As landscape industry consultants, my team and I are typically engaged for a few reasons. Either clients are having trouble breaking through some growth barrier, not making enough money or just not having any fun. Sometimes all three.
At Envisor, we’re always looking for the root cause to these challenges. As we identify the root cause of the problems, we recommend improvement and change that’s needed to move the organization toward its stated goals.
Therein lies the problem. Change is difficult! The ability for an owner, and more importantly an organization, to implement positive change is the key to success.
Change, as illustrated in the figure below, can be lumped into four categories: 1. high value/low difficulty; 2. high value/high difficulty; 3. low value/low difficulty; 4. low value/high difficulty.
To get maximum benefit, we want to focus on and implement high-value changes in our organizations first. High-value change is positioned in quadrants 1 and 2. Changes in quadrant 1 are fairly easy to understand and implement. Changes in quadrant 2 typically involve people, including structure change, job descriptions and accountabilities, as well as changes to systems and processes. These changes are more difficult to implement. They can be uncomfortable and require an intentional approach to gain buy-in.
Any change initiative needs to begin with a change management plan and a designated change manager. The change manager must be accountable for driving the implementation. In small businesses, the change manager is typically the owner.
Effective change management plans are composed of six components:
- Objectives: Clearly defining the change objectives develops the “why” behind what we’re doing. As with most complex change, there needs to be a clear and compelling motivation to disrupt the current way of doing business.
- Risk assessment and management: With any change, there can be risks. Change may impact your customers, personnel or financial position negatively if not handled properly. It’s important to quantify the ultimate downside of the change process along with the benefits. When changing how you price work or when rebalancing your maintenance portfolio, consider the impact on your customer and potential sales conversion rates.
When changing your structure, business approach or processes, your internal team may have negative perceptions or reactions. Will anyone feel threatened or leave? How will the proposed changes impact the organization financially in the short or long term? Do your best to quantify the negative risks in all areas so you can adjust and muscle through when the going gets tough.
- Communication plan: A strong change management communication plan addresses the advantages of the change for the company and for the individuals. In other words, develop positive change messaging that demonstrates a win-win for the company and team members. As the initiative is implemented, keep the team up to date on progress, challenges and next steps.
- The plan: The guts of the change initiative are outlined in the plan. What’s the proposed timeline? Who will be involved and how much time will be required from them? What are the key steps? What are the milestones?
- Manage resistance: Change is emotional. There will be some initial resistance. Work to overcome it with empathy and understanding. As the change initiative progresses, there may be more obstructive resistance that needs to be addressed. As the change manager, it’s your job to overcome the resistance in order to move the ball forward. Consider that in the life cycle of complex change, there is a low point where resistance is greatest prior to breaking through. Don’t get stuck there!
- Continuous improvement: As change is rolled out, be open to improvement opportunities and suggestions. As the team begins to see the change objectives come to light, the environment for collaboration improves, as well. Sustaining change depends on continuous improvement.