I've worked, on and off, for close to 20 years as a consultant, primarily in the areas of process improvement and large systems development. What this means is that I've been involved in a lot of change that's been forced on people by their management, and I've had the opportunity to see a number of different scenarios where change has played out well, and played out poorly.
Probably one of the worst episodes of change I experienced was when I worked as a consultant implementing a large ERP application in a hospitality company. The team involved was an older, dedicated team and used to giving all to help the company, but exceptionally set in its ways. The management team we were working for never established the need for change or indicated how change would impact their careers or day to day work environments. On the surface, there was an acceptance of change, but underneath, the old ways of doing business still existed. Eventually these two opposing forces came into conflict, since the computer systems reinforced the "new" methods and the people were trying to patch together a method to continue working in their established practices.
Change is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be difficult or leave people angry or fearful. There are three things that a management team can do to effect change and help people adopt a new method or process.
First, set the expectations and provide a rationale for the change. Yes, it's the dreaded communication issue. While it seems simple and obvious, communication requires a lot of focus and discipline. How will you communicate? What channels and media will you use? What messages are right for each audience? Usually what happens is that communication is left to mid-level managers who don't understand the strategy and the scope of the change, so they can't be effective.
Second, walk the talk. If a management team wants change to happen, then get involved in the change. Adjust the way you work to the expected outcomes of the change, and demonstrate that you expect the change to take hold. Frequently check in on the area undergoing change to get feedback on what's happening and what's blocking the change.
Last, consider changing compensation along with the process or method. Too often we retain old methods of compensating people when asking them to do new or different work. People, being rational actors, quickly determine what's in their best interest according to their compensation, and can find ways to be very productive when their compensation aligns to what they do.
In the most successful change programs I've been involved with, there was a sense early on that management understood the impact a change would have on an organization, and carefully planned out the actions necessary to mitigate the impact. Great communication and constant updates are important, as is understanding how people behave when change is occurring, and how to best influence their adoption of a new process.