Common Change Scenarios
December 13, 2022
This is the fifth post in our series on change management. We’re taking a deep dive into how to ensure you navigate change in the most effective way possible for your landscaping or tree care company.
In today’s post, we’ll cover some of the most common scenarios you might encounter where you should consider implementing a complete change management approach.
Senior Leadership Changes
Any time you introduce new leadership at the division management or C-suite level, you’ll need to go through the change management process. In this change scenario, your team will have some level of anxiety about the change. The questions about “How will my role change,” “What will the new leader expect from me,” and “What is this person going to be like to work for,” will be going through their minds.
These are legitimate concerns, and you ignore them at your own peril. If you have team members who are asking these questions, it is because they’re thoughtful employees. They want to perform well, so they ask themselves these types of questions.
You can ease these concerns and help ensure a successful transition by walking your team through the change management process we’ve outlined in previous blogs.
Bringing in Outsiders for Management
There are times in your business when you’ll need some fresh blood. Either your current team lacks the experience they need (and you don’t have the experience to train them), or you’re trying to change something about your company’s culture.
In either change scenario, you’ll need to carefully consider how you communicate with your team. You still need to gain consensus from your team on the root issue: you have a need that your present team cannot fill. If you skip this first step in any change initiative, you’re definitely fighting an uphill battle. If you need to bring in someone from outside the company to fill a management position, gaining agreement from your team is imperative.
These people will have to work directly for this new manager. They must see the need for supervision and accountability. They also need to see why no one on the current team is qualified for this position.
You should consider a few things. First, review the company’s goals with the team. Share with them what hitting profit targets means for the company (able to invest more in the community) and for them personally (if you offer profit sharing, for example).
Secondly, have conversations with them about career goals and opportunities. If they want to move into a supervisory role, management role, or one day start their own business, explain how someone with the ability to train them more effectively will help them reach their personal career goals.
In short, you need to help them connect the dots between what the company needs, how it benefits them personally, and the gap in management you’re trying to address. Doing this will help ensure success in your change scenario.
This is a headache for any business, but it is especially vexing for Green Industry companies. Unless it’s got a motor, we seem to hate new technologies.
In this change scenario, each group likely has a different motivation for wanting to change. Your office manager might need an easier way to organize billing and scheduling, your sales team needs to streamline the proposal process, and your crews need better communication from sales.
Tap into these competing needs to gain consensus on why the change is needed, and remind stakeholders of their individual needs throughout the change process to keep them focused on progress.
Skipping any of the change management steps outlined in the prior blogs is genuinely catastrophic. Follow the process here, and you’ll get the best results from your team and a win for your business.
Changing a Business Process
This is a change scenario many of us overlook, but it’s worth going through the whole process, even if you do it quickly.
You’re asking your team to change their learned, day-to-day workflow. Muscle memory takes over. Each person involved in the process might have their own spin on executing a specific process. If you’ve ever heard someone in your company say, “Everyone does it [a specific business process] slightly differently…” then you know you’ve got an issue that needs to be addressed by the complete change management framework.
Completing the change management framework we’ve outlined in prior blogs does several things in this situation. First, it gets your team on the same page. Everyone sees the problem (inconsistent processes, inefficiencies, etc.) and agrees that it needs to be addressed.
Secondly, you’ve got buy-in from your team on the solution. They helped create it, so they’ve got a vested interest in seeing it succeed.
Third, it communicates the “fix” clearly. If you’re following the framework we referenced (first proposed by John Kotter in the Harvard Business Review), you’ve communicated the new process effectively. No more excuses from your team that they “Didn’t know how you want things done.”
Lastly, you normalize the updated process. It simply becomes “how we do things” in your business. This provides incredible clarity and accountability for your team.
The same could be said for ALL of these change scenarios. Following the framework provides alignment, buy-in, clarity, and accountability for your whole team.
Restructuring the Company
Whether you are adding a service line, removing one, expanding the company, selling a division, or simply updating the company’s organizational chart, you should follow the framework we’ve laid out.
There will be a lot of uncertainty and fear around this type of change. Your team will wonder about whether their jobs will change drastically, whether they’ll be asked to take on a slightly different role, or whether their position will be eliminated altogether.
Gaining buy-in from your team on the need for change and consensus on the solution (in this case, restructuring) will help alleviate some of those concerns. Having the team create a vision and helping them communicate it will help ease concerns with those team members who aren’t part of the change team. Empowering the change team to work on the new structure and ensuring alignment with senior leaders will help drive that change further. Testing the new structure to ensure optimization and tweaking as needed will help, and formally documenting it will cement the new structure as “the way our company works.”
A Sample Framework – New Software
Since we deal with this frequently, here’s a sample of a successful change process for a company that needs to set up a new software system.
Step 1: Identify the Problem
Use your imagination with me. You run a tree care company called Tree Tenders. (I used a random business name generator for this; if that’s your company name, my apologies!)
Tree Tenders is growing. You’ve hired two additional estimators, expanding the team to five. You’ve got seven crews out doing the work, two bucket trucks, and three stump grinders.
Communication between your crews and the sales team is becoming strained. Also, scheduling (both crews and equipment) is becoming problematic; crews are wrapping up prior jobs, pushing the schedule back, and equipment is double-booked.
Step 2: Assemble the Change Team
You’ve got complaints from your scheduler, operations manager, sales team, and several crew members.
