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Change Management can be a difficult task. For some people change is hard to adopt even though it's a must for survival in a competitive, digital world. Lack of clear communication about the project, not including the right people early enough in the process and the assumption of change management is only about new tools can all be reasons for a failed project. Here are three signs you need help to facilitate your change process if you are a managing director, sales director or responsible for implementing new, digital systems.
You are a managing director and at the last company rally you presented the new strategy and vision for next year. Now 6 months later none of the crucial changes are successfully implemented. You look at your organization and you can see some challenges with some of the leaders and some of the employees. They have not started to live the new strategy but are stuck with the old ways of doing things. What is wrong?
You are a sales director and you are behind on the budgets. Everybody is running as fast as they can and you don't know how to turn the ship around. You have tried to implement competitions, you have tried to increase the level of training and you also have tried to be hard on the sales managers. One of them quit a few months ago. Your competitors are eating your market share because they are more agile and can apparently reach more customers with fewer sales people and a weaker product? What is wrong?
You are in charge of implementing new digital systems in the organization and you have now tried to get various departments to use the new CRM for 4 months and you have a feeling that people either hate you or pity you - or simply don’t care about you and the project. You know for a fact that some of the managers have spoken out against the CRM because they really liked the old system. Your job in the company depends on you being able to get user adoption from the organization and that you are able to measure improved efficiency among the employees with a commercial role. What is wrong?
So why haven't you changed the organization to suit new needs and a new digital reality? Is it because you do not know what to do and therefore you haven’t started the process? Or perhaps you know what to do, but haven’t got the required resources. Or maybe you believe that you are actually doing everything correctly? Either way there is a big risk that your project will fail.
Sign 1: Resistance to change
A lot of change management articles talk about resistance to change - but in fact people are not necessarily scared of the change itself; they either really love the current situation and want to fight for what they enjoy every day, or they cannot see a plan that makes them feel secure.
We have seen many examples of employees obstructing plans for implementing new processes or systems. Currently I am working with a company where one of the sales reps loves to drive around without a plan and just drop in when he sees a company that looks like a potential customer. A truly old fashioned cold canvas salesman. If he was successful and made new customers that way it would be great but he didn't. But he loved it. There was a really high degree of resistance to start working in a different way - but hey - who wouldn't fight for what they enjoy doing every day?
Here at Avidly, we have numerous examples of obstruction, disobedience and even sabotage of new systems so resistance exists, but you need to understand the dynamics of the resistance before you start putting people into the “idiot box”.
Getting people in on the change process is hard work and requires a lot of clear communication and a solid plan.
Sign 2: Employees leaving the company
According to a study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that has been published by Forbes 62% of employees leave due to a toxic environment and it is often directly related to leadership not being able to handle frustrated people in a changing environment. Back in 1947 Kurt Lewin published his change model - unfreeze–change–refreeze. The thought is that you isolate an area that you want to change and you keep everything stable while doing that. If everything is unstable you find yourself in a slush-ice machine where everything is not really ice and not really water but just slush. The only situation where slush-ice is interesting for adults is if it contains alcohol and that might not be a good solution for keeping employees satisfied.
Strong leadership throughout the process is important along with a solid plan for communication.
Sign 3: Freedom fighters arises
When your change process is beginning to derail, you will often see informal leadership appearing. This is normally those with high seniority or have a strong voice but no formal leader role. They operate in the gray area between the coffee machine and the work desk.
They are well connected and they can either be a big help or a fly in the ointment. These informal leaders can change the mood for many people and you need to know who they are and potentially involve them early in the process. It is important to figure out how to utilise these informal leaders as change agents when possible, because similar to politics these influencers can swing a lot of voters because their colleagues listen to them.
If these informal leaders are not onboard the ‘change bus’ they can start behaving like freedom fighters where they could agitate against the strategy and direction. They have the ability to influence their co-workers in a negative way and they incite riots that can result in mutiny. There is a leadership tool called “Kill a freedom fighter”. Of course you should not kill your employee but you need to figure out how to shut them down and in the last instance fire them to make a statement.
Change management is a craft and you need the skills to handle the process. Feel free to leave me a comment directly or some of your own stories and signs that something is not going according to plan. Or if you have any questions, or would like assistance with your own internal changes, feel free to reach out to us here at Avidly using the link below.