Barriers to Change

Barriers to Change: Role Limitation

Change management has traditionally been limited to leadership—but modern organizations need everyone involved to succeed

Your organization is finally making much needed changes, but you’re still seeing a few hold-outs. It doesn’t feel like people are resisting change so much as ignoring it: they’re not turning up for critical meetings, or they’ll agree to do something, only for it to end up at the very bottom of their to-do list. But when you confront them, they pass on responsibility, saying “change isn’t in my job description.” 

In modern organizations, change is constant and omnipresent: everyone in the organization must get comfortable with making change a part of their day-to-day work.

And for many individual contributors, they’re absolutely right: change isn’t a part of their job descriptions. Historically, change management has been seen as only belonging to leaders or experts, and only for a designated period of time—during a reorg, for example. They may already have too many responsibilities in their official job description as is, and literally don’t have the time to take on more. In fact, pushing back on additional work can be a perfectly reasonable response and a form of setting appropriate boundaries.

Organizational Change

NOBL has helped world-famous organizations change collective behavior and business outcomes. Reach out to see how we might be able to help your organization.

At the same time, in modern organizations, change is constant and omnipresent: everyone in the organization must get comfortable with making change a part of their day-to-day work. Whereas “change management” has been (and in some places, still is) a large, planned, top-down, project management-flavored initiative in the past, change is best driven by those who are doing the work—with support from people well-versed in the organizational dynamics of change, of course. 

To get folks on board with this level of participation:

  • Reset expectations. Your first job is to demonstrate that change is, in fact, part of their core work, in that it impacts their effectiveness in their role. Communicate how changes will benefit them. One way to make this more palatable is to reinforce that you’ll be co-creating mechanisms for change to happen in or alongside the work they are already doing, as opposed to creating a grand change plan that feels like a second job.
  • Rebalance priorities. It’s completely fair for individuals to have a reasonable workload. Work with them to determine what other tasks and projects can be delayed, and how change work can be prioritized instead.
  • Assess performance metrics. If individuals are still being measured to their original job description and don’t receive any credit for the change work they do, change work will continue to suffer, so make sure they line up. Furthermore, this is a good opportunity to think about informal rewards within the organization—what sort of behavior is praised? Are people looked on less favorably (e.g., “not a team player”) if they don’t complete their work?
Published August 25, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Is your change designed to fail?

NOBL is hosting 1-day intensive workshops for leaders to ensure you avoid the most common and potentially disruptive barriers to change. View upcoming sessions.