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Don’t let a culture of resistance take hold of your organisation

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If we want to introduce change throughout local government, then we have to encourage our people to buy-in, writes Danny Longbottom, director of local government and health at BT.

In my role I have the privilege of meeting lots of people in local government across the UK. More often than not, the subject of digital transformation crops up in conversation. While every organisations’ journey is different, there are some key challenges that reoccur. In particular, teams’ resistance to change.

Building a digital organisation for digital citizens

From a local council’s perspective, digital transformation has the potential to make their organisation more efficient. Improved connectivity means your people always have access to the right information, so they work better. Residents enjoy improved customer service, with online tools making the council easier to interact with.

Why BT Digital Transformation : Combining technologies to create powerful outcomes. from BT Business on Vimeo.

Resistance is inevitable

Who could oppose such a win-win scenario? It would surprise you. The starting point of every transformation of local government we've worked on has been different. We have to factor in demographic differences, budget costs, and the legacy of our predecessors’ decisions. But the thing each one shares is a resistance to change.

We recently carried out a survey with local authority chief executives and directors. Almost half said they have experienced ‘a lot’ of resistance to change. Another 42% said they faced ‘some’ resistance. Not a single respondent said they had experienced no resistance at all.

Don’t let your digital transformation be disrupted

This unwillingness can have a real impact. A staggering 96% of respondents admitted to various levels of disruption caused by resistance among their people. Over two thirds said it had disrupted their plans entirely.

Overwhelmingly, respondents believed it was the culture of an organisation that made a difference, with 80% citing it as a top priority. So how can we address this resistance and improve workplace culture?

Why BT Local Government - Technology is supporting local government to make lives better from BT Business on Vimeo.

Why do teams resist change?

One reason given for resisting transformation was lack of time. Just over 70% of respondents said the underlying cause was that their people failed to see the need for change.

While 64% believed that cultural resistance exists at the base level, they weren’t seen as the most resistant team members. In our survey, 88% blame middle management for the block – the very people we want to take our frontline teams on the journey.

Middle management in the Midlands

At a joint roundtable discussion in the Midlands, we asked local government chief executives and directors about our survey results. Most agreed that our results chimed with their own experience spearheading organisation change.

But they had a lot of sympathy with middle managers. One panellist said: “It is the hardest job in the organisation. If you impose things on them without engagement, of course they will rail against it.”

Many acknowledged that sometimes what senior managers might consider ‘resistance’ might be team member’s striving to understand how the new approach will work.

Our roundtable agreed that the resistance of middle managers is, in reality, a failure of senior leadership to bring them on board.

Why BT Midlands – Helping you to make lives in the Midlands and East of England better from BT Business on Vimeo.

Embracing better communications

We should all take time to sit down with our middle management and help them understand what we are doing and why. Almost nine in 10 of our respondents use in-house training to encourage staff to embrace change.

Cultural resistance could be the biggest reason you don’t transform your organisation. But if you manage to overcome this hurdle, both your teams and residents will reap the rewards.

Learn more at our live event

Join us and a panel of experts to talk about how organisations can power smarter working with SD-WAN on 28 February in London, with IDC analyst Chris Barnard, vice president of European Telecommunications and Networking at IDC, as keynote speaker.

For more information:

E: [email protected]


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