Land Your Changes Safely

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Like most leaders, you likely spent a fair amount of energy creating and implementing changes in your organization last year.  Don’t waste that energy by failing to follow up a few months after the change is implemented and ensure all the wheels are still on the bus: the frequent assumption that everyone took initiative to incorporate your wonderful change into their part of the operation is… a fatal mistake.

Each business change follows a similar cycle of being announced, launched, and resisted.  Then it battles through the crucible to find the right fit that adjusts the vision to the reality that will produce the result that prompted the change.  After changes reach the implementation stage, there is more to do: by implementation, we mean adjustments have been made, new practices have been adopted and documented, and results of new practices are being measured.

At this point, most of us are exhausted and ready to wrap-up this change-project!  And it is true that we need to give it some traction at this point – to establish habits and collect baseline measures.  But beware of tying that bow too quickly!  Here is a list of operations aspects that could derail the hard work you put in last year!

CHECK FOR POST-CHANGE BLIND-SPOTS

Strategic Plans – Look to the future and prepare for how your change impacts next steps the business will take; it may need tweaks or updates to maintain effectiveness.

Recurring Processes – Check the adoption of your change by each operational process it touches; other process owners are often last to communicate, adopt, measure and update their SOPs with others’ changes.

Compensation Practices – Ensure pay structures, spiffs, recognition, and teams are adjusted to align with modifications to responsibility levels, revenue impacts and work schedules.

Current Projects – Partner with owners of projects planned or started during your launch cycle; verify any aspects of your change that need to be woven into their project plan or results.

Company-wide Communication – Be aware that it is often years before changes are documented in orientation, marketing, websites or global SOP resources.

Individual Priorities – Drive the provisions for development of new skills and behaviors and for adjustments to employee goals and performance measures; without these drivers, employee enthusiasm to implement your change could soon waver.

We are here to help your team successfully navigate those choppy change-management waters.  From understanding the dangers to customizing a strategy to get safely to your destination with your crew engaged: tell us about your change-challenge!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

Be the Hero; Lead Change

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Strategic business plans are critical when change is required in an organization; one of those plans has probably landed on your desk for every business change you’ve faced.  Maybe you write the plans, but you know each one is useless unless someone works the plan.  You cannot work the plan alone – you need engaged people to work it – every time.

Even good changes stink: performance drops, processes break, projects die, rumors multiply, emotions soar, dependable people leave, customers doubt, budgets fail… the list goes on.  Do the leaders around you continue to think their strategic plans will be enough to carry everyone through this chaos?

FOUNDATIONS TO LEADING THE EXECUTION OF CHANGE

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

  • You can’t over communicate; your communication can be ineffective.
  • Communicate wisely – you can communicate the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong way….
  • Communicate often – the kaleidoscope of emotions & needs of your audience is ever-fluctuating.
  • Communicate consistently – people must trust that the communication will come:
    • Create audience listening/reading habits, use the same format
    • Build confidence in service/product resources, keep updates current

Move fast to implementation!

  • We define implementation as the time when the changes are used universally and metrics are identified and measured with consistency.
  • Productivity doesn’t usually move in a positive direction until the changes are accepted as ‘business as usual.’

Ensure consistent application of new methods!

  • We naturally return to old habits if/when we get distracted or don’t see value in the new way.
  • It is critical to build in accountability and checks & balance systems to ensure the new ways are being executed correctly and consistently.

Equip employees to manage change!

  • Executing change without the people is futile…
  • Be the heroes… equip the people to work the plan effectively; that is the only way to keep them engaged for the long haul of working through the challenges, finding the solutions and living the dream described in the strategic plan that landed on your desk.
  • Each culture is unique, ask for help to customize the basics to equip your team or employee base.

No one wants to be the one leading the charge – for fear they may be the first to fall….  But preparing everyone to charge means someone must lead the preparation.  Employees want to see your plan succeed – prepare them, so more of you can charge forward together & find support through the fray.  Contact us to discuss strategies for equipping your people to execute successful change.

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

Control What You Can Control

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During change, we quickly realize that we have less control over what is happening around us, so we must use our energy to control the things we CAN control.  This is a leadership behavior that can make powerful differences if we share this expectation with all our employees.  Here are three cultural results…

  1. We skip the time and energy used in blaming others who can no longer do things for us that they could do in the past; things changed, and their control is limited also.
  2. When the only thing to control is our own perspective, we make a positive difference by controlling our attitude or controlling our fear of what we do not know about what is coming.
  3. When the expectation is for everyone to control what they can control, we limit energy-draining complaints and move on to exploring solutions that we can control.

Circles of Concern, Control and Influence

During change our circle of concern grows quickly, and our circle of control often shrinks.  We should always seek to understand and monitor those things we cannot control, because we may suddenly find some aspect where we are given control and the opportunity to make a difference.

