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Overcoming cultural barriers to change deals with reducing the resistance to improve and also know how to remove the obstacles for improvement.

Resistance to change is obvious and hence it pays to prepare for it. There are common causes for resistance, such as loss of control or increased uncertainty.

But, each change will also have specific elements that may also cause resistance. This article provides an efficient and practical explanation of overcoming cultural barriers to change.

After reading, you’ll understand the basics of the appropriate approach to change management. 

Whats in it-

What is Overcoming Cultural Barriers?

Proper leadership involves implementing changes and also manage all the processes related to change and management for achieving organizational goals

However, it’s People’s nature to have a certain level of resistance to change. All cultures have their own beliefs and methods, and that’s also true for corporate cultures as well.

Although some cultures can develop through change, the resistance is often higher than the will to change. They are overcoming cultural barriers in order to change deals with how to remove these barriers.

Resistance to change is average and you should also be prepared for it. No matter how minor, or sensible your change initiative may seem. 

Resistance to change can take many forms. Objections for proposing change may be very vocal and explicit or may be expressed in silence and dissent.

Some resistance will be to the content and nature of the change, some to the process by which we implement the changes.

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change

How to Build Appropriate Strategies to Overcome Cultural Barriers?

This section looks at the common reasons people may resist, explores how to identify the types as well as magnitude of resistance, and explains how to build appropriate strategies to deal with this resistance.

The ‘Psychological Contract.’

One key to understanding why people resist change is to view the world of work through psychological contracts.

Many organizations have definite psychological contracts with their staff they reward them with high level of employee commitment. Generally, this translates into a positive impact on performance.

If this psychological contract is broken, the results can negatively impact job satisfaction, commitment, engagement, and, therefore, performance. 

It is essential to consider the psychological contract when planning for a change initiative, as alterations to current working ways can threaten a positive psychological contract.

There are various things to help mitigate the threat to the psychological contract during your change:
  • Communicate openly and honestly about the change as early as possible.
  • Build-in lots of opportunities for employees to give feedback and become involved.
  • Be realistic about the impacts of the change – don’t oversell the benefits, and be honest about dis-benefits.
  • Changes that may involve redundancies need extra care as well as planning. Involve HR very earlier and take their advice on how to communicate and handle staff issues. If the organization has a staff consultation group, make sure that you talk to everyone you need to, and also keep them involved from a very early stage.

Common Causes Of Resistance and How to Overcome These Barriers

Kanter (2012) lists 10 common causes for resistance during change initiatives, and gives some tips for leaders of change on how to deal with them.

Reason for ResistanceHow to Deal with It
Loss of control over territory Leave room for those affected by change to make choices, get involved with planning and take ownership.
Excessive uncertainty during the change Create a sense of safety with certainty of process, clear simple steps and timetables. 
Change is sprung on people as a surprise Don’t plan changes in secret – keep people informed of what is happening. 
Too many differences at once·         Minimize the number of unrelated differences.·         Where possible keep things familiar.·         Avoid change for change’s sake. 
Loss of face from those associated with current stateCelebrate the elements of the past that are worth honouring.
Concerns about competence·         Provide abundant information, education, mentors and support systems.·         Run systems in parallel during transition if possible. 
Change is more work·         Allow some people to focus exclusively on the change.·         Reward and recognize participants.
Ripple effects – change interferes with the activities of other areas·         Enlarge circle of stakeholders.·         Consider all affected parties and work with them to minimize disruption.·          
Past resentments surface due to the interruption of a steady state·         Consider gestures to heal the past before focusing on the future.
Sometimes the threat is real – change is resisted because it can hurt·         Be honest, transparent, fast and fair.  For example, one big layoff with lots of support is better than a series of smaller cuts.·          

Types of Cultural Barriers 

Resistance to change can take on a variety of forms. I explore three of the most common types found during change initiatives.

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change

Audible Unhappiness

Symptoms

Lots of very audible one-way communication to you, senior managers, and also the colleagues about the fact that people are unhappy with the change.

Things to Be Careful Of

Other people may follow the lead and also become unhappy with the change. Audibly unhappy people can dominate group meetings and workshops.

Senior managers may become unsettled about the difference if they perceive lots of audible unhappiness.

How to Deal With It

Engage on a one-to-one basis to as certain what aspects of the change are making people unhappy.

Work with people to identify any benefits they may personally realize through the transition.

Take feedback on board and, if possible, work with individuals to find solutions to the things they are worried about.

Disengagement 

Symptoms

Lack of attendance at events, training, and meetings. Lack of participation if forced to attend. You agree to proposals and also the approaches without questioning them.

Things to Be Careful Of

It is easy to miss these people in the early stages of the change as they keep reticent. Disengaged managers can negatively affect their teams.

People don’t get the chance to input into the change planning until it is too late.

How to Deal With It

Identify the reason for disengagement: is it lack of time, denial that the change is happening, latent sabotage?

Take the turn to them – arrange one-to-one meetings or attend established meetings rather than asking them to attend your organized activities.

