Why people resist change in ERP Implementations and what to do about it

“One of the big lessons is that change has no constituency. People like the status quo. They like the way it was. When you start changing things, the old good days looks better and better” (Jack Welch).

It is said that change is the only constant in life and someone said “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better” (Georg C. Lichtenberg).

Despite this people still resists change, and some resist it fiercely. “If you want to make enemies try to change something” (Woodrow Wilson)

Major organizational changes, like implementing ERP Systems, do not happen without resistance. One of the major issues you have to deal with in implementing an ERP system is managing such resistance from various quarters of the organization. Resistance to change is an insistence that the status quo remains and that there is no need to change it.

It is the role of the Organizational Change Management Team within the project management set up, to manage these resistance and to make the organization change ready, for the change initiative to succeed.

In this post, the following have been identified as the causes of resistance to change in ERP Implementations and how they may be addressed.


Uncertainty about the Future

Lack of sufficient information about the future direction of the organization as it affects individual staff may be a source of resistance to the change process. People often fear that under the new dispensation they may be worse off than they were currently. Some of them even fear losing their jobs. As you know, one of the myth around many organizational changes is that somehow people will lose their job.

Employees most susceptible to the fear of what the future will bring as a result of the change are the long serving staff in the organization that may not be easily trainable and people that currently yield influence in the current set up.


Fear of losing Influence

Some employees across the organization and across all levels have established themselves as point of reference in current set up. They may be architects of the current processes or systems in use and thus fear that their influence will disappear with the new change.


Feeling of exclusion from the change process

Some people resist change just because they have not been part of the people tasked with effecting the change in the organization. They therefore feel excluded in the change process and hence the resistance. Such staff have opinion of themselves as people to consult and listen to in the organization. They feel that people consult them for their point of view on things and therefore, in such an important change as implementing an ERP System, they should have been involved. People who feel this way can be a major source of risk for the project and a major headache for the change management team. They are the normal loud type and not reserved in expressing their opinion.


Lack of required skill necessary for the change

For the employees of the organization, implementing an ERP solution means acquiring new skills to be able to use the new systems. The fear or apprehension that one does not have what it takes to learn these new skills may translate into resistance.


Change not properly communicated within the organization

Lack of proper communication of the impending change, the need for it and the benefit to be derived from it, breeds confusion and uncertainty. When people are not clear about the need for a particular change they are bound to resist it or at best, will not support it.


Addiction to the old way of doing things

Ordinarily people are more comfortable with what they know and are hesitant trying new things, lest their incompetence are revealed. People falling under this in ERP Implementations are the ones not too comfortable with technology. These people do not want the status quo to be disturbed. They like the old way of doing things. You keep on hearing from them that the old system could do this or that easier than what you are showing them, thereby questioning the essence of the change.


Lack of trust

It may be that the organization has had some bad experiences in past change ventures, that the staff developed a feeling that any new venture will also end in failure. This attitude may at best cause a lack of enthusiasm about the change initiative or at worst outright resistance.

Strategies to manage resistance to change


Getting the support and commitment of the senior management of the organization

The support and commitment of the senior management of the organization to the change process is very important. Without this, the change is dead on arrival. It is important that most of the communications regarding the change come directly from the top management for maximum impact. Also the process of making the needed process, organizational and role changes can only happen timely, with the support of top management.


Getting the support of opinion leaders in the organization

Some people are listened to in the organization, they have a real following and their opinion on issues matters a great deal. Securing the support of such people make the job of the change management team, in selling the change, a lot easier.


Provide Training to all affected employees

Employees should be comforted that they will receive the required training and support necessary to use the new system. There should be proper training needs analysis, based on the determination of the process, organizational and role changes. The result of this should go into a well formulated training strategy. The training should be conducted at the appropriate time using scenarios relevant to the organization and real examples from the organization. With adequate training, the employees can properly adjust to the change introduced by the ERP Systems, thereby making them receptive to the change more easily.


Develop a proper communication strategy

Communication includes both the message and the channels of delivering the message. The right message precisely explaining the change and the need and benefit of the change should be formulated. Equally important is the channel to be used in conveying the message. If necessary, multiple channels with maximum impact, taking into consideration the culture of the organization, should be used.

