Productivity Best Practice 3: Manage Your Organization Towards Change
In the previous chapter, we talked about how developing an action plan can go a long way in making your business more productive.
Say you’ve utilized your data effectively in order to develop a solid action plan to increase your organization’s productivity. No matter how viable or downright brilliant that plan may be, though, you can never forget the one thing that can doom even the best intentions: employees.
As you move forward with necessary changes, you may get resistance.
After all, your proposed adjustments will affect employees’ duties, workflows … potentially even their titles and paychecks. Even if your employees understand and agree with your plan for change — which won’t likely be the case entirely — they may still fail you simply because of old, hard-to-break habits.
While up until this point, your focus has been strictly on the technology and planning that can make your organization more productive, the people who work there and the company culture you have established simply cannot be ignored.
If you’re really serious about succeeding at optimization, you have the responsibility of marrying your new processes and technology with your staff. That means considering the impact the overall transformation you intend to make and the individual steps your action plan contains will have on your community — before you implement change. It means establishing a governance framework — a set of policies for anything that calls for it so no one’s left guessing in this uncharted territory.
It means if you’re going to tell people they should do something in a way that’s different than what they’re used to or anything they’ve ever done before, you need to provide them with the tools and methods for doing so.
If this sounds like you’re going to have to develop another action plan, it’s because you are going to have to develop another action plan — this time addressing your people rather than your problem. You’ll have to formulate a strategy for ramping staff members up, measuring their success, and keeping them engaged in the change until the change is no longer change, but simply the way things are done. You’ll also have to figure out how to introduce and phase out any tools related to this change so that your current business doesn’t suffer during the transition.
And what about those “tough customers” in this scenario — the employees resistant to change? Are you wondering how you might be able to persuade them to embrace the changes your business success depends upon? Check out the section “How to Get Your Staff on Board With Business Improvement Changes,” for some strategies related to that.
HOW TO GET YOUR STAFF ON BOARD WITH BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT CHANGES
If there’s one thing people hate, it’s change. Maybe that’s why there are so many lengthy books and clever quotes on the subject. Regardless, because adaptation and evolution are essential to any business’ survival, change must occur. So, how do you get staff buy-in on your business improvement plans?
1) Get staff involved with the decision-making surrounding the process and communicate transparently about it every step of the way. No surprise here, but people tend to cooperate more when they’re included in discussions and decisions. Even if they disagree with the ultimate decision or direction taken, being included does count for something.
To that end, make sure you’re engaging your staff in the change process from beginning to end, constantly communicating with them in an honest fashion. Honor the old way so that employees don’t feel everything they’ve done for the organization has been for naught, but also explain why changes are necessary and detail the benefits of the new way of doing things.
2) Have a solid plan for executing change that includes benchmarks and training. More than just talking the talk, you need to walk the walk — and in this case, that means having a plan to enact change that incorporates tangible steps and welldefined, measurable goals. Don’t hesitate to look to companies who’ve already made similar transitions for guidance and tips on how they succeeded in doing so. And train, train, train. It’s always easier for people to perform tasks they feel they’re actually capable of accomplishing. If the improvements you’re proposing include new tools and procedures employees have never engaged before, give them the training they need to succeed so they’re less likely to want to fall back on the old ways.
And when a few stand out as particularly successful with the new methods, be willing to tap into those talents, designating one or two employees as leaders that can help guide the others along.
3) Give employees a stake in the process and outcome. Coming back to communication, acknowledge and hold people accountable for the good and bad that happen along the way — including individual attitudes. Address any employee resistance before it becomes mutiny and reward those staff members who make the change as smooth as possible.
This doesn’t mean shutting down conversations that constructively point out flaws and propose solutions; employees may see something you don’t, so it’s important that they be able to have a forum in which to give honest feedback so you can improve your new processes as necessary. And those who provide this type of valuable feedback should be rewarded. Being willing to share the risks as well as the returns associated with the venture will inspire your employees to care more about their organization’s welfare.
This is quite a loaded chapter, right? At least you learned a lot from it. In the next chapter, you will understand why measuring is a great idea for checking your business’s productivity.