Ok. Has this ever happened to you? You get frustrated by the inefficiency of your team. You know things can be done better. You ask some colleagues how they’ve addressed the issue or you turned to Google or some other form of research. Eventually, you find a technology that looks promising. You sit through some demos. You get others to sit through some demos. It all looks so promising. You can’t wait to start. You sign the deal, take the plunge and begin the implementation.
Then all hell breaks loose!
Was it that the vendor didn’t really understand the requirements? Maybe your team wasn’t really committed? Perhaps the technology wasn’t as good as the demo?
Or maybe, it’s your fault.
Oops! You weren’t expecting that! Let me explain.
The only way change happens inside an organization is when someone in the organization is able to break out of group think and see the organization from an outside lens. If this is you, then you see things that are not working the way they should. Often this is because you have been exposed to another way of doing things. Everyone else in the organization seems happy with the status quo. You, however, become increasingly dissatisfied.
Eventually, you realize you need outside help. This help usually shows up in the form of a technology vendor. By virtue of implementing the technology in various environments, the vendor will have a lot of ideas as to how you can address your issues. That’s all well and good. There’s just one thing amiss. The vendor doesn’t understand your organization.
You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But…
The status quo is more than the problem. The status quo includes current work processes, associated skills sets, social interactions, politics, egos, emotions and fear of loss. All change brings loss. Even a gain is a loss as it means moving away from something toward something else. An outside vendor can bring you the best technology that precisely meets your needs. An outside vendor can implement this technology flawlessly. An outside vendor can deliver the solution on time and on budget. What an outside vendor cannot do is get your people to embrace and adopt it. This can only be done internally. The old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is totally relevant.
To increase your success rate, I suggest the following:
1. Focus on the Process
If you are the change agent, you are light years ahead of everyone else in the organization. You have developed an objective, outside perspective of the organization. No one else has this… yet. You see the problem so clearly. No one else does… yet. Rather than excitedly explaining how things can be so much better, slow down, back up and take a breath. Your initial challenge is ensuring the people who will eventually be responsible for adoption, agree there is a problem to be solved and become motivated to solve it.
One of the most effective tools for highlighting a problem and its implications is process mapping. Remind the team that their ultimate purpose is to create value for the customer. Then review how your processes work and where the bottlenecks occur. Explore the impact of bottlenecks on the customer experience.
Finally, explore revised processes that eliminate the bottlenecks and ultimately create a superior customer experience. Moving your team mentally and willingly from where they are to where they should be, without technology, is the most important step in introducing new technology. This “blueprint” becomes the criteria scorecard for evaluating new technology.
2. Focus on the People
Even though your “to be” state is far superior to your “as is” state and the future of your company may depend on making the change, don’t expect that everyone will support it – even if they agree with it. Remember, most people are tuned into station WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). Have you ever been in a group photograph? What’s the first thing you do when you see the photograph? That’s right! You look
for yourself in the picture. That’s how people are wired. Your future state process map is like a group photo. When your people look at it, they are looking for themselves in the picture. Do they have more responsibility or less? Are their skills needed more or less? Will there be more stress on them to learn and grow or less? Even though it makes sense for the corporation, your people need to know it makes sense for them. This is where you need to be resolute, but compassionate. Often, the organization that doesn’t change, fails. You can’t afford to be held back, but you can’t go forward without your people believing you really care about them and their colleagues.
3. Focus on Results
Finally, once the technology is implemented, get the focus off the technology! Too many leaders focus too much attention on the adoption of the technology. They look for the most sophisticated and all-encompassing technology without regard to its usability. They push the technology’s features and build a culture of coercion and forced compliance. That only breeds resistance and sabotage. Instead, go back to your future state process map and the results you envisioned. Ensure there are key metrics associated with the future state and set stretch goals for the team so that they are inspired to use all the resources at their disposal to achieve the goals. Technology adoption is not an end in itself.
It’s a means to an end. Focus on the end state and provide coaching and support on the tools that will help your team be successful.
Slow Down to Speed Up
Leaders, by nature, are visionary. You see things others don’t. That’s why you’re the leader! Because this comes so naturally to you, it’s easy to forget that other people don’t think the way you do nor do they see things that you can see. Be careful not to push your people too fast. Use process maps to paint a picture and tell a story. Make it easy for your team to see the need and the possibilities. Make sure they believe you care about them and their success in the new world. Finally, push for real business results that can only be achieved with the adoption of the new ways and means.
Don’t be shy about letting them know you are all about results. It won’t take them long to figure out that if you’ve given them the tools, but they didn’t use them and didn’t achieve the results, they won’t have a leg to stand on. Your relentless focus on results will make your team thirsty for the tools that will enable the results. I mean, why would you lead a horse to water if you haven’t made him thirsty first?