Let’s make this personal. Where is the most amazing place you’ve ever been, a place that took your breath away? Was it a glacier clad mountaintop, a steamy jungle or remote cliff overlooking endless ocean? Take a second and capture the image, feeling, and memory in your head.
Now: write me an email describing that place. Don’t make it too long because I’m a busy man. In a few sentences, make me breathless. Tough to do isn’t it? Now let’s replace “place” with “vision.” We all have visions for our businesses, places we want to be in a year or 5. It’s probably as clear as day in your head, and I’ll bet it’s spectacular. You’ve probably tried telling your staff about your vision. After all, if they are on board it has a lot better chance of happening. But your staff haven’t been getting on board. They just haven’t been getting it. And without sharing the vision, how can you properly manage change in order to get there?
Stop Telling, Start Demonstrating
The solution? Stop trying to show them the picture. You can’t explain your most amazing place to me, so how can you explain your vision to them? You need to show them how the vision can happen, and how the change is going to benefit everybody.
The managers and owners who manage effective change are those who leave their office, stop sending emails and start showing their staff what change looks like. They start finding and eliminating waste, thinking of more efficient ways to perform their daily processes, and empower those around them to contribute. They’re in the trenches, on the factory floor and in the hallways coaching people, asking them about their ideas, and thinking about how to make things 1% better than they are now.
Effective change management is not about edicts and it doesn’t happen in a day or a week. It is about harnessing the power of your team to collectively push the company to its higher potential. Engrained mindsets have to topple and decades old ways of doing things have to change, and none of it can be forced or coerced.
Think of the receptionist who has always double entered her invoices to make sure they’re accurate. She’s been doing this since her kids were toddlers (they have their own kids now). She’s the ‘old-guard’, and her role in your vision is like a swing-state in a US election; you need to change her mind if you want your vision to succeed.
You can’t change the receptionist’s mind by telling her about your vision. Engage her at her desk (not sitting across from yours with you staring down at her). Talk to her about processes and how they could always be simplified. Ask her about her about the processes she uses and empower her to give you her ideas. Listen to her ideas and implement those that you can. Take the baby steps with her but she needs to cross the line towards change on her own.
That’s how to stop showing and start demonstrating.
If you don’t think that you have the time, energy and perseverance to see the change through, don’t start. Starting and failing, especially when it leaves others in the lurch, engrains current culture and makes it harder to change the next time. When you step up to manage change, you’re making yourself the most visible person in the office. You’re the only one who can make change happen, and the only one who can let it fail.
All eyes will be on you, and while this puts a lot of pressure on you, if you’re a consistent demonstrator of the change you want to bring about, you will be the one to take the next step into the future of your company.
Over the next few months, we’ll be giving you tools, tips and inspiration for how to implement change management and what to expect along the way. We’re going to be giving practical advice, often based on our own successes and failures, as we’ve managed change from a lean perspective, improving processes and making our company more efficient as we go.