Once You’re Done, You’ve Just Started
This is the final installment of our change management series. In this post, we’ll explore a topic that we’ve touched upon in more depth. We’ll discuss how to enshrine your “change” as “the way we do business.”
When Does the “Change” Become “How We do Business?”
This is the magic question, right? We all want to know, “How long until my ‘change’ is complete? When can I safely say, ‘We’re done with this change’ and move on?”
The answer to that question will vary with every single business, even within the same industries and verticals. A lot of it will depend on how effectively you’ve managed the change process.
In a recent interview I conducted with Pam Dooley, she said something that resonated with me and that I believe to be 100% true.
How you talk about the change matters. Are you referring to this change as “The new way we do X?” Are you saying, “This is how we do things now?”
Or are you simply saying, “This is the way we do X in this company?”
If you’re consistent and intentional about your language around this change initiative, you’ll be “done” far sooner. If you’re not, expect resistance to persist and the adoption of the new process to languish.
Ways to Communicate
Rather than leave you with just a principle and little guidance, I’d like to wrap up this series with some super practical tips on how you can clearly communicate, “This is the way we do things.”
Document the Change as Simply “The Process”
There should be documentation for everything you want people to do in your business. Most businesses call this “standard operating procedure” or, more simply, “SOP.”
If you don’t have SOPs for your business, invest time in writing them. If you’ve got SOPs, ensure they’re updated so that the “change” is now the SOP.
You can take this a step further, and you’ll be even more successful! Make sure you’ve recorded videos for each job function, and give your team access based on their job role.
For example, a crew member for a residential landscaping company probably needs access to the training videos on how to properly attach a trailer to the hitch, secure a tarp, and strap down equipment. Your inside sales team doesn’t need that.
Conversely, your crew members don’t need access to the videos on how to enter customer data in your business management software or measure a lawn. But – you should have videos for all of it, and access to those videos should be granted based on your team member’s role.
While updating SOPs, ensure you’re also updating your onboarding and training materials. The written SOPs and videos can be used for both but ensuring it’s updated across the board helps. This way, anyone you’ve hired after you’ve made the “change” will only know the “new” way of doing things as “the way” to do things.
Done correctly, performance reviews can be a tremendous tool in helping you to communicate your expectations and align your company around the change initiative.
You’ve made this change to solve a business problem. (At least, you did if you followed the change management framework I outlined.) So, it only makes sense to align department goals with the overall business’s goals, doesn’t it?
Once you’ve got goals for each division or department, you start breaking them down by crew member or tech. Ensure that every person in the company has a goal that contributes to advancing the company’s goals. And, just as importantly, ensure those goals reflect the “change.” This ensures that your team’s day-to-day reflects the new reality. In this way, it becomes ingrained as “How we do it here.”
What you absolutely cannot do is weaponize these reviews. You can’t set people up to fail. Make sure their goals align with the company’s goals, help move the mission forward, and are achievable.
If you do annual reviews, check them at least twice a quarter (about every six weeks) to review progress towards the goal. Quarterly reviews have a 31% higher return on their performance process than annual reviews, so you should definitely consider this option.
In either event, if you’ve failed to communicate clearly about the expectations (the “change” is now the “norm”), then it’s unfair to bash people on their reviews. Make sure you’ve got your communication crystal clear, and give folks a little bit of grace for the first couple of reviews. To do otherwise will demoralize your team.
Positive reinforcement works, and it works much more effectively than punishment.
When you “catch” your team following the new SOP, make a big deal about it. Praise them publicly for adopting the change so rapidly. (Seriously, public verbal praise is WAY undervalued in our industry. Try it for anything you want your team to do, and watch them respond!)
Another way to help your team adopt the change until it becomes “normal” includes gifts. Carry around gift cards for a large gas station chain, fast food restaurant that’s popular with your team, or even cash. Distribute these when you see a team member deliberately, consciously doing things the way you’ve asked them to be done.
Ensure that you reward adopters and detractors alike when you do this. Recognizing when a detractor does things the “new” way helps them understand what you’re now expecting of them. Recognizing an adopter helps keep them encouraged to continue to do things the right way. Favoring one group over the other will only breed resentment; you’ve got to be even-handed here.
Throw a party when the team collectively has reached a milestone where adoption is widespread. Hire an ice cream truck to show up to the event. Get on the grill and serve your team in person. They’ll totally respond to your recognition of their hard work to make the “new” into the “norm.” We all love to see our bosses sweat standing in front of the grill.
If you’ve never heard of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (also known as “EOS”), there’s a principle in there that I absolutely love: it’s called “Followed By All” (or “FBA”).
FBA means that everyone has to do things a certain way. It doesn’t matter if they’re your top sales rep or your kid (I’ve worked in family-owned businesses – you know what I’m saying). They’ve got to follow the processes and rules that everyone does. FBA is a great equalizer.
This means that you, the owner, CEO, or division manager, must follow the new process. Followed by all means just that; no exceptions. If you are struggling to learn the “new” process, ask one of your team that really “gets it” to help you. You display outstanding leadership and signal that you’re committed to the process.
Conversely, you can easily undermine this process and create a bigger mess. If you can’t get on board with the change, a graceful exit is a professional move here.
If you’re the owner or the CEO and have a senior leader (or any leader) who can’t or won’t comply, start with an open conversation. Help them to see the original business problem you were trying to solve. Maybe that’s the only roadblock they have. In any event, try to get to the root of their concerns and address them.
If a candid conversation isn’t productive, offer to help them transition off the team. Offer your personal network to assist them in finding a new job, hire resume services to help polish their resume, and write recommendations for them.
But you cannot, cannot, cannot allow them to continue submarining this effort. They will eventually have to leave anyway, and the results will be catastrophic for the remaining team after they’re gone.
When a change initiative is considered “done,” will depend entirely on the effectiveness of your communication to the team that “This is the way we do things.”
Documenting the process as “the way” for your current team and new hires helps your team understand what you expect.
More frequent performance reviews, aligned with the company’s goals, ensure that actions line up with expectations and the “new” becomes part of your team’s day-to-day, making it the “norm.”
Positive reinforcement, applied evenly between adopters and detractors, helps cement in your team’s mind what you want them to do.
Accountability signals to the team that everyone is expected to follow the new protocols, even senior leaders and owners.
Start at the beginning with Part 1: What is Change Management?
Go back and read Part 6: Leading Up When You’re Not The Leader