Business — Banking — Management — Marketing & Sales

How to deal with the change of attitudes

Category: Bank Management

Considering sociological and institutional aspects, changing habits requires awareness and understanding of each other and overcoming of cultural differences, often revealed by frequent communication difficulties between westerners and local bankers.

To help overcoming resistance to change by psychological facilitation of change four considerations have mainly to be taken in charge of:

Organisation of the changes:

— identifiy « credible » people who would be able to accept the project and support it,

— clarify the purposes in a language the members of all the concerned functions are able to understand,

— indicate clearly what behaviour is expected,

— change the tools (equipments, forms,),

— set up accurate trainings,

— provide coaching facilities,

— prevent any come back to the previous practices,

— test and prove the beneficial effects of the change through pilot actions,

Project time management:

— prepare the changes,

— manage so that all the needed/required means are ready on time,

— discuss the perspectives with every person concerned, so that he (or she) has enough time to «make up his (or her) mind»,

— chose the best moment to announce and engage the change,

— take and give/let enough time for the maturation of beliefs,

— plan the project by phases, to make step by step progresses, whenever the change is too important to be absorbed right away, but

— use any opportunity to go, as fast as possible,

Whenever the personnel’s resistance to change is based on a fear of what could happen, it is possible to force it to accept the changes by:

— facilitating the changes until they are as easy as possible,

— preparing what is going to happen, providing training, offering to help, saying clearly that coming back will be possible, etc.,

— telling them that, after a defined moment, no objection will be accepted any more, opposition will not be accepted and people’s opinions will not be taken too much into consideration,

— using social pressure on minorities to have them accept what they wouldn’t choose or prefer,

— setting up «non-return valves»,

— controlling in relative details and quite often what has been done,

Whenever the resistance to change is supposed to result from perceived diverging interests:

— act as early as possible to set up a culture or a climate favourable to changes,

— conceive the proposed solutions as answers to the expectancies of all the partners (what are their needs that should be taken into account, what will be their personal future),

— show concrete examples of what you have been saying,

— listen carefully to all reactions,

— discuss a lot of all what can lead to misunderstandings,

— explain the positive aspects of what is expected and show them what the benefits will be, for them,

— provide periodic feed-back of the achieved progresses (and stress all the positive aspects of what have been realised),

— have concerned persons being involved and participate in the conception of the changes (senior management must be seen to take the lead),

— give a part of responsibility in the achievement of the project to all the concerned persons,

— negotiate counterparts whenever some individuals or groups are opposed to the change (bargaining),

As one can see, there are several different (or even opposite) actions that can help overcoming resistance to change. To chose accurately what is the best approach, one has to detect what are the reasons for the resistance and to define a strategy for the intended change.

The analysis of the motives for the reluctance to change may be clarified by the use of a « Project (or Performances) Forces Analysis » (P.F.A.) to identify, list and weigh (evaluate their relative strength) the factors that will help or that will hinder changes and, thus, that have to be taken into consideration to deal with resistance to change successfully.

For example such analysis, considering a concrete change, led to the following

Pros Weight Cons Weight
Expected economic results (in terms of growth and profitability) + 3 Inertia of existing habits — 3
Lower risks and enhanced security + 3 Opposition of most of the middle managers — 2
Customers and clients pressure + 3 External political pressures — 2
Credibility and strong involvement of top managers + 3 Personnel’s fear of the future uncertainties — 2
Possible effects improving the quality of services and competitiveness of the bank + 2 Need to modify the management and control arrangements and tools — 2
Aptitudes of the available personnel + 2 Low motivation of the employees — 2
Additional opportunities for career progressions of the banks’ staff + 2 Necessity of a major change in the technical equipments — 2
Improved working conditions + 1 Required means and high costs — 2
Increased interest of the tasks + 1 Lacks in staff’s competencies (knowledge’s and previous experiences) — 1
Reduction of the work load + 1 Importance of the needed efforts — 1
Overall score: + 21 — 19

Of course, to define the accurate change strategy, one has first to inventory what are the interests and the forces that are to be taken into consideration and what could be the people’s main reticence to change.

To further analyse the factors that have to be taken into account and the actions that could prevent resistance to change, one can refer to the following analysis of

“ During the past fifteen years, while working as consultants in organisations in the service sector, we were confronted by many negative reactions to our suggestions to changes in the working environment, and we have for a long time looked for the right attitude we should adopt to avoid these blockages.

After briefly mentioning the frequent signs which display reluctance and outlining a brief analysis of their reasons, we are going to try here, to sum up these measures -complimentary or alternative- which we have observed in our work as they would generally warn of or help to overcome obstacles to the necessary evolution or desired changes in habits.

