Lead Article (Self-help topic – CHANGE)
When an IT business decides to make that daunting leap from break/fix to MSP, it involves that scariest of words. Change. Humans are really basic animals. We only need four things to survive – oxygen, water, food and sex. One additional item usually makes us happy. We need to feel safe.
That feeling of safety is the major reason change is resisted in a business. Change must occur at all levels across a business but employees will resist almost any change. Why? They are scared. Scared of losing their job. Scared of losing their authority. Scared of changing their position. Scared of not knowing what they are doing in a new role.
To many businesses, it would seem safer and more satisfying for their staff if they simply resisted change and kept on doing the same ol’ thing. It would be easier and happier for all concerned.
JFK said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” No matter how good your business is currently, I can guarantee that unless you continually review and modify your business model, you will be left behind as the world moves forward.
Look at the Dow Jones. The Dow Jones was launched in 1896. Of all the companies on the original Dow, only one still exists today. That company is GE and, by their own admission, GE is a completely different company to what it was all those years ago and, if it continues to remain successful, it will be a completely different company in another one hundred years.
Change can be a period of incredible excitement and reinvigoration across a business – if it is managed correctly. I have a few pointers that I believe have worked well for businesses that have coped with change successfully.
- Change is not an event. Change is an ongoing continual process that should be on the minds of managers and employees alike all the time.
- Communication is crucial to the success of any major change. This communication is important internally so that all staff are aware of the changes that will occur and externally so clients know if they need to have different expectations.
- Your business structure needs to clearly demonstrate that change can just as easily come from the bottom up as it can come from the top down.
- All staff and clients need to fully understand WIIFM. Humans are selfish. It might sound great to the owner of this business that this change will increase profits. To an employee, the owner receiving greater profits doesn’t really get them excited. Make it obvious how changes will benefit each and every individual.
- Your goals and objectives need to be well-defined. It is not good enough to simply say that you are going to make a certain process ‘better’ or ‘as good as it can be’. If you have specific objectives in place, it is clear to all involved if the changes have been successful.
One process I have often used to start the change management process is to hire an internal external (IE) consultant. At what seems like great risk to the business owner, I instruct him to find the staff member who has been with the organisation for the least amount of time. This person is then given a specific project. For one day, they don’t participate in their normal activities. They become the IE Consultant.
For that one day, their job is to look at the organisation with fresh eyes and question processes and strategies and look at the business critically. All staff are instructed to treat this person as an incredibly expensive external consultant and give them any information that is useful to perform his IE role. Staff are not allowed to answer with “because we have always done it that way” or “you are too new to understand”. After just one day, you will be amazed at what this person will see. It doesn’t take long for an employee to build blinkers in a job and miss the most obvious areas for improvement. This will remove those blinkers.
Change is a conundrum. For the good health of a business, change is essential BUT change is nearly always resisted. Change can be disruptive and it can be stressful. I guarantee one thing though – once your employees realise that change in a business is dramatically less disruptive than their employer closing their doors, they may view change in a slightly better light.
Tell me if you think an IE Consultant is a good idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Business Tip of the Month
Rule 25: Measure What You Treasure
The structure you create in your business will drive behaviour from your staff. If you want to improve any given aspect of your business, ensure that any KPIs or bonus schemes you create reward the specific area you want to improve. I once owned a business that sold cell phones. I wanted the staff to increase cell phone connections. I gave them commission based solely on the number of connections achieved each month. I quickly noticed that the number of connections was increasing BUT our profits were decreasing. I couldn’t understand it. When I spoke at length to our staff I finally realised that they were giving away multiple accessories with every sale (this was potentially a huge profit area for us). They were discounting and even trading in old phones. Essentially they were delivering precisely what I asked for – an increase in connections. The structure that I had created drove specific behaviour from my staff as I sent the message that all I cared about was the number of connections. Logically, you would think that it would be easy to work out that I cared about profitability but I didn’t send that message. As far as the staff could see, I was only measuring what was important – that was connection numbers. Be sure that you are measuring what is truly important to your business.
Science Quiz Question
Imagine I have just been to a fair and my kids were given a helium balloon. When we hop into the car, I don’t want the helium balloon bouncing around inside the car so I tie the string to the seat armrest so the balloon is suspended in mid-air without the balloon touching the roof. It is a mild day so I leave all of the windows wound up and I don’t have any air-conditioning turned on. I start the drive home and I am travelling at a slow speed. Unbelievably, I spot a break in the traffic so I accelerate as fast as I can to take advantage of the gap. Keeping in mind Newton’s laws of motion, what happens to the balloon relative to the car? Does it lean forward, stay in its position or move backward?
Science Quiz Answer
In this scenario, the helium balloon will move toward the front of the car under heavy acceleration. Everything else in the car that is fixed or secured will move with the car as it accelerates. Any objects not attached will move toward the back of the car (Newton’s First Law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force). Therefore it isn’t logical that the balloon will move toward the front of the car. What is actually happening is that the air in the car is moving toward the back of the car as that is not secured to the car. With no windows open, the air then becomes denser at the rear of the car. The helium inside the balloon is less dense than the air surrounding the balloon and the balloon wants to move to the air that is less dense – hence the balloon moves towards the front of the car!