Increase engagement by involving people where you can, e.g., gather feedback about the change from their colleagues, testing and trying out new ways of working.

Sabotage 

Symptoms

People bring their agendas to meetings, workshops, and training sessions. Try to ‘‘brake’’ systems and processes. Spread negative rumors about the change to colleagues.

Things to Be Careful Of

Sabotage is subversive, so it is often hard to identify the source. New systems and processes can be fragile in their early stages and quite easily broken if someone puts their mind to it.

How to Deal With It

Identify the saboteurs and ensure they know they have been identified. Give people responsibility for aspects of the change in order to increase their buy-in and accountability.

Common Considerations for Building a Strategy to Manage Resistance

This section gives you some ideas about how to build a strategy to manage resistance. 

Also, Kotter and Schlesinger (2008) suggest the following two considerations while building your strategy: 

  • Analyze the following four situational factors:
  1. The amount and kind of resistance that is anticipated.
  2. How potent the initiator of the change is in relation to the resisters.
  3. Who the people are who have the relevant data to design the change and the energy to implement it?
  4. How great the risks are to organizational performance and survival if the change is not made.
  5. Determine the optimal speed of change: the above analysis will help decide how quickly or slowly the change should proceed. 

In general, it is recommended to proceed at a slower pace. This gives time to reduce resistance and ensure all relevant stakeholders are involved in designing and implementing the change. 

However, if the current risk to organizational performance and survival is very great, it will be necessary to implement the change more quickly, which will involve less buy-in and focus on ‘forcing’ the change.

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change

Overcoming Cultural Barriers by Building a Sustaining Momentum

It can make an effort to build momentum for your change initiative. It is even more challenging to sustain that momentum, especially if there is lots of planning needed before implementation, or if the application takes a long time. 

Momentum can be built through regular communications, engagement with stakeholders, and an active change agent network. Timing the build-up of this momentum is crucial. 

If there is a long lead-in time for the change, it can be detrimental to build momentum for the move too early.

People will become frustrated, lose interest, and focus on other priorities before the change can actually be implemented. 

Four key strategies can support building and sustaining momentum during the planning and implementation stages of a change initiative:

Timing of Communications:

Increasing the frequency of communications will help build momentum as users hear more about the change as implementation approaches. 

Phased Approach to Implementation:

If the nature of your change allows, carry out a pilot or earlier tranche before rolling out to all users.

This allows testing solutions and approaches to the rollout, as well as gather case studies and ‘good news’ stories from early adopters. This will increase the interest of users waiting to go live, as they hear how their colleagues are getting on.

Keep Visibility of the Changing High:

When the change starts, especially if you have built up momentum, it may be the top of everyone’s priority list. 

However, if it is a lengthy rollout, or an extended period of embedding is needed, other things will begin to take people’s attention. Your change may slip down in people’s priorities.

Keep people focused on the change, keep the levels of communications, and ‘good news’ stories high. Publish hard data updates. For example, ‘300 more people have gone live with the change this month’. 

Task Managers With the Responsibility for Delivery: 

Build successful implementation for their areas into their targets, objectives, or reporting. Remember: ‘if it isn’t measured, it doesn’t get done.

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change

Conclusion

In this article, you learn several techniques to deal with resistance, depending on the cause and type of resistance you are experiencing and the urgency of the change.

Building and sustaining momentum, and supporting managers and supervisors, are both critical factors in preparing for resistance for Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change.

And remember, the primary reasons given by people for resistance are not always real reasons.

It may be that your change will uncover covert practices or lack of skills that have so far gone undetected and which people will not readily admit.

In order to deal with the real issues, dig deep with resistant users to find out what they are anxious about.

FAQs

What are the cultural barriers to change?

Overcoming cultural barriers to change deals with how to reduce the resistance to improve and how the restrictions to change can be removed. Resistance to change is to be expected and, therefore, it pays to prepare for it. There are common causes for resistance, for example, loss of control or increased uncertainty.

How do you overcome cultural barriers?

You can overcome cultural barriers by doing all the things given below
Communicate openly and honestly about the change as early as possible.
Build-in lots of opportunities for employees to provide feedback and become involved.
Be realistic about the impacts of the change – don’t oversell the benefits, and be honest about dis-benefits.

What are the barriers to change?

Audible unhappiness: Lots of very audible one-way communication to you, senior managers, and colleagues about the fact that people are unhappy with the change.
Disengagement: Lack of attendance at events, training, and meetings. Lack of participation if forced to attend. You agree to proposals and approaches without questioning them.
Sabotage: People bring their agendas to meetings, workshops, and training sessions. Try to ‘‘brake’’ systems and processes. Spread negative rumors about the change to colleagues.

What are some barriers to successful culture change in an organization?

Following are the five common barriers to effective organizational change
Individual Change Resistance.
Lack of Communication.
Lack of Strategic Direction.
Ripple effects – change interferes with the activities of other areas
Lack of Consistency.
Lack of (Perceived) Leadership Buy-In.