8 Tips for Managing Resistance in Lean Six Sigma Initiative

change management front

Lean Six Sigma projects or any improvement projects is always associated with the word ‘Change’. Whenever we come across something new it’s always scepticism that overcomes our thoughts and behaviours and we head towards resisting such changes. Like changes taking place in our everyday lives—such as you are getting older with each passing year, a change not fully welcomed by many—there are many such changes taking place in the way we work at our organizations. Hence, the change management should be in place.

Organizations themselves don’t normally change, but the people and their systems and methodologies are subjected to this change. Change is normally initiated through way of projects, initiatives with a sole view of making something better. Improving business and individual performance, integrating new and improved technologies and systems, addressing important issues to stop them from obstructing the growth of the organization—all these sounds very positive and influencing, but why then do organizations find themselves in a situation where many employees resist such change?

In the world we live in, change is always accompanied by a negative connotation. Change for the better can always have a negative impact on the way things have been working up until now. Change can go wrong or the other way very quickly if not managed correctly, and this has been true for many instances where projects undertaken for a great objective have unfortunately not made the cut. At such times, enter Change Management.

What is Change Management?

Organizations are in a constant bid to introduce positive and enhancing changes to workflows and processes, job roles and employee structures, and systems and technologies. But, all these wouldn’t work as expected if the people driving them aren’t ready for the change to take place. Embracing a new way of working can find some employees in a fix and this can be difficult for them to transition into, thus, sending the initiative into a downward spiral.

Amidst all these, you have Change Management that can be perfectly described as a discipline helping and guiding us to prepare, equip, and support ourselves and other working individuals related to the change to adapt to the change successfully and drive the success and increased performances of the business or organization.

Change management provides that systematic and structured approach, which you will need, to turn the introduction of change into a successful and permanent solution for a business case or issue. Change management heavily relies on individual transitions and initiative to be successful.

As per change management, there are three levels of changes that can be managed by its framework. They are as follows:

  • Individual Change Management
  • Organizational Change Management
  • Enterprise Change Management

As a Six Sigma Black Belt, Green Belt or Project Lead, it comes down to you to implement and manage the change in such a way so as to inculcate it at the root level, only then will the vision be realized. The following list of top 8 tips and tricks to change management will serve as a cheat sheet and help you make the climb through successful change management easily and without hindrance.

1. Have a Systematic and Customized Approach

Change can take different directions almost instantly. Its volatile nature makes it turn and twist in the most unexpected ways. Containing such changes inside a systematic approach can help you immensely when you are out there, trying to implement a change using an established change management framework.

As a project manager implementing change management, it’s necessary that the tools and techniques you use are well thought of right at the start or initiation of change and is continued even after the project implementation takes place. This will give you a great idea of how well the change is being absorbed into the workplace setup you have at your organization.

Another important aspect about change management is that you need to remember that every project is different and so you will need to have a customized change management plan for each one of them. You can’t very much have a template for all your change management implementations. Depending on the departments and line of executives and staff being subjected to change, each step needs to be meticulously planned, and each plan needs to be constantly reviewed and measured for success.

2. Expect Resistance

Change without resistance isn’t change at all. It’s very seldom that you find all your team members and colleagues in an all-embracing mode to the change initiative or change management program that is being belted out in the organization. You should very well be ready to face resistance to this change as not all can envision the big picture at stake here.

Expecting resistance would mean being prepared for all that can come unexpected from there. Your team members can be non-cooperative or might slack in performing the necessary transition, or still worse could be them passing on these negative vibes and insecurities across the floor. This attitude can be detrimental and should be figured out in your plan for change management.

The employees are the driving force for the changes within the organization and since you will be the one leading these changes, it’s important that you take into consideration the worst-case scenario of the outcome of the change implementation and reverse engineer the plan to meet the best result possible.

Communicating, asking questions, and receiving feedback regularly can help you break the barrier that spikes resistance. Also, ensure that the change you’re implementing isn’t really substituting employee satisfaction and happiness to increase business output.

3. Ask for Inputs from Colleagues

Surround yourself by other project managers, belters and senior managers who have successfully managed changes in the recent past. Since they have exposed themselves to such changes and have learned how to manage them, you will have a great guide in them. Keep consulting them on issues that you aren’t sure of or need some more insight into. Let them know that you’re interested in learning more about change management from a live example that took place in your organization.

