Is the Resistance to Change Harming Human Service Organizations?

Leadership expert John Kotter has cautioned that more than 70% of attempts to create change within an organization ultimately result in failure. Unfortunately, in instances related to human service organizations where finances are often limited and internal discourse could mean that fewer people are able to benefit from services, a resistance to change can cause a ripple effect that compromises the efficiency of an organization at large.

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Barriers to New Ideas

Although human disorders organizations aren’t immune to resistance caused by employees, it’s worth realizing that sometimes, resistance comes from other organizations who must work in partnership with each other to achieve mutual goals. A Syracuse University paper by Jodi Sandfort discussed these types of issues in detail, specifically as related to the social services realm.

The study focused on the state of Michigan and problems resulting from public and private welfare organizations that experienced difficulty enacting the amount of change necessary to meet shared goals. Besides restricting interorganizational cooperation, the problems also caused ambiguous messages to be delivered to clients.

The author asserted her belief that it’s necessary to identify troublesome areas early on, both at the individual and organizational levels, and not to become too wrapped up minute details, choosing to instead focus on the larger effects of resistance to new ideas, and find appropriate ways to combat them.

Reluctance to Adopt Technology

Since many human service organizations consistently face extreme deadlines, making a huge shift, such as going from a system that’s based upon basic tools such as paper and pencils to an Internet based system can seem overwhelming. Coyote Communications, a resource that offers information to help human service organizations enjoy a smooth transition to a technologically-based environment, states that success in this venture is commonly driven by user attitudes. If people are feeling uncertain about making the leap, you’ll be more likely to notice that adaptation periods are longer than you expected.

Set up for a better experience by taking time to educate members of the organization. Rather than trying to create the change overnight, introduce timelines that clearly explain when people can expect to make the switch. Even better, try to do things so gradually that there’s enough time for everyone to learn the ropes without feeling swamped by the combined demands of embracing technology while juggling the remainder of a workload.

The Pros and Cons of Technology Introductions

The Pros and Cons of Technology IntroductionsEven people who are extremely excited about upcoming changes such as technological systems in human service organizations may feel a sense of doubt. This is because human service organizations, like many other types of entities, usually have to please multiple constituents. For example, for-profit organizations may be valuable allies for non-profit human service organizations, especially if they regularly provide financial contributions. It’ll be much harder to attract sizable for-profit organizations without being able to demonstrate a commitment to staying technologically current.

On the other hand, there’s no doubt that financial resources are required to launch a technologically based initiative, that sometimes means that human service organizations are less able to hire new staff members, and may even have to lay off some current workers.

As you might have expected, the question posed in the title of this article does not have a universal answer. That’s because the amount that a change either harms or benefits a human service organization is closely tied to the way in which that shift is handled. And, as the above examples indicate, it’s very helpful to target the source of resistance and work to reduce it before things get out of control.

Robert Neff writes articles for several education sites. Does a career with a service organization interest you? Several schools offer social work degrees including CWRU.

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