Making Change ‘Stick’
1. Make the reasons known.Everyone needs to know the reason for implementing the new system. This needs to be very compelling, because the argument for “It’s working well enough for me as it is” is strong. Unless the team is feeling the pain (and not just the owner), they will fight it. We have to be careful about this because reasons that are connected to growth like, “We are getting bigger and coordinating our work is getting more complex,” may also be rejected if the team isn’t seeing the growth as a good thing.
2. Acknowledge that change is tough.There may be a temptation, when listening to the resistance, to say, “Stop whining and get on board.” It turns out that this is not very effective. It’s better to hear them out, understand that this is a trauma (however large or small) to them and help them through it. At the same time we need to reaffirm that it is something that is changing and, having heard all their reasons why it can’t change, what we need to do is to find a way to move the project forward.
3. Eliminate all substitute systems.There is some way that they are performing this task today. It could be a clumsy spreadsheet, a whiteboard or sticky notes around their desk. You have to establish that, for conversations with you, the only thing that you will respond to is what’s in the system. Don’t tell me about leads in your notebook if they aren’t in CRM. Don’t come asking for resources when the project management system shows that you haven’t booked any demand for them.
4. Institute progressive discipline.After doing all this, there will still be some holdouts, and now it’s time to get tough. Implementing this system was critical to the future success of your firm, you wouldn’t have gone through the process otherwise. So for those that aren’t on board at this point, we need to lay down the law. I recommend laying out a program of progressive discipline that is well understood by all, and very inflexible. We want people to know what the consequences are, and that they will be enforced. Here is an example: First incidence of non-compliance: A stern talking-to.
“I’m disappointed. We all agreed that this was important. Unless the data in the system is accurate and complete, it’s of no value. I need your help with this.”Second incidence of non-compliance: Throw it back on them.
“What do you think would work for getting 100% accurate and timely data into the system? What incentives or penalties do you think are reasonable?”Third incidence of non-compliance: Peer pressure.
“If we have 100% of the data in the system by noon on Friday, I buy pizza for the whole office.”Fourth incidence of non-compliance: Public humiliation.
Publish a list of the folks who’s data isn’t in on the wall and let everyone know who’s responsible for no pizza. Better yet, hold your sales meeting and don’t let people talk who don’t have their leads updated. There needs to be some behavior that singles out those who won’t play and identifies them to the rest of the group.Fifth incidence of non-compliance: Negative Review.
Write up an incident report and sit down with them and review it. “You continue to disappoint me by not getting your information in, I’m documenting it in your personnel file. The next time this occurs I willsuspend you for a day without pay. If it continues beyond that, it will be cause for termination.”Sixth incidence of non-compliance: Suspension.
Send them home. Dock their pay. Tell them to come back with a new attitude. Indicate that you don’t want to terminate them, but at this point they have failed 6 times to use a critical business system. It’s unacceptable and has to change.Seventh incidence of non-compliance: Termination.
At this point they have proven that they are unwilling or unable to use this system. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it come to this, but if it does, the employee is calling you out. They don’t believe that you are in control of the business and they have to go. I have heard a lot of business owners say, “but they are such a good employee, I can’t let them go.” But I have to ask, regardless of the value they bring in other areas, how can they be a good employee with seven consecutive instances of refusing to participate in change that is critical to the company growth? They may have been a good team member for the company that you were, but they aren’t a good team member for the company you are becoming.New systems represent a step forward for your company and its team members. It’s often a significant investment, and the success of that system can fuel your ability to continue your firm’s growth. But, without your team onboard, it’s just another wasted tool in your toolbox. Work with your team members when implementing change and make them a part of it. Change only works when your team walks with you and you walk with them. Photo credit: Brandon Giesbrecht