Taking responsibility for what we are able to control helps us feel less helpless during change.  Another tool for overcoming that vulnerability is to explore and expand our circle of influence.

Everyone’s engagement is expanded in positive directions through effective influence.  Unfortunately, what we often witness is negative influence, that puts a dangerous drag on the implementation of critical changes.

Understanding and monitoring your concerns is also critical to wisely influencing them.

Recognizing and acting on the choices we DO have is a powerful way to influence those things we cannot totally control:

  • We can choose how we prepare for the unknown
  • We can choose the kind of leadership and partnerships we offer to peers and leaders
  • We can choose the impressions and encouragement we give to others
  • We can choose the attitudes we express
  • We can choose the problems we escalate and how we communicate them

We challenge you to list the ways you can expand your influence in the changes that frustrate you today.  If you need more ideas on behaviors that would help equip your employees to manage change, we can help!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

If We Do Not Hang Together…

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Benjamin Franklin stated the obvious: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Of course, business change is rarely as dire as revolution, but the fear they face is often about that real to your team.  Giving them opportunity to offer structured input and solutions can fuel courage and determination just as Franklin’s words did years ago.

Moving fast to implement change is core to keeping productivity levels from plummeting.  Evaluating team understanding, direction and performance regularly and with transparency are key drivers toward that objective.  Pulling the team together in a way that meets the need to ‘hang together’ and make productive adjustments while corralling energy-draining emotions is not an easy task.  Here are some concepts used by consulting professionals.

ESSENTIAL MOTIVATORS: SUCCESS & OPPORTUNITY

During times of tension you are always pulled toward urgent issues that smell like smoke.  Distractions can keep people from standing tall and seeing over the cubical to acknowledge progress or to remove barriers in the targeted path.  These two energy-generating realities are too often ignored during all the fire-fighting.  STOP and make time for these essential motivators.

  • Keep their successes in front of them as often as possible – a little confetti always brings energy to the moment!
  • Make opportunities to identify and remove obstacles that inhibit forward movement; the stress-reduction can give an immediate productivity boost.

WHAT ARE OUR CORE SUCCESSES?

Make celebrations of success easy enough to do often, but only recognize actions driving real progress.  Celebrating not only boosts morale, it motivates the habits and actions you want repeated.  Don’t celebrate anything that wasted time or effort – those are too precious during change!  Teach your people what “successful” looks like, and allow them to help identify it: showing peer gratitude, appreciating worthy sacrifices and effort, sharing the booty [especially credit] when possible.  Limit the use of tangible rewards; money’s often tight, so use creativity: email words of gratitude for smart initiative, use public thanks appropriately, document accomplishments in review or resume-ready formats, give the microphone to those who can present recognition professionally, use small displayable symbols that bring recognition and encouragement to individuals who have made a difference in meeting short-term goals.

WHAT ARE OUR CRITICAL OPPORTUNITIES?

  • Be prepared to face tough facts with as much transparency as possible when asking, “What’s standing in our way?” Be ready to adjust team expectations as hidden realities are exposed.
  • Don’t forget to empower the team by asking, “What’s standing in our way that you can control?”
  • Make sharing input easy for the team; offer anonymity when necessary.  Build and extend trust to gain their input – don’t just assume or blindly believe they have shared the realities you need to know.
  • Don’t shoot the messengers; don’t react by trying to prove there is no problem: both are rookie moves.
  • As a leader, as you commit to help remove barriers, PROMISE CAREFULLY!
  • The greatest career advantage during change is growing transferable skills and lessons!
    • Help employees format their ideas for other professional audiences that need their input.
    • If they are not showing professional savvy as they share solutions, be transparent about their career growth needs.

These critical team initiatives are very complex.  You may be expert when business is usual, but during significant change, leading others definitely becomes UNusual.  Be wise enough to ask for support.  Change management has evolved into a core leadership competency, but it is a layered and complicated skill.  Our experience supporting leaders and guiding teams through organizational change puts us in a place to meet you at whatever level you need.

 

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

 

Sharpen Your Focus During Change

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When you lead others through change, every word you say… action you initiate… instinct you ignore… EVERYTHING you do impacts how others respond to the plan-of-action required to make the transition to your successfully integrated new world.

Two aspects of organization transition must be monitored at every turn.  Envision putting on a pair of glasses that allow you to see everything through new lenses.  The two lenses are resistance and performance.  With every action, email, meeting, coaching, or greeting, you should consider, “How does this lower resistance?” and “How does this preserve performance?”

About the Resistance Lens:

The people around you will resist at every turn of the playbook page.  Learn to read the signs!  You will resist the change each time you discover another part of your world that will be disrupted by it.  The most important person to convince is you.

As soon as you are on-board, your focus must turn to the resistance you see around you.  If you don’t address the resistance, it turns quickly to resentment, and that emotion is so much more difficult to turn into productivity.  In extreme cases that resentment erodes into revenge: a loss of revenue in many forms.

