Let the Change Initiative Speak
We all know that change is inevitable. Whether it is parchment scrolls replacing clay tablets or tablet computers replacing desktops, new technologies are certain to displace the old reliable favorites. Nonetheless, from our own experience—as well as from research—we know that most change initiatives in companies fail (see From Vicious to Virtuous Cycles). In an organization, it is almost certain that many employees will ignore the latest initiative and some employees will even push back against it. After all, it is more likely than not for the initiative to be gone before too long. This implies that many needed, technically appropriate change initiatives, which could strengthen a company’s future, simply fall by the wayside.
Sheldon Galloway, who runs a small residential landscaping business, did not want to let this happen in his business. He employs talented designers, with varying levels of experience, who are responsible for designing, pricing, bidding, and project managing landscape jobs. Last year it became clear that there was too much inconsistency across bids. Overbidding leads to lost jobs, and underbidding to lost profit. Inconsistent bidding made it hard to forecast both future business and profit. Uncertainty is never the friend of a business, large or small. To fill this gap, Sheldon researched software that would help standardize the bidding process across designers. He licensed appropriate software and bought a training course from the vendor that he and all his designers attended.
In terms of the Seven Levers of Change, the tool itself is the Infrastructure that they needed. Sheldon’s personal research of the software and attending the training with his designers started the process of Walk the Talk. The vendor’s training explained both how to use the software and the value it brought. By highlighting the importance of cost of goods sold and overhead to the bidding process, the training helped Sheldon make the business case for the software. The added efficiencies both made the bidding process easier and made profits more predictable. By sharing these profits through year-end bonuses, Sheldon used the Reward & Recognition lever.
Despite using three of the most important levers: Infrastructure, Walk the Talk, and Reward & Recognition, there was still one designer who refused to use the bidding software. He had decades of experience designing and bidding landscaping jobs, a string of satisfied clients, and plenty of lovely designs in his portfolio. Despite this designer’s skill, Sheldon felt consistency and the ability to forecast were important business drivers, and the designer had to “get with the program.” He used the software program itself to make that happen.
One of the strengths of the software package is its ability to look at historical data. Sheldon was able to reanalyze prior bids. His analysis demonstrated clearly the strengths and weaknesses of every bid. The software began to speak for itself. It allowed the resistant designer to see areas where he could improve. He was finally able to see how the software tool made bidding easier, and how the increased efficiencies would contribute to his own bonuses. With this information, he actually sought the help of other designers to show him how they used the software to be more efficient. Every time a fellow designer shared his experience and expertise, a fourth lever of change came into play, personal Contacts between advocates of the initiative and peers.
In the past, I’ve written about several cases where resisters really have something to teach leaders about the change or its implementation. (See Is Resistance to Change Necessarily Bad? or Clouds Above, Fog Below for examples.) In this case, the change initiative had something to teach the resister. Letting the software “speak” and show its power made the difference.
About the Author
Dr. Andrea Shapiro
Andrea Shapiro, PhD, is founder and principal of Strategy Perspective. She brings a unique perspective to organizational change based on experience in software development, business modeling, management, and organizational learning and development. Andrea designed and developed the Tipping Point computer simulation, which forms the heart of the Change, Dialogue, and Action Workshop. She has delivered the Workshop to major corporations, non-profits, and government agencies in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and has accredited hundreds of change leaders and consultants to deliver the workshop worldwide in their own work in organizational change. Her book Creating Contagious Commitment gives detailed real-life examples, theory, and background, all of which will appeal to any manager faced with implementing a significant organizational change.
After earning master’s degrees in mathematics and psychology and a doctorate in behavioral decision making, Andrea went on to further studies at the Coaches Institute and the MIT Sloan Business School executive education program in system dynamics. She has also served on the Graduate Faculty at UNC Chapel Hill and taught decision making at Pfeiffer University’s graduate program in organizational management. Andrea can be reached through StrategyPerspective.com or you can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.