Competing January 2004 Edition

“Selling Change”

So… few of your employees really believe the newest operational changes you are suggesting are worth their effort. Well, after nearly thirty years of experience as a change agent I have some hints for effectively managing change that you may find useful.

You have to believe that it is possible to make major changes in your organization and involve your employees in the change process. Most of us want to be associated with positive progress; it’s good for our personal economy, self-esteem and the overall health of the enterprise. In short, everyone can win. This approach can work for you, it has been and is being done all over the world, including our region of south-central Pennsylvania. Before you sell anything you have to believe in it. Selling change is fundamentally no different than selling light bulbs; if you truly believe in your product/process there is a chance you can sell it to others. One key to effectively communicating is your obvious belief in what you are selling, your audience will notice. In most companies it is nearly impossible to make operational changes by yourself. Inclusion is one of the foundations of effective change management. Selling the value of the changes to others is necessary for them to buy in and then help develop and implement the planned changes. That means you must be prepared to answer this question, immediately, honestly and effectively. “What’s in it for me”?

Some hints on selling the process:

Explain the pending changes to everyone so they all hear the same words. Make sure to carefully say the truth, clearly and to the point. Remember, it’s not what you say, but what the listener hears that’s important. Take time to create a positive environment and then deliver your message, spending an hour with your people discussing why upcoming changes will be made and what they might expect as a result is a wonderful investment in the future of each employee and the overall company.

I believe everyone loves to win and hates to lose. Structure teams with this in mind. A focused, measurable objective that can provide the team with constant feedback is critical to success. Informing those effected of their collective success or need to modify their plan allows them to make necessary changes immediately. Some of you may think this sounds like “Kaizen” the Toyota based process of rapid, continuous improvement. If you thought that you are right. Call it what you wish, the process works.

Mention that no process is perfect and that mistakes will be made.
This statement alone can win allies and credibility for your process change. Significant operational change will have mistakes. Your credibility and the credibility of the project will grow if you initially announce that mistakes are likely, but will be measured and solutions developed quickly.

Plan, Do, Check, ActMeasuring the performance of any new system is critical to its success. What gets measured gets done. If I know you are measuring my performance, you clearly have my attention. Shugart or Deming’s “Plan-Do-Check-Act” works.

In order to change outcomes the process must be changed. Change is challenging, but necessary. Remember, to be competitive you need to continually improve. That means change is not optional. Successful companies are ready, willing and able to change rapidly and do it constantly.

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