Everybody can change, but how do you manage it?
Life’s only constant is change. Even so, most of us would rather avoid change if at all possible, especially when it comes to workflows and processes. Change is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and… different.
I have personally been involved in hundreds of new software implementations that have fundamentally impacted the ways that organizations operate. Believe it or not, the single biggest reason new technology implementations fail has nothing to do with its value, or the technical expertise of operations and end users, but everything to do with the leadership's ability to effectively manage the change with their people.
The key to managing technological change depends on how well leadership equips the frontline managers to walk their teams through the new processes. One of the worst scenarios you can imagine is that the first day is training starts with the frontline manager raising their hand and saying, “I don’t understand how that would work because….[fill in the blank].”
With the whole team there watching, waiting for what happens next, leadership should know that they might as well kiss adoption of this initiative good-bye, at least for that team. Without frontline managers being engaged in the adoption and actively managing their teams through the process, failure is the most probable outcome.
To succeed, I’m going to walk you through how to effectively ready your team for changes in your business technology. Equipping frontline managers for championing the change management process requires three things: involvement, clear expectations, and a proactive role model.
The biggest problem in my doomsday scenario was that the frontline manager had no involvement in the decision-making process. They also didn’t have any involvement in how to highlight the downstream effects of the new system.
Organizations are bound for trouble if frontline managers are learning about the change and its effects at the same time as their team. It is essential for managers to get the opportunity to meet with leadership to raise any concerns and tie the company’s strategic vision with the very real practical outcomes of this change for their sales reps and end users. By involving frontline managers early and often in the change initiative, the company is much more likely to align the vision to the daily lives of the workers, and better prepare all parties for the change.
This may seem surprising, but setting realistic and clear expectations regarding the frontline manager’s responsibilities, the conversations with their team, and post-implementation KPIs is paramount for success. For example, if leadership expects the manager to handle the difficult conversations or run enablement for their team, they need to inform the manager early and provide them the resources and coaching to do the job well. A frontline manager is often the pivotal factor in a company’s success: if the front line manager isn’t well-equipped or left out of the critical reasons for the change, then the project has a limited chance of getting off the ground.
Guess what? The best way for a frontline manager to learn how to handle the change management process is from watching what their own managers and leaders do. If leaders are not having the difficult conversations with the managers and coaching them through the process, how could they expect the managers to do so for their teams? In the wise words of my old basketball coach, “When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you!” Setting an example of how you want the managers to encourage technology adoption with their direct reports is one of the best ways to ensure adoption across the entire organization.
So, decision makers and those in leadership – step up your game! Be ready to coach your frontline managers to handle the change management process for their teams, set clear expectations, and involve them in the process as much as possible. They are the ones that ultimately will determine if your initiatives take off or stay grounded.
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