The key to gaining a competitive advantage? Embrace change.

Greg Walder, Head of Customer Success at Front
19 October 20206 Min Read

It’s no secret that being quick to adopt new technology is critical for standing out in today’s competitive market. In a world where new technology is constantly emerging, the teams who will gain a competitive advantage are the ones who are constantly open to change — the ones who are always willing to adapt to a new way of working, and who view change as an opportunity, not a burden or a hassle.

Successfully implementing change is easier said than done, though. It means your team needs to learn new workflows, get used to different interfaces, and accomplish tasks in a less familiar way. And according to a McKinsey & Company study, 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals.

At Front, we’ve helped more than 2,500 companies around the world manage the change from a traditional email platform to our shared inbox app. We’ve learned a lot while guiding teams through their transition to Front, and we’ve found that those who are most successful have a common thread: they’ve built a team culture that embraces change. Here are five principles you can keep in mind to help your team welcome change.

1. Start with transparency

As a first step in change management, leaders often think about how they’re going to “package” the change they’re implementing — how they can best present it to the team so that it’s well-received, supported, and ultimately, successful.

When your team puts transparency first, however, there’s a lot less “packaging” to do. Leading a team with transparency means everyone already knows a change is coming and has had a chance to give input on it, so everyone is more likely to be supportive from the get-go.

Leading a team with transparency means everyone already knows a change is coming and has had a chance to give input on it, so everyone is more likely to be supportive from the get-go.

- Greg Walder, Head of Customer Success, Front

Say you’re bringing on a new project management platform for your marketing team. When you’re transparent, you’ll have already spoken with individual teammates about the problem, gotten their input and feedback on a solution, and let them know that you’d like to make the change in the next quarter. Then, later on when you’re making the change — even if the solution isn’t their top choice — they at least knew the change was coming and know their feedback was taken into consideration.

2. Aim for executive ownership

Getting “buy-in” to enable your initiative is another key part of the change management process, but framing a change in that way means the solution you’re implementing is something that requires convincing. It starts the conversation off with a negative tone.

A change is 30 percent more likely to stick when people have a personal stake in it. Rather than trying to obtain buy-in from your team, aim to give them ownership over the initiative. Engage cross-functional executives with the change you’re proposing early on in the development process. That way, they’re empowered to take control of their part in the initiative and feel invested in its success.

3. Focus on end user success

Executive alignment aside, the success of the technology you’re implementing depends on the happiness of those who will be using it. To cultivate end user champions, involve them in the evaluation process. This allows you to choose a better solution for your team, and gives you a chance to "pre-sell” a tool internally before the full rollout.

Say you want to transition to a new CRM software. First, explain the broader goal you’re hoping to achieve by making the switch. Then, let the sales, marketing, and other involved teams know you want to hear their opinions on it. Welcome their input. Depending on the project, there are a few ways you can be accessible for this:

1. Surveys: Send out basic Google surveys to gauge their opinions. Give the team a chance to rank their priorities around the change so you can get a sense of individuals' ideal outcomes. Be sure to include an open section where teammates can discuss their hesitations.

2. Meetings: Hold open discussion forums where everyone can come voice their concerns. Then use those concerns to build a better plan, and if needed, hold another