Your sales manager is old-school and unlikely to volunteer to help with new software. He’s set in his ways, but two of your salespeople are tech-savvy and well-respected in the company.
Your operations manager and scheduler both support working toward a solution. You’ve also got two crew leaders and two crew members who are extremely well respected in the company for their industry knowledge, business intelligence, and work ethic.
Your office manager is neutral.
In this situation, you’d do really well to assemble the following team: your operations manager and scheduler (both are on board and see the problem); at least one of the younger, tech-savvy salespeople (they’ll be your advocate for the change with the complainers on the sales team); and a crew leader and crew member who have both displayed the aptitude and drive to be helpful in this process.
Step 3: Create the Vision
In this step, you must help the team articulate the problem you’re trying to solve, the solution they’ve arrived at, and what the future looks like once the change is complete.
In this scenario, a vision statement might look something like this:
Currently, we’re facing business challenges that keep us from peak efficiency. Our scheduling system is cumbersome, our proposal process is inefficient, and our communication internally between departments is flawed. As a result, we’re exploring a software solution for our business. When we’ve selected and applied new software to our business processes, we will propose work faster, communicate better between sales and operations, and improve our scheduling process. This will allow us to win more work, add more jobs to our local economy, and help all current team members have more time and money for their families.
Step 4: Communicate the Vision
This step is really about you AND the change team being deliberate with communication.
Yes, you need to roll this out in a formal announcement to the entire company. But that’s not enough.
You need to talk about it in your one-on-ones (especially with that sales manager who you know isn’t super enthusiastic about the change). You need to talk about it in executive meetings. But it’s just as crucial to discuss this when you’re out in the crew room greeting people in the morning or at the end of the day when they get back.
The change team also needs to do this. It’s one thing for the owner or CEO to be excited about a change. It carries a lot of weight when people who are “boots on the ground” are not only involved in the process but excited about it.
The decision seems far less “top-down” management to frontline employees that way, for good reason; it is far less top-down. That’s part of what makes this work.
Encourage the change team also to be a huge part of advocating for the change.
Step 5: Empower the Team to Act
Once you’ve committed to making a change, you need to empower this team to act on that change. If a vast majority of the team has decided on a solution, let them run with it. To do otherwise would undermine the morale of the team.
You can break that tie if there’s a near deadlock on which software to choose. If you’ve selected the right team in Step 2, you’ll get support from everyone. Even those who would have preferred another option will get behind the initiative because they’re focused on the original reason for this team: solving the business problems facing the company.
Step 6: Engineer and Celebrate Short-term Wins
Based on the new software’s capabilities, figure out which of the original business issues is the easiest to address. Once you’ve identified that, get to that goal as quickly as possible.
For longer-term problems, create smaller milestones along the way, and find a way to celebrate achieving each one.
For example, if the easiest improvement is streamlining the proposal process, then ensure your sales team is trained on that immediately. Provide whatever support and hands-on training are necessary to ensure the team can gain fluency with the new software. Celebrate with a party once everyone uses the system to generate proposals for new work.
If you notice an improvement in the time to acceptance (since you’re getting them out much more quickly), celebrate the shortened time to acceptance. If it’s an increase in the win rate, celebrate that. Heck, celebrate both!
For longer-term goals, find measurables that you can celebrate. For example, the internal communication, you could track the number of callbacks (or service calls, depending on your internal terminology). Measure your average before and after executing the software change, and celebrate wins with a cookout, extra PTO for the team, or cash bonuses.
Step 7: Refine Improvements and Push for Maximum Efficiency
The temptation here is to say, “Hey, we aimed to improve X in our business, and it’s improved from where it was before we started. We did it!”
This is dangerous.
You must ask yourself honestly: “Is it at maximum efficiency?”
The key here is to take advantage of your team’s momentum and appetite for making changes to ensure it’s the best change you can make. Your software’s capabilities will likely dictate some of this, but don’t rule out changing internal processes to improve efficiency as well.
Don’t tweak it until you’ve exasperated your team. Do think about how to absolutely maximize the gains you’re making on solving the original problem.
Step 8: Institutionalize Change So It Becomes “The Norm”
This has to do with documentation, communication, and accountability.
Document the change for different learning styles. Record training videos on standard processes. Provide written, step-by-step instructions with screenshots. Hold regular quarterly training sessions. Create a visual “map” of the processes. Take the audio from the video and make it available to people. In short, do everything you can to help people with different learning styles understand what you’re expecting from them and equip them actually to do it. That’s what documentation and communication are all about.
Accountability is a different beast altogether. You cannot allow a senior leader or a member of the original change team to ignore the change outright. This is a drain on morale and undermines the team.
Said differently, you wouldn’t allow someone on your team to perform work at their own home using company resources; that’s putting their own preferences and wants ahead of the rest of the company. That’s essentially what someone who refuses to comply is doing; they’re choosing to undermine the authority of the leadership team that invested in the change and putting their own preferences ahead of the good of the company.
Offer to help them find another position. It’s painful, but it’s the only way.
I’ve reviewed some of the most common change scenarios in the Green Industry and examined why each should be addressed using the change management framework I’ve discussed in previous blogs.
I’ve even provided a hypothetical situation (business inefficiencies) that needed to be addressed by one of those common scenarios (new software).
Go back and read: Leading a Change (Part 2 of 2)
Read the next blog in this series: Leading Up When You’re Not the Leader