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Resistance is Futile: Work with Human Nature to Manage Change Successfully


No one likes change. Just ask the folks that developed New! Coke all those years ago.

But change we must to keep pace with the world.

Never has that been more true than in law firms. Traditionally thought of as one of the most change-averse industries, the most successful firms today have not only adopted new technologies to keep pace with their competitors, they’ve embraced them to separate themselves from the pack.

And the rest of the pack? Let’s take a look at one of the big differences

Like every type of business, law firms can plod through a range of intense changes, from reorganizations to new software implementations to quality-improvement projects.

Most rely on strong project managers to steer the process and people for these costly projects, but good project management can quickly go bad. Each person tends to take their own piece of the project and break it down into their own island. With no focus on the big picture or vision for the end goal, the project degrades into disjointed silos, much to the detriment of end-user adoption.

As I wrote in 2014, lack of employee buy-in is the single biggest challenge for implementing a CRM program.

The usual recommendations for punching up interest and generating excitement for a new rollout may include organizing a contest or hosting lunch-n-learns to help employees build their skills. But without strong leadership or managerial coaching, old habits return and users may revert to their former processes, leaving the change to wither and fade from memory.

It’s only when organizations understand why users aren’t adopting a new technology or process, then learn to work with human nature instead of against it that they begin to see success in end-user adoption.

That’s what change management is about: Understanding the natural resistance to change, along with the most effective ways to manage it.

Rather than waiting for resistance to start before employing change management techniques, though, you can increase the success of end-user adoption by applying effective techniques from the very beginning.  Here are some tips:

Objective Change Management Focus
Prepare users for the changes Develop a communication plan that is more than just telling someone what you want them to do. Effective communication targets the impact for each audience and focuses on what they care about and need to know.
Anticipate pushback or passive resistance to the new process Proactively solicit input from resistors early in the project. Act on this knowledge early, before the resistance makes an impact.
Plan your project through the lens of user adoption instead of focusing on the technology Integrate the communication and resistance plans with the end-user training plan. These plans need to work in unison with project activities.

Successful end-user adoption cannot happen without a comprehensive change management plan. Armed with data and insight on the source of resistance, strong change managers can address objections and motivate employees throughout the change process.


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About Elena Cutri

Elena Cutri
Elena is a lifelong learner at heart and an educator by trade. To her, learning is a direct route for people to live intelligent and informed lives. As Director of Education Services for LexisNexis, she partners with clients around the world to guide their software adoption strategy. Elena has spoken at industry events on change management, end user adoption and professional development. She leads a team of professional trainers who create effective and engaging learning for today’s Modern Learner. Outside of work, Elena is an adjunct professor at a Chicago college teaching public speaking and group communication skills. She volunteers as Chair of a 3,000-parent network for a Special Education Resource Group in her community. She leads a Girl Scout troop and teaches work-readiness classes for adults with special needs. She learns the most, though, from her husband and 3 children. Elena holds her MA in Corporate Communications from Northern Illinois University and a MBA in Marketing Management from Loyola University.