Craft your communication to consistently include these three aspects that can help reduce resistance.  Help them envision the future: talk realistically about the positive results the changes are expected to bring.  Remind them of dissatisfaction with the status quo: share honestly about the negative results of not changing or of not being a productive part of the change.  Revisit the transition plan: help them see the big picture and focus on the next steps to take toward implementation.

About the Performance Lens:

Every time you change something – ANYTHING – about the way you’ve been consistently performing, your quality, quantity or effectiveness goes down and your effort goes up.  It’s physics!  Accept it, plan for it, and fight as hard as you can to get through it quickly!

You must push performance forward and create a new normal as fast as you can.  The longer it takes to acknowledge the change, try the change, and find solutions to issues caused by the change, the more your productivity drops.  The more your productivity drops, the more revenue you lose during the transition.

And don’t forget that as soon as your back is turned, people will sneak right back to the way they were doing it before.  It’s natural for all of us, but it’s also another opportunity for you to address resistance.

Significant changes like restructures, re-locations, workforce reductions, acquisitions, or mergers can cause long months of chaos.  But looking at each of your actions through these two lenses can keep you closer to the path of sanity.  If you need help equipping yourself or your team to survive change, we have experience that can help you avoid dangerous territory.

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar

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Change is always bitter medicine – it rarely matters how simple the requested change; it requires extra effort and sometimes considerable risk.  The most dangerous thing you can do when asking people to make a change is to deny the bitter taste, but then you move on to solutions and to applying the best change management principles you’ve collected.  When it’s possible, incorporating some fun can help – just make sure it’s fun for the people making the change.

Create a Win for Early Adopters

To encourage immediate application of changes, build in some kind of “win” for the people who try it early.  Most of us are subconsciously asking, “What’s in it for me?” so give them something.

  • “Wins” are not always monetary.
  • An opportunity to create part of the solution can be a “win” in some teams.
  • Recognition is a “win” for most employees.
  • Contest prizes can be reasonable ways to reward employees for the effort.
  • Always consider the culture; sometimes the “win” is simply getting the client to ‘ring the bell’ and say they like the change.

Celebrate Incremental Progress

Sometimes true business results are months away, but progress must be made consistently.  Break the progress up into targeted actions or measured results and celebrate along the way.

  • Measuring and celebrating consistency of effort is often more powerful than praising the ‘go-to guy’ that steps into the spotlight at the last minute.
  • Track and praise examples of critical skills, habits, behaviors and ideas that move productivity in the right direction.
  • Celebrate the reduction of old habits as well as the building of new ones.
  • Make celebrations simple – and cheap – enough to regularly remind everyone that this change will be worth the effort.
  • Match celebrations to your culture: confetti in one office can be as powerful as cash in another.
  • If you promise rewards – follow through – or progress could come to a dead stop.

No matter the size or shape of the business change, if you ignore the effort it takes, you will not see the results you envisioned.  Most of us are served a daily diet of change, but if you must create critical change with critical timing – don’t get chopped – get help.

Pepperbox Solutions has supported workforces through acquisitions, restructures, re-locations, reductions in force, and business closings.  Connect with us.

Living in the Change Curve

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Not only do you expect your employees to understand each new regulation, technology, marketing, pricing, and service campaign that your customers may respond to, you also ask them to be constantly learning how to enter, track, support, troubleshoot and escalate every aspect of each of those business adjustments.  And those are justifiable expectations!  Business depends on your customer-facing employees digesting and applying increasing amounts of change at breakneck speeds.  But you may not even recognize the hairpin learning curves you have forced them to navigate.  They can be dangerous – to your bottom line.

Think honestly about your own reactions to constant change you can’t control: frustration, confusion, exhaustion, miscommunication, discontent, mistakes….  Any danger when those behaviors run rampant through your team or business?

Ensure maintenance is constant on this evolving roadway

Acknowledge how the changes benefit the organization while they legitimately challenge the humans who must live in the resulting learning curve.

Publicize the expectation that you expect all employees to only control what they can control – that’s big enough.  Then don’t let them become the scapegoats for random misses or others’ failings.

Get ahead of the curve by demanding that smart resources be created – and maintained – to support employees’ fast-paced knowledge needs.  Make sure they each know where the tools live and how to use them!

Equip their direct leaders to advocate for them responsibly and to lead them effectively through the daily chaos to successfully reach individual and organization results.  Sounds simple; it’s the toughest job in your organization!

At a leader level, your cadence of change and resulting details are not as constant as your employees’ are, but that makes it even more important for you to equip your customer-facing staff and their supervisors to manage the learning curve in which they live.  Need some more ideas on how to make that happen?  Let Pepperbox Solutions share some ideas that have worked!