When beginning a company-wide transformation, many business leaders focus on the first steps– researching and purchasing a solution for their team. However, they tend to overlook the transition piece, expecting their employees to immediately adopt the change into their day-to-day routine.
No matter the size of your company, implementing organizational change is a complicated process. Fortunately, by avoiding common missteps forwarders make in their transition, you can steer your team toward a successful adoption.
Mistake #1: Framing a single solution as the end all, be all
Psychologist Abraham Maslow once famously said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This quote can describe how many companies approach a new tech solution– especially when they’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into it. This tendency can cause managers to encourage their team to employ their new system for all relevant tasks, then evaluate them on the extent to which they’ve done so.
However, it’s important to understand the role that the initiative will play in your organization. For instance, let’s say your new data management system has an analytics feature. That doesn’t automatically mean you need to ditch your old one, especially if it’s working for your team. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your proposed solution, and be open to feedback from your employees about how it integrates with your current processes.
Mistake #2: Expecting your team to buy in immediately
As humans, most of us are naturally resistant to change. According to an article by psychologist Lauren Florko, “Change is actually interpreted by the brain as pain… When the brain interprets something as ‘different,’ it reads it as an error and produces intense bursts of neural firing.”
For many, this biological impulse to view an unfamiliar situation as a threat can’t be overcome simply by your boss saying, “Because I said so.” Rather, it’s up to your company leadership to initiate the change gradually by allowing employees time to prepare and adjust.
Additionally, while it’s important to make a timely transition, consider that some people may take more time to come around than others. The Diffusion of Innovation Theory by Everett Rogers models the curve of early adopters vs. laggards when it comes to implementing change. While roughly 13.5% are classified as early adopters, or those who embrace change opportunities, 16% tend to be more bound by tradition and skeptical of change. Try to focus on employees who fall under the early adopter category, and give them the right support and resources to help push along the change.
Mistake #3: Initiating change from the top down
Like most business decisions, many companies initiate change starting with senior leadership in what’s known as a top down strategy. There are certainly benefits to this method, as it ensures that initiatives are led by those with the most experience and the broadest perspective.
However, it can also make change more difficult to enact and maintain, especially when those on the front lines are the last to find out. If feedback needs to make its way up the chain every time further changes need to be made and approved by management, it can add unnecessary friction to the process.
Additionally, if employees feel excluded from the decision, it can make the change even harder to adopt in the first place. According to Mitchell Lee Marks, a professor of management at San Francisco State College of Business, “Employees are more likely to hang on to the fear, uncertainty, resentment and other emotions that big changes bring if it seems to them that management has no clue about how they feel.”
To combat friction and employee pushback, some experts suggest incorporating bottom up methods into your approach. For instance, you can gather feedback from employees after presenting the proposal, or you can allow individual teams to decide how they want to execute the change.
Mistake #4: Under-allocating resources to employees during the transition
Enacting organizational change can be expensive– even just based on the price of equipment or software. For that reason, many employers may try to cut costs by reducing the budget for training and practice resources.
These leaders likely fail to consider that the training process is a critical step in setting up your team for success. Cutting resources can limit employees’ learning, making it more difficult for them to adopt the change.
To make sure your team is well-supported in their transition, focus on finding sufficient resources for any new tools you’re bringing on board. Think about hiring a software coach to run a training session and answer any questions from your team. You can also talk to your tech partners to find out if they offer any implementation training when you buy their solution.
Mistake #5: Failing to address how the change affects other aspects of the operation
When making any meaningful change, its effects are unlikely to stay confined to a box. Rather, it’ll typically have effects and dependencies that reach into other areas of the organization.
For instance, let’s say you’re planning to adopt a new TMS solution. In addition to getting your employees to learn and implement the new software, you’ll also need to think about how it’ll fit into your current solutions. Will you need to transfer your old data to the new system? Will you have to integrate it with your existing feed channels?
Before you implement the change, work with leadership from each department (IT, operations, customer service) to discuss the ramifications on various parts of the business. From there, clearly communicate team-specific dependencies and tasks to ensure a smooth transition and minimize unexpected difficulties.
Mistake #6: Presenting the change without clearly defining expectations
When enacting a new change in your company, the implementation process is rarely one size fits all. When adopting a new software, for example, odds are that the solution includes more capabilities than any one person needs. Therefore, getting your employees to learn the entire system is unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming.
That’s why you need to lay out clear expectations and training for each role from the start. Talk to a trainer or implementation expert to figure out how each of your employees can best use the tool to fulfill their responsibilities. Then, you can make sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed at those tasks. That way, they’ll be able to spend their training time more efficiently, get onboarded quicker, and maximize the value of their new solution.
Mistake #7: Going in without a plan
In addition to defining clear expectations for each individual or team, it’s also important to create a vision for the company as a whole. As you’re developing a new change or solution, lay out a step-by-step action plan with clearly defined expectations. Set rough timelines for each stage and continuously check in on your team’s progress.
This will enable you to gauge how often to request updates without overwhelming your employees. If you identify bumps along the way, you’ll be able to work to resolve them in a timely manner, rather than waiting until you’re too far behind.
Change management is a difficult process, and many organizations get it wrong. When proposing a change, it may be easy to dismiss the time and resources that go into implementing it across all of your teams. However, by developing a plan to get employees on board and integrate the initiative into your processes, you’re already setting your company on track to succeed.