To say the least, 2020 has forced us all out of our comfort zones. COVID has presented trials to work, play and everyday life that none of us could have quite anticipated. In the face of uncertainty, many of us cling on to what’s familiar, but what’s familiar doesn’t give us momentum, and teams should endeavour to avoid the ‘things-are-already-uncertain-so-let-us-remain-the-same’ trap.
How, then, can we continue to encourage change and transformation in our organisations without it being met with undoubtable hostility and anxiety-induced fear internally - especially given the current climate?
McKinsey & Company recently conducted a survey titled ‘What 800 executives envision for the post-pandemic workforce.' Not too surprisingly, it unveiled that 85% of companies have accelerated digitalisation and 67% of companies have accelerated automation and artificial intelligence in aftermath of the global pandemic.
In today’s world, technology has become the leading lady, and remote work her trusty sidekick - oh, and not to mention, hygiene is waiting in the wings for her cue to swoop into centre stage. But, is it possible to introduce these new characters simultaneously into the working environment without overwhelming our audience?
1. Embrace transformation with both hands
If you’re an avid Kaleidoscope blog reader, then you’ll have read Angé Baard’s most recent blog ‘Blind Spots and their Beauty’. She highlights the importance of documenting, testing, running retrospectives, and building on advancements to your way of work. Indirectly, she acknowledges that not all things ‘new’ will be a winner, but when they are, whether that means that they make things easier, faster, smarter, better (you get this gist), they should be enveloped completely.
There will always be team members who prefer the ‘old way of working’ but if your organisation has truly adopted a culture of learning, then change should be positively introduced. Take the time to run introductory sessions, offer training sessions in abundance, and demonstrate the real value that the changes can bring. Most importantly, acknowledge that uptake with some team members will be slower than with others – but that’s okay, as long as everyone is working towards a common goal – developing the organisation.
If ‘negative Nancy’ still refuses to wedge their arms open, give them time and a positive nudge or two – in the end, the ‘best talent for your organisation’ won’t want to be left behind (or to be the reason for slowing everyone else down).
2. Make it okay to ‘FAIL’
I blame those big, fat, red ‘FAIL’ marks on school papers for this outright ‘fear of failure’ that many adults seem to have adopted. If we ‘fail’ we’ve proved we that are ‘not good enough’, right? Wrong. Completely wrong. Damn those red markers.
In fact, when it comes to improving your business model, the only way to innovate is to try something new, bump your head, and get back up again (just like babies do – long before they are faced with those big, fat, red marks on paper).
The trick, though? FAIL FAST.
Document what didn’t work, document what did work, share it with your team, and KEEP CALM AND KEEP CHANGING. If a team member is keen to introduce something new, no matter the scale, and it doesn’t work, celebrate them for trying, and you’ll naturally foster a culture of continued learning.
Every team member, when they try something new, should be afforded the opportunity to openly share the learnings with the organisation. In a session like this, another team member may have an idea to build things out further, or they could learn a cautionary tale – no matter the outcome, welcome the opportunity to save time, energy, and positive vibes for the future.
3. Understand the value (from a local and international perspective)
Benchmarking is a sure way to demonstrate the value that something new could potentially add to an organisation. Research, research, research, in other words. Exploring case studies and growing trends highlights both futuristic and current benefits. For example, presently the growing push towards e-commerce could be something that you’re looking to introduce to your business model. When introducing a change that may require extra efforts, or a shift in way of work, people are more likely to run toward what they can understand.
The accountability should lie with the project lead to share and ‘promote’ their vision – if he/she believes in the approach, they should be able to support it with data (whether that comes from research, or trial and error before sharing it with the rest of the team). View 'the innovation' as a sales pitch and encourage others to adopt your idea by showcasing the value that you know it can add.
4. Celebrate those who gravitate toward ‘trying something new’
In essence, make a fuss. A massive fuss.
When a team member makes and takes a calculated risk and it pays off, celebrate it, shout from the rooftops, and create a platform for them to share their learnings with the entire organisation. Some organisations are in a position to be able to offer financial incentives – and this is great – but that’s not always possible. Incentives can include making someone the ‘Team Lead’ for rolling out the project they’ve worked to bring to the company, or a little public recognition never goes amiss.
5. Ensure that whatever change you've made is putting a smile on the face of your CUSTOMER
Most essentially, any internal change should breed positively for YOUR CUSTOMER. If the change you've made - for example, that move to e-commerce - isn't making your service or product BETTER then, sadly, it's back to the drawing board. It may often seem like a shift internally won't impact the customer, but it ALWAYS (and I repeat, ALWAYS) does.
Kim refuses to use the new tool you've introduced for inventory? Oh no - a customer has placed an order that you now can't fulfil. Unhappy customer.
Harrison has been on leave and a tiny 'make this red when complete' button hasn't been clicked because he didn't know he had to? Shoot - now you've ordered 500 scanners and you've already got 500 in the warehouse. No refunds?! Profit lost.
Team members who don't 'buy' into the new way of working may be a grave risk both internally (gossip) and externally, and team members who have not been kept in the loop, or up-skilled, may be more likely to make mistakes.
If the change is so big that it offers your customer a different experience (when they've grown accustomed and comfortable with your brand) - you need to ensure that you communicate with them too.
Offer platforms where customers can seek support, or develop a newsletter and 'spread the good news'. Without the support of the customer, you can make all of the changes you want - but you'll do nothing but lose those loyal to you - and disappoint your team at the same time.
In conclusion - whether it's COVID, or a competitor has gained advantage, or something else poses a threat to your business - you'll always be faced with one trial or another to overcome. The ONLY way around this is to stay on top of your game - and that means taking calculated risks and constantly seeking new and improved ways of doing things.
Fear less - and live for the customer more.
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