By Cindy Donaldson
Some people (like me) thrive on change. Others have a complete meltdown — as in nuclear fallout meltdown. Lately I’ve been working with several teams who are implementing new processes and dealing with new management or leadership. They are feeling overwhelmed and see no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. But … they will not only survive, they will thrive. The light is there. They just need to trust the process and it will shine!
Here’s how to handle change anytime that change involves other people besides just you.
For any process to work, you need to understand not only the strengths and weaknesses of the company, but also the strengths and weaknesses of the team (SWOT). I can’t stress this enough. You can coax people outside of their comfort zones, but you can’t make a fish climb a tree. (Think deep on that one for a minute and you’ll see where I’m going.) You need to put the right people in the right spots and give them the right tools and support for success to happen. SWOT it: Don’t skip this step, ever.
If you are implementing new processes and procedures, make it a team effort. Involve management and the front-line folks on this one. Ask for their input. What will make their lives easier and still get the result you want? How can the team work together to be more effective and efficient?
Train a Lot!
You can’t just give the team a binder and tell them to read it. “Hey, btw we are changing the way you do everything, here is the ‘book’ — read it and be ready by Monday morning.” No bueno, folks No bueno. Have regularly scheduled morning scrum meetings and longer training sessions. There will be tons of road bumps, tons of questions, and you might find that the process you just implemented isn’t really working as planned — so you need to change it. Without feedback from those intimately involved, you won’t know the real deal.
No Separate Rules for Top Dogs
This is where many companies fall down. Leadership needs to drink the Kool-Aid and walk the walk or it’s all for naught. You can’t have a president do her or his own thing and tell the rest of the team they need to do it another way because they said so. Another no bueno. Top leadership cannot bypass the new system simply to make their lives easier. More often than not, I see leadership agree to the new way of doing things and then as soon as it’s launched, go back to the old dog and pony show. I’ll say it again — you can’t have two sets of rules. It never works. Ever.
Get Feedback, Adjust & Move On
This goes back to the training. It’s important to ask for feedback and input on the new process, but — and this is a big but — you can’t coddle the naysayers or the anti-change-rs. Support them, listen to them, but make it clear that the new process is here to stay. You may lose some employees, but if you coddle or don’t address the negative nellies, they will be miserable and it could kill the team. It’s the old “Boiling Frog” story:
The boiling frog is a parable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
In the case of change and process, boil the water upfront — meaning, launch the process, get the buy in and do it quickly. You can’t drag it out forever. Those who are the nuclear meltdown, anti-change folks will probably hop out of the water immediately. That’s OK — really it is. Keeping them on is deadly.
Handle change with a lot of patience, a little boiling water and no cooked frogs.