Firstly, we were confronted with four outward signs of reluctance:

1. Reactions of violent refusal («Open war»)

Offended by external intrusions: «What are you going to do here? You don’t think you are going to teach me my work, do you?”

A negative interest in changing things: «What for? I don’t see why the change is necessary as it has always been done like this and it works well. It will not help us in any way. The old system suited us. It was better before.”

Rejection of continual transformations: «Another organisation. We have had enough of changes!.»

Criticism of the usefulness of the suggestions made: «That’s nothing new (we have been saying that for a long time). It’s stupid to do that (You haven’t understood a thing. You should have asked us). It’s easy to think of that, seen from your position, but it’s impossible to make it work.)

Arguments putting forward the negative points, forgetting the advantages and emphasising small drawbacks and risks: «We have already tried it and it does not work.”

Various counter propositions.

2 Destruction by indirect means:

To pretend not to be concerned: «That’s not my problem. My supervisor didn’t speak to me about it. Is it really us that have to do it? That’s for the youngsters.»

Threat: «They’re going to refuse. You’re going to have a strike on your hands within 48 hours.»

3 Sabotage:

Work deliberately more slowly or less efficiently.

Spread rumours.

Being absent at crucial times (holidays, and “face saving absence»).

Notice anomalies and not mention them («they should have thought about it»).

4 Objections and excuses:

They (refers to either the management or unions) will never want to.

We don’t have the means.

I don’t have the time.

Wait you’ll see, the results will come later.

My staff won’t be able to do it (they won’t be capable).

But we have also seen reactions characterised by apathy, immobility, or passive resistance:

«Dragging ones feet».

«Say that we don’t know anything, we know nothing about it, we haven’t clearly understood.

Ask to come back in one month (after the decision).


Obliging yes. Apparent acceptance. Feigning adherence.

Ask for a move or on the contrary stay in a place where the old method is used

Firstly, it must be noted that when faced with change, psychological reluctance is natural. In fact, all change:

results in uncertainty (the future is not written anywhere) and it entails a risk (we know what has succeeded until now, but will never know for certain the success of what we try for the first time; we can often legitimately be afraid of tomorrow, e.g. don’t changes bring about a reduction in staff numbers?).

disrupts the apathy of habits and status quo (stability and the attachment to the past) which necessitates an effort.

challenges the positive image that each of us has of himself («I am efficient, as my past record shows. The questioning of my methods means therefore, that I was always wrong to do it this way! If our methods today are archaic I am not «responsible » for letting them still be used. An underlying sentiment of guilt, often prompts us to put the «blame» on others).

Luckily other psychological tendencies act the other way round:

curiosity creates an interest for everything that is new or unknown

certain solutions (modern, sophisticated, having had a known success) can influence and sometimes strongly, due to «fashion»

the charisma of the person who recommends the changes can be convincing

Nevertheless all change is felt more or less consciously as an aggression, this therefore provokes reactions which vary according to the balance of power:

escaping or evading if I feel weak: «let’s speak about something else»

defensive protection: » perhaps but it’s not possible; in theory it’s valid, but not in practice;

it does not work in a company such as our own; we have already tried it without success; «they» will never agree to that; etc.»

counter attack if I think I can throw out (the idea) with another one

A certain number of measures can be taken to neutralises these inevitable reactions. They basically fall into two categories. But before presenting them it must be remembered that to accept any change there are two prerequisites:

— the credibility of the person who proposes it. This depends on his image: being seen as one who has positive intentions and the capability of having a constructive influence, which means to a great extent access to dialogue and the personal conviction of the person responsible for the change implementation.

— the choice of the right moment and timing: alternating fast and determined actions with necessary pauses for breath.

Once a favourable climate for change has been created we then need to:

1 «sell» ones recommendations:

Show links between what is being proposed and the persons’ concerned needs and expectations, in order to PERSUADE them and obtain their adherence by putting forward the advantages to which they are receptive.

Argue to CONVINCE by logic and a precise preconceived action plan (who does what, by when ). This reassures the listeners to accept the validity of what is being suggested.

Present the conclusions in such a way that they attract the attention, arouse the interest and CAPTIVATE. A presentation based on the S.P.R.I model may help. At a time of change, employees:

— are already thinking of other things. You must therefore «get them on the same wavelength» by immediately pinpointing the SITUATION that you are going to speak about. have many preconceived ideas concerning the solutions to apply. It is necessary to demystify their prejudices by rapidly reminding them of the PROBLEM which we have to deal with (what is wrong and what needs to be done) and objectives of the proposed changes.

