Jeff Rainey, president of Home Equity Builders, in Great Falls, Va., is a technology nut. He strongly believes that the correct use of technology can help a company dramatically improve its processes and systems, and he’s constantly on the lookout for new software and hardware that can ratchet up his team’s productivity.
But not everyone on staff is always ready for these changes, especially the field team. “Our carpenters feel that they’re not producing work if they are working on the computer,” Rainey says. “So first I have to convince them that changing this mindset is important, and then we worry about the particular tools.”
So, what’s the best way to handle these changes? The collective authors of Harvard Business School Press’ Managing Change to Reduce Resistance, part of The Results-Driven Manager series, provide guidelines to help smooth the transition:
Specify the nature of the change. Communicate specific information about how the change will affect customer satisfaction, quality of product, market share, sales, or productivity. Gary F. Grates, president and CEO of Boxenbaum Grates, a New York City communications firm says, “Change must be seen in the context of a tangible goal.”
Explain why. Though you’ve probably spent hours investigating the proposed change, your employees have not. Don’t just tell them what you’ve decided. Share the process you went through to make your decision and what you decided against.
Repeat, repeat, and repeat again the purpose of the change and the actions planned. Once the new changes soak in, employees may begin to worry; that’s when the communication system must rev up. Continue to bring the change up at meetings and to give your team members more chances to ask questions.
Make sure communication is two-way. Small, informal meetings are a great way to talk about upcoming change. By holding these meetings, you’re committing to nothing more than listening and responding to concerns. It doesn’t mean that you have to commit to changing your plans. Richard Worth, author of Levers of Change, says, “Change happens at the emotional level, not the rational level. Informal meetings with employees can go a long way toward a change in heart as well as in head.”
Rainey says, “Our last system didn’t work, but I didn’t come in and say, ‘Here’s the new system.’ Instead, I said, ‘OK, that system didn’t work. What do you think would work?’” This outreach was instrumental in getting the fence-sitters off the fence and reacting in a positive way.
One of the joys of owning and managing a small business is the ease with which you can implement change. But to make it stick and produce the results you want, you need buy-in from your team. You’ll get that if you, like Rainey, manage change the right way. —Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, helping remodelers build consistently profitable companies. www.remodelersadvantage.com; 301.490.5620.