Change Management: How to Create Buy-In not Burn-Out
“Okay team, starting Monday, we will be working on a new application and by the end of next week we will have phased out the old one. Good Luck!”
Does this sound familiar to you? Has your company lead Implementations of new software this way in the past? I think it would be safe to say that it turned out to be an utter disaster. You can’t throw something new at your team and expect that everyone will embrace it and just roll with it. Change is hard, in fact most people hate it, but it is necessary to grow. When you don’t follow a change management process you are setting your team up for failure.
Technology implementations are not easy and change management can seem impossible. To stay up to date on this ever-changing technology rollercoaster, your firm will have to make application changes from time to time and a solid change management process is necessary to make those successful. After 8 years of leading software implementations and trainings, I have been a part of very successful ones but, sadly, I have also been a part of ones that failed before we even arrived.
Lucky for you, many people have gone before you and know what works and what doesn’t work. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Talk to other firms to see how they have done it, google “change management” and you will get plenty of information to help guide you. In my experience, I have found that many firms just don’t know where to start so it became part of my process when doing implementations and trainings. I have explored many avenues and found my favorite to be Dr. John Kotter’s “8-Step Change Management Process”. He has been perfecting his method for more than a decade and has written over a dozen books related to the subject.
Let’s walk through the 8-Steps, to help you fine-tune your process and spark some ideas that will help lead you down a positive path of change management at your firm.
Step 1: Create a Sense of Urgency
We know that no one likes changes and you will find out that push back is imminent. So, how do you help your firm see and understand why a change is necessary? Start by identifying your current crises or pain points, potential crises and opportunities you have or predictably could have. Then, help your team see the impact of not making the change. How much money do you stand to lose or waste because your current processes and procedures are inefficient? Time=Money and most people understand that. Document and communicate what you stand to lose and the consequences to follow if your firm does not adopt the new technology.
Step 2: Build your Coalition
Quit making this a one-person job or even a department heads’ job. Just because it’s a technology application change you should not put the brunt of the work on the IT Department. Same goes with admin assistants and department managers, a single person or group should not be “in charge” of making it happen. Instead, build a team of people from all departments and all backgrounds. More eyes, more brains and more hands are absolutely necessary to accelerate change. You must make it a priority to uncover leaders at every level of your firm. Get buy-in from the bottom to the top, pick people who ask questions and have high energy. Most importantly, pick people who can be held accountable, are committed, and driven by opportunity and strategy.
Step 3: Form Your Vision and Initiatives
Creating vision statements can be simple, but it’s not always easy. Time after time firms deal with an issue, they form their vision and initiatives to change that problem and then drop the ball. The vision must be doable, easy to communicate, something that paints a picture and is not over the top. You must make sure you use data and facts, but you also have to listen to how people feel and make sure the vision is meaningful and gives your team a purpose. You must show them how following through with that vision results in changes for the better. Once the vision and strategy are in place, you cannot simply walk away and hope it happens. You must continually review your internal actions and stay on top of your team all the while pushing them in the same direction.
Step 4: Enlist your Army
Most people want to feel included and want to be a part of meaningful opportunities. Capitalize on the power of including people and inviting them to participate in the amazing changes happening. Let people choose to participate and work on getting people from the “Have To” thought process to the “Want To” mentality. Support your team, trust your team, communicate with your team!
Step 5: Enable Action by Removing Barriers
You want the change, so be the change! Ask “why” questions but frame them in a positive way. Get rid of the old ways of doing things and be prepared to share data as to why this new process is better. This step is where you will run into your internal “nay-sayers”. This is your opportunity to sell them on the idea. I can almost guarantee, if you can get your biggest nay-sayer on board, the rest will follow. Don’t forget to continue to reiterate the sense of urgency every step of the way. Create a timeline and deadlines to help keep your team moving forward.
Step 6: Generate Short-Term Wins
A win is a win, no matter how big or small and they all deserve to be celebrated. Wins keep your team going and energized as well as focused on the bigger picture of your vision. Wins create a culture where your team members are excited to show up and they want to be a part of the collective impact. Most importantly, listen to your team’s feedback. One team member’s pain point could be the lightbulb moment for the rest of the team. Keep your ear to the ground and make sure everyone has an opportunity to give input!
Step 7: Sustain Acceleration
You are not going from point A to point B, there is not a stopping point. You should continuously evaluate as you work to be better and increase proficiency. Ask the “what if” questions to push your users and your vendors to their limits. Always be looking for ways to be the best at what you do. Again, you are consistently reintroducing the sense of urgency and helping your team remember the vision they started with. Continue to invite new users to your team. Fresh eyes will always find new ways to knock out old bad habits.
Step 8: Make it Stick
Don’t allow yourself and others to fall back into their old ways. Continue to connect the dots by showing your team how these new behaviors have led to new, exciting successes. Always give credit where credit is due and acknowledge your team. Show them the results and reward them for their hard work. Be the change, accept the change and make it work for you not against you!
Try not to be overwhelmed by this process. Ask for help from experts and colleagues along the way. Some things will come easy while other things may seem overwhelming. This isn’t something that you have to do alone once you have built a whole team with the same vision and goals. Lean on your team to help cross the finish line and continually look for opportunities to learn and grow as you set out on this journey that, in the end, will lead to greater success at your firm.
Lacy Magby, Vice President of Sales, Conarc, has over 10 years of experience in management, implementation and client services with 8 of them being focused on business-wide software solutions and change management. She specializes in helping businesses improve processes with technology solutions and software integrations. Lacy has a strong focus on customer service, communication, and building community.