It’s better still if they are the ones who implemented change management frameworks in your own department in the past. This way, they will be familiar with the demographics of your department and would know the inside and out of the work culture and the mentality of the employees facing the change.

Asking for input would even mean approaching the individuals who are going to experience the change. Ask them what they think about the initiative and how much would that change their daily work routine. Keep employee satisfaction in mind and you will be able to curb resistance as well. Make sure that your employees have your trust and show them the big picture they are contributing to.

4. Support Those Affected by the Change

As mentioned earlier, your staff and employees can have very different and vague reactions to the changes that take place in the organization or in their department. It is at this time that they look towards their managers for support and motivation, and this support and motivation you give them can make a positive impact on them for their and your future in this change.

Listening is very important a skill and can pay off during change management. Feedback sessions and even one-on-one meetings can help employees understand and relate to the change that will be affecting the organization, the department, and their job roles as well. Check with them how it’s going to add to their career and furthermore to their resume in the future. Ensure that each and every member of your team is on the same page and discuss these with other project managers to ensure that everyone in the department is on the same page too.

Making employees feel comfortable is the most important aspect of change management. Once they are comfortable with the change is implemented, they will reciprocate and embrace the change faster, with a view to owning it and pushing their hard work towards maintaining it.

5. Involve All Affected Employees

Getting to the ground root from where the change will manifest itself can help your decisions turn into refined grains of corporate unity. Each decision needs to have representatives from among the executives convening to be then belted out. Once you have their perspectives in front of you, you can be rest assured that your employees’ buy-in remains within your change management approach.

Having employee buy-in can sound very trivial and unimportant at the top level but being the people who are right at the epicenter of the change can help you magnify the change to the proportion it needs to be magnified to. Huddle up once very often and let them know how it is going on and take their views and buy-in on pressing issues faced by the change program implementation.

6. Commit to Clear, Regular, and Precise Communication

Communication is at the heart of change management and will be the link that binds you to the people who are affected by the change. Your systems may be flawless, your planning all supreme, but it won’t mean a thing if your people aren’t on board or don’t take your views and vision to their desks.

This change management communication link can be strong or can be weak. If it’s strong, your employees will be well aware of what is happening and what are the results or the outcomes expected by the organization and they will also realize what part they play in the grand scheme of things.

If the link is weak, your team will soon dissipate and you will be left with disgruntled employees even though the project initiative is spot on and will help your business to double its stand in the market.

You wouldn’t want an unsuccessful project at your hands and would want a team and department that embrace the changes with the company common goal in mind. Make it known to them of the project’s importance and help them co-relate it to their benefits and what’s in it for them.

7. Keep Some of the Old

It’s always better to realize the fact that your employees are working on old systems and processes for quite some time now and might need some phasing in order to get accustomed to the new processes, workflows, or systems, which you plan to implement. It’s always recommended that you phase out the old while still keeping a few of the legacy systems, and based on the performance of new systems and processes, then slowly completely fade out the old. This way you’re giving your team a good amount of time to transition and providing yourself with a fallback mechanism to rely on.

Change management within process improvement needs to take care of these aspects and should be conducted in such a way so as to not affect the project objective or the company goal. Familiarity is always mankind’s best friend and keeping the familiar till the new becomes the familiar can help phase into the transition bit by bit.

8. Acknowledge the Importance of Corporate Work Culture

Workplace culture is said to be a great enabler of change taking place at an organizational level. Whether the change involves the use of new and improved technology or new systems and processes that will help product development and productivity, it is often proved that when the organization and the management sector taps into the energy exuberant by the executives and their commitment to the organization, that is, their work culture, there seems to be more responses to the change initiated.

Change management is this aspect of project management that taps this very basis of employee power and dedication and roots it in a manner so as to channel productivity into the mainstream of change. This enables the change to sustain longer so much so as to retain a permanent status at most times. Organizations that hold the view of company “culture-led” approach towards change can eventual break barriers of resistance and hold the company goals and values in full view. This enables an even more holistic view of the change and its management.


Adapted from Educba.com