— have little time given to the subject that preoccupies you. It is therefore important to get to the point quickly and state the RESOLUTIONS proposed to the problems that you are trying to solve.

— will not be immediately convinced that what you are proposing should be done. That is why they need to be given INFORMATION on the problem concerned, the reasons for the actual observed difficulties and the possible alternatives, along with their respective advantages and disadvantages, as well as a method of implementation for the chosen solution, which controls resulting changes and allows adjustment as situations change.

A review shows that there can be two types of reasons for apathy:

2.1 If the reluctance is provoked by fear (not to be able to do it, of being criticised), it is essential to start by REASSURING the persons concerned:

— state that the implementation will be progressive and the complete implementation will be preceded by an experimental «pilot project»,

— insure an easy follow through: explain and take account of reactions,

— training, and assistance,

— guarantee an exit — go back in cases of continued dissatisfaction.

But it is not all about creating a favourable atmosphere. Fear provokes emotional tensing which freezes the positions. One can therefore only obtain a reaction by issuing imperative orders. One must force a move either by being under obligation, blocking an easy return to old methods, controlling activities, using a driving force (e.g. model leaders) or social pressure.

2.2 If the reluctance is due to the perception that there is a divergence of interest or a lack of knowledge concerning possible foreseen improvements, it would be better, in this case to involve the persons concerned in the conception of the changes.

If one associates them in the study, the conclusions will be partly theirs. One will have their agreement on a common position. This will help to avoid any lack of understanding and misunderstandings which sometimes have the effect, wrongly, of allowing change to be viewed negatively, mobility for example, requires, admittedly, an effort but it can also open up new opportunities.

All the same optimal personnel participation in the preparing of changes varies from one stage to an other:

take into account their concern in determining the problems

collect information from them, as they are the ones who know

ask for validation (or adjustments) explanations and criticisms

invite, without censuring, all their ideas for improvement

organise contribution to the choice of solution

delegate authority in the implementation and follow up of progress

Despite all this, opposition to change is sometimes real. The acceptance by the persons concerned necessitates negotiation or compensation.

One can therefore say that, depending on the degree of consensus, one goes from confrontation in the search for agreement, to consultation which gives value to the suggestions made, or co-decisions from dialogue, ultimately to more or less autonomy.”

Furthermore, success in changing working conditions may require using self-assessment approaches, supported by pair evaluation, to help the concerned people to identify what are their practices they have to challenge.

In that perspective, we are sure that the tools we have been suggesting to use, can be appropriate for improving to-day’s C.I.S. banks.

Overall and complementary suggestions for the improvement of the means that can help changes in the C.I.S. banks.

We could add three points concerning the help of the C.I.S. banks to change.

Concerning the international funds providers five more suggestions can be made.

There are questions about the roles actually assumed by the Project Management Units (P.M.U.), that are supposed to be in charge of:

ascertaining local needs,

managing the delivery process.

We have heard several times about the need for a better co-ordination between the different Technical Assistance programs, projects and institutions (and even a need for more communication between the projects and TACIS). Besides transverse projects such as Ebtra, institutions like the recently-funded European Banking and Finance Institute (EBFI) are precisely supposed to assume activities as an interface between eastern and western banks.

It has also been noticed that the Terms Of Reference (TOR) often suffer from various shortcomings. Sometimes they are hastily compiled and do not sufficiently reflect the real needs of the beneficiaries.

Often, also, the time-lag between needs definition and the take-off of the project appears to be too long. Thus is it necessary to adopt a flexible project design in the Terms Of Reference to meet the needs of the recipients.

We found that many bankers are still unaware of what western help or assistance is available to be provided. In fact, very few respondents were familiar with E.C. projects. The National/Central banks and the Banks’ Associations could be considered as able to help to spread information.

We have several times mentioned the M.O.C. modules that have been set up by Ebtra. We are actually convinced that they can be very useful. But, it has, however, to be mentioned that they need to be trained by rather experienced trainers who are senior bankers and able to cope with group dynamic processes. The gap between western trainers and local trainers in terms of methodological and communication skills is still ovious. Local trainers are not yet prepared to run these seminars independently from any western support. But one could train local experts in the use of theses materials.

Future improvements sometimes lack continuity:

It could be drawn, more often on the consultants’ accumulated knowledge of the recipient organisations. Follow-up and additional missions should be proposed, whenever it could be useful, to previously booked advisers.

At least, consultants on existing contracts should be systematically asked to make recommendations on Future Technical Assistance Requirements (FUTAR) of the recipient organisations they have been working with.

To end with it, let’s recall that all has to be done so that every assisted operation could be the start of a process which can multiply itself through local resource

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