It is important that the message is delivered by a person of authority. Here, the change management team may seek the help of top management, preferably the President/CEO of the organization to deliver the messages


Developing a strong case for the change, and selling it

It is assumed that before implementing any ERP Solution, a proper business case has been developed. The case for the change may be strengthen further as you go through the business analysis stage and people begin to see real gap between what is on the ground currently and where the organization wants to go. However, unless the need for the change is properly communicated within the organization, there will be resistance to the change being implemented.


Identifying organizational, process, and role changes and communicating it within the organization

Some of the outcomes of aligning the organization to the best practices introduced by the ERP implementation is that corresponding changes has to happen in the form of organizational structures, processes and procedures, and role changes. New organizational structures may be introduced, some existing ones may become redundant, or shifted to other areas, processes re-engineered, procedures re-written and roles redefined.

All these changes have to be understood by the employees, and this is a key function of the change management team. The change management team will have to communicate all these changes clearly and at the appropriate time. This will allay employee fears and avoid uncertainty and confusion.


Make a clear statement, which should be reflected in actions, that the decision to change has been taken and will not be reversed

People trying to resist change should be given less opportunities to do so. They should be made to understand that the decision has been made to chart a new direction for the organization, and that decision is irreversible. Therefore, it will be in their interest to move along with the change. They should be reassured that they will not be alone in the journey and will be properly trained to be ready for the change. It is very important that people know from the onset that they cannot go back to the status quo to prevent them from hanging on to the hope that, may be the change will be reversed.


The Change Management Team should work closely with the implementation teams

As the implementation gets started, the change management team should be side by side with the implementation team in requirement gathering sessions with the view to determining very early in the journey the likely process changes, organizational changes, and roles changes, and communicate this clearly in the organization.

Early identification of process, organizational, and role changes in turn help in the process of defining training needs and also comforting employees that in spite of the change they have an important role to play in the new organization.


The Change Management Team should work closely with the business

The change management team should, throughout the implementation of the change process, listen to concerns of the employees of the organization directly impacted by the change and try to provide comfort and allay fears.   The need for change and the expected future outcomes should be clearly explained from the onset. Proper selling of the change initiative to the larger organization, providing needed information about the need, and benefit of the change help in reducing resistance to the change and provide you with ready partners in the change process.


Involve the business process owners throughout the implementation

The business process owners are the ones that are eventually going to own the system, and the employees under them are the ones that will use it. Again your implementation is intended to address requirements of Business or user Departments in the organization that these business process owners are heading. It is important that they are involved throughout the implementation. This understanding and cooperation will eliminate or reduce any potential resistance when the system is eventually delivered.


Engage the people that fear the loss of influence if the status quo changes

The change management team has to try and engage people that feel they have a lot to lose if the status quo changes, and involve them in the change process. These may be people, who for example, are the architect of the current system you are trying to retire. They may be selected as Subject Matter Experts in the analysis of the “As Is” situation and also allow them to participate in discussion of “the To Be”. It must be noted however, that using such people is not without risks, as they have the tendency to draw people back to the past because of their attachment to the old ways.


Involve Highly Opinionated Employees in the implementation

There are people in the organization that have opinion about anything and everything and they like to be heard expressing it. If they are not involved in any initiative, they most certainly will talk negatively about it.   It may be a good idea to involve such opinionated people in one role or another, in the implementation. These people will always have ideas and you can, at the same time, satisfy that inner feeling of self-importance they have of themselves. Such people can also serve as good change agents for the business area they currently work.


Make use of Change Agents

It is important to select employees from all parts of the organization impacted by the ERP implementation, to serve as change agents helping in driving the change initiative. These should be people highly respected in the business area they are employed in, and should be part of the representations of the Business in the implementation. You should help in systematically building their capacity in the ERP Module they are helping in implementing, to make their job easy as change agents.


Manage the expectations

From the onset, it should be clear to all stakeholders what is and what is not, part of the scope of the implementation. This prevents conflicts and the subsequent differences in attitude that can make the change manage.


Now what do you think? I would like to here your thoughts on the subject. You may kindly leave a comment.

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