Manage Change Resistance in Your Law Firm

October 28, 2019

By Colleen Kendzior

Introduction

Lessons learned from technology transformations have consistently shown that the human element, not just the technology, is a determining factor in the success of a project.

Supporting the human element is a multi-faceted approach collectively known as change management. One of the goals of these employee-focused activities is to support faster adoption and more productive performance of the future state by identifying, assessing and minimizing change resistance. Change resistance is one of the most common obstacles that firms face during any technology implementation. The most common reaction to change resistance is just that, a reaction to an already existing problem.

In this article, we will focus on how the change management communications activities can provide a more proactive approach to supporting your impacted employees during an implementation.

Change Resistance in Your Firm

Change resistance is a negative, unenthusiastic, or passive reaction to changing behaviors, tasks, processes or technologies. Change resistance can lead to employees becoming disengaged and less productive – proposing a risk to your project’s success and your budget. Disengaged employees tend to ignore emails, multi-task during training sessions, avoid asking questions, and considering how the impacts will affect their day-to-day activities. Consequently, you end up with ill-prepared and frustrated employees, unanticipated impacts, slow progress, an extended period where tasks take longer than they should, and a very busy helpdesk.

Change management proposes many ways to proactively identify and address resistance before it becomes overly impactful. Focusing on change management communications during a technology deployment will help employees get involved, assuage their concerns, introduce them to the anticipated benefits of the future state, and educate them in such a way that they are more prepared for go-live. This resulting effort saves the firm resources, budget and time.

Change Management Saves your Firm: Resources, Budget, and Time 

Identify, Assess & Minimize Change Resistance:

Identify Change Resistance

  1. “I’ll do things the new way, but I’m going to do it the old way too- just in case.” Statements like this come from employees who don’t trust the new changes and plan to continue using outdated or manual ways to complete work in the background, slowing down productivity.
  2. “Sure the old process is convoluted… but it works for us- so it’s fine.” Often heard from apathetic or overwhelmed employees, who would prefer to remain with admittedly complicated processes in order to avoid the effort of making a change.
  3. “That team should change their process, but our process works fine _ even in their future state. This shouldn’t impact our processes.”
    Overly enthusiastic about change for others, but unwilling to assess their own team’s needs to adapt is often heard from teams who are suffering from fatigue.
  4. “But…..every 6 months or so we have an invoice that cannot follow this process” or “but…. my boss likes it this way.”
    After learning about the new technology, employees may have one or many reasons why they feel as though they cannot move to the future state as it’s currently planned, and “need” exceptions made. Some of these concerns may be valid and require accommodation or a workaround; some may just require additional communication about how to manage the impacts of this change.
  5. “Yeah, I heard something about that. I’m sure there’ll be training or whatever- someone will send an email.”
    Resigning themselves to a change is not the same as embracing that change is coming. Employees who feel resigned to change tend to be disengaged, disinterested, and difficult to train.

Assess Change Resistance

Identify formal and informal leaders from all impacted parts of the firm at all levels to create your change network. Your change network attends meetings with the change management team then shares this information with their own teams, working as a conduit for 2-way communication between employees and the project team – building open communications, trust, and encouraging questions.

Encourage leadership and management to host and attend meetings with their teams that will include project updates in order to: promote the project, ensure their teams are active participants, encourage optimism and put an end to any rumors or miscommunications.

Minimize Change Resistance:

Communicate Openly and Often

Introduce the upcoming technology implementation project to all employees in the firm and explain why the project is essential, why the timing is right to engage in the project now, what’s in scope of the project (and what’s not), who’s involved (project sponsors and project team – as well as change agents), as well other secondary impacts to other planned projects or services (i.e. projects on hold, services that will be limited based on resources allocated to the project team, etc).

Dig into the Details

In some instances, what might please one person might be a point of frustration for someone else in a different part of the firm. Tie these changes back to the firm’s goals and help ensure everyone understands their contribution to the overall effort.

Don’t Shy Away from Unpopular Messages

Be conscientious about how you decide to communicate the messages. Providing unambiguous messages, despite whether they are going to be perceived as positive or negative, sets appropriate expectations.

Create a Communications Plan

Understanding the user-facing impacts for each role and team will help to plan the aspects of communication: subject, audience, method, timing and cadence, as well as the appropriate communicator for each message.

Conclusion

Change resistance is unavoidable, however, change management activities that can help proactively support your employees, minimize change resistance, and save the firm money. In future articles, we will focus on how other change management activities, including workforce transition and training, can help minimize change resistance and better support the human element of your implementation.

We’d like to hear more from you about your change management needs at your law firm. Leave us a note here.

Want to download and share our illustrated blog? Download it here.

Already making a transformation? Evaluate if those changes will follow best-practices by using our assessment in Starting the Journey to Law Firm Best Practices.

Written by: Colleen Kendzior

Colleen has over a decade of experience in Organizational Change Management and leads the Organizational Change Management Team for Fulcrum Global Technologies.  Her career has been largely focused on providing a holistic approach to managing change related to ERP and software implementations by maintaining focus on the impacted users throughout the organization.