Overcoming Barriers to Change

Understanding the barriers to change can help us put things in place to overcome them.

You might have noticed that this issue of Training celebrates the Training Top 100. Last year, it was the Training Top 125. Why? Because Training did not want to lower the standards— and 2020 was a tough year for meeting them. But those who made the Top 100 list adapted and overcame. They did not wait for things to change, get better, or get back to normal. They were willing to change.

Almost everything we do in performance improvement and training requires change. People naturally resist change. Even if we are currently in a bad situation, many people prefer the known to the unknown.

If we want people to be able to initiate and sustain change in the workplace, we must be aware of the barriers to change. To help you better understand these barriers, think of a personal change you’d like to make, but haven’t. Then determine which of the barriers described below (or which combination of them) are most likely to keep you from executing the change you want to make. In addition to the barrier listed above (fear of the unknown), there are at least three others:

  1. Change is uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to be uncomfortable, even if, in the long run, change will be better for them. When we get outside of our comfort zones, we feel uncomfortable, so often, we quit implementing the change we have initiated in order to return to what is comfortable. To overcome this barrier, remind yourself that being uncomfortable does not necessarily mean you are doing something wrong— you are merely doing something different.
  2. The influence of others. When we start doing something differently, it may be outside the comfort zone of those around us. Even if others support the change you want to make verbally, what you see them doing may not support the change. Consider building a support system of two or three trusted people who will back you in both word and action.
  3. Multiple priorities. Change requires focus (attention) and clarity (understanding). If we attempt too many changes at the same time, it becomes difficult to pay attention to them all. We may become discouraged and quit trying to juggle all the balls. The solution? Prioritize the changes and give yourself time to implement one before taking on another. Organizationally, break up the changes, so different people are focusing and staying on top of different parts.

Understanding these barriers to change can help us put things in place to overcome them and ensure they will be lasting and make a real difference. And implementing these steps just might help earn your organization a spot on next year’s Training Top 100.

Until next time—add value and make a difference.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Expert’s Guide to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to Training.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt