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Converting the Dissenter; Part Two

As a follow-up to last week’s blog, https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/the-greatest-danger-in-times?xg_source=activity, this week’s entry continues our discussion on the tactics that the Change Management Champion (CMC) can utilize to mitigate the change resistors also known as dissenters. As mentioned in my previous blog, frequently a combination of mitigation approaches may need to be utilized together or sequentially, as the initial approach may not be successful. The final installment will be the next blog. This three blog series encompasses ten distinct mitigation strategies. In this week’s blog, we will focus on three mitigation approaches, including:

  • Create and sustain hope
  • Demonstrate benefits in tangible manner
  • Make a personal appeal
  1. Create and Sustain Hope – Human nature tells us that we respond positively when given the opportunity to share in a better future. As individuals, we are optimistic that the initiative will have a direct, meaningful impact on us. The CMCs need to work diligently to create the optimistic environment by sharing their enthusiasm for the project and by cultivating an atmosphere that employees believe will lead to a better business environment for their public sector agency. People have a tendency to follow a leader who can create hope and for whom they trust and respect. To successfully implement this tactic requires strong executive sponsorship that is tightly integrated with their CMCs. The executive sponsor needs to be front and center and actively engaged with the employees. One of my current clients who is pursuing a CRM/311 implementation has the city manager as the executive sponsor. His boundless energy about the project has people clamoring to participate on the project team and in the new call center. He is frequently talking about the initiative via town hall meetings, video, and articles. It almost appeared that if an employee is not supportive of the project, they are questioned by their colleagues about this divergent attitude.
  2. Show the Benefits in a Tangible Manner – This tactic reminds me of some famous phrases such as “Show me the Money” or “Where’s the Beef?” There are employees that you could talk to till “you’re blue in the face” and they still have no interest in supporting the initiative. Maybe they are data driven folks who need to see hard facts prior to making a decision. They may not respond well to the “touchy feely” approach. To address this group, tangible, actual results must be shared and/or demonstrated. Suggested examples to utilize could include:
  • Sharing case studies and results of other organizations that have successfully completed a similar project
  • Requesting an individual from another organization who recently pursued a similar type of change to provide a personal testimonial (in-person, video, or webinar) of how their initiative impacted their organization
  • Clearly demonstrating and sharing project successes (even small ones) and publicly commemorating them

In a recent project I was working on, the city manager, who had an accounting background, was not convinced whether to move forward with an ERP procurement. After I presented her with some Return on Investment (ROI) data from another municipality, coupled with a conference call with a CFO from another public agency, she became quickly convinced that the new ERP system was the path to pursue.

3. Make a personal appeal – This tactic involves understanding an employee’s spheres of influence. When CMCs are confronted with a dissenter, they should investigate the personal and professional relationships they have developed with others in the organization, or even colleagues external to the organization. Preferably, the CMC should focus on relationships with a supervisor or manager of the dissenter, as they are in positions of authority. This “authority” figure can make a personal appeal to support the change and potentially create the desire to change within the employee. A personal appeal is most successful where there is a high degree of trust and respect amongst the two parties. An excellent source to find potential personnel who can make a personal appeal is to ask the employee’s manager about the dissenter’s relationships. In addition, visiting social networking sites such as Linked-In or Facebook could provide some insights about possible candidates. Recently, a CMC I was working with friended a “dissenter” on Facebook and they started exchanging articles on a sports team that was of mutual interest. A third employee, who got connected with the conversation, had a very strong personal relationship with the dissenter. Eventually, the CMC leveraged this employee to secure a meeting with the dissenter where they successfully addressed the employee’s project concerns.

Tune in next week when we continue for our third and final installation of mitigation strategies.

I close with the following questions:

1. – How have you leveraged social media tools as a mitigation strategy?

2. – What level of empowerment do your CMCs typically have?

Check out my previous nine Change Management Blogs at:

Change Happens—How Do You Manage It?


The Impact of Ignoring Change


Getting it Right: Critical Success Factors for Change Management Initiatives, Part 1


Getting it Right: Critical Success Factors for Change Management Initiatives, Part 2


Creating the Secret Sauce – Selecting Change Management Champions


Why Do We Resist? Categorizing the Different Types of Resistance


“People don’t Resist Change. They Resist Being Changed!”


“Whosoever Desires Constant Success must Change his Conduct with the Times.”


“The Greatest Danger in Times of Turbulence is not the Turbulence; it is to Act with Yesterday’s Logic.”


Spencer Stern specializes in assessing the business and process impact of new technology-based solutions, ranging from enterprise-wide software systems to wireless communications networks. In 2008 he launched Stern Consulting where he continues to focus on assessing the financial impact of large-scale municipal strategic implementations. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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