January 23, 2017

Keep it simple, keep calm and carry on

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Each year, in this, one of our busiest months across the industry, I typically write about systems. This year is no different. In fact, with perhaps a bit more intensity than usual, mainly with dozens of business owners and managers I know of who are working hard to implement multiple levels of new systems this year: Systems for quoting, recovering overhead, recruiting and onboarding, managing attitudes and behaviour, and keeping on top of prequalifying leads for profitable sales (to name a few). Some changes are complex; like learning new software, and some are relatively simple; like learning a mapping service or delivery route, or creating a new pre-qualification process before quoting a project.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this time of year IS when the rubber hits the road and systems are tested to their limit. June however, is when most new systems are dropped and the team goes back to doing things the old way. They are too busy to try and establish new routines and change old habits. When we are busy or stressed, we turn to what is familiar and return to our comfort zone.

Managing change is tough. Managing a change from something simple to something complex or complicated is even tougher. Managing change when there is a lack of understanding as to why a change is being made, or what the outcomes of successful change will be is impossible to sustain.

Keep it simple stupid (KISS)
The majority of changes to systems that fail are either poorly communicated, too complicated, or a muddled combination of both. Here are some tips for staying on track with new changes to your systems:
• Make (and take) time to explain why you decided to implement a new routine, process or system to everyone who will be affected (start with the end in mind)
• Give everyone involved a reasonable chance to digest and ask questions
• Be clear on what this change will accomplish and how it will make an impact
• Be clear on what will be different (i.e. what they will start and/or stop doing)
• Be clear on the benefits (goals) of making this change
• Implement gradually
• Train patiently
• Create opportunity for questions all along the way
• Be receptive to input and improvements from the team. If they help create it, they will most likely engage and help to sustain the change
• Write everything down (notes from meetings, suggestions, assigned change managers, target dates) and circulate/post for easy access
• Follow up on how it’s working (or not) and be prepared to adapt
• Encourage and track progress
• Celebrate success

Having the courage to lead people can take many of us out of our comfort zone. Having courage to lead people through critical change can send many confident leaders straight into a panic zone. If you’re struggling with making changes designed to help improve the momentum of your team and profitability, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. If things aren’t quite going the way you had hoped this spring, and if you’re not seeing the results of the hard work planning for improvements, don’t lose faith in yourself or your team quite yet. Just step back, and try again. Use the simple check list above to help figure out if you missed a step or two. Change can be messy, non-linear and unpredictable. And, it’s necessary in order to improve, grow and innovate.

To quote a world famous leader who stared adversity square in the eye without hesitation, “Keep calm and carry on.” While this phrase has lately been over commercialized by playful North American marketers, Sir Winston Churchill meant every word of his infamous phrase to Britons. This was his most crucial advice to the citizens of a country on the brink of panic — coping with the deep and broad ‘change’ that his nation was navigating with the onset of brutal war. Churchill wanted to quash panic among the masses, and instructed them to “keep calm, and carry on” with their daily business and life as best as they could. He advised them to be strong and have resolve, to believe, and not be enveloped by rapid, chaotic change. He was a great example of a true leader.

I offer this example for good reason. At this time of year, many business owners and managers can be under enormous stress. With many moving parts, things can happen that challenge a leader’s ability to be strategic and keep moving forward with an emergent, positive and adaptive strategy.

So, from me to you, at this busy, sometimes chaotic time of year, “Keep it simple, keep calm and carry on.” Work with your team to nudge continual improvements and moving change forward for the benefit of all.