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Why is it so hard?
When I talk with our leadership classes about times that a change has occurred at the office, people all seem to have horror stories.
“They changed the email system and then emailed us the new login instructions.”
“They moved all the desks to new locations without finding out who worked with whom.”
“They changed all the door-locks to require an ID swipe, and each person then had to go in-person to security to get a new ID that would work, and then the new IDs didn’t come for weeks.”
Most of these change-gone-wrong examples have two things in common—bad communication and bad planning. If you want to lead a change that will succeed, make sure you don’t fall into these traps.
Have a good idea. Change is a hassle that requires time, effort, and money. Lead changes that actually will have a positive impact, not change-for-change-sake.
Communicate the “why” of the change and your vision for how it will be better when it’s implemented.
Have an overall plan, but get input that you use to refine how to best implement it. Really listen to the people who will have to make the change and will have to live with the outcome—they may have insights on things that you have not considered, but should.
Watch your timing. Badly-timed change initiatives are more disruptive and less likely to succeed. Don’t change the accounting software two weeks before the state and federal taxes are due, for example.
Consider a pilot group. Make the change with a small group first, and have them test the system for everyone else. Listen to their feedback on what worked well and what should be done differently before rolling things out to the entire firm.
Provide training (when appropriate). If you are asking people to use a new system, provide training classes, instructional videos, well-written manuals or instruction sheets, or other methods to get them up-to-speed. This training needs to respect their time and their existing schedules and commitments, and should be offered in advance—before the change is made. Do NOT schedule training outside of typical work hours—if people are learning a new way to do something on the job, that training should not be a nights-and-weekends add-on. A series of lunch-n-learns is often a good way to include it during the workday, particularly if the company also provides food for the people in the training.
Walk the walk. Don’t make all of your people learn to do something the new way, but keep doing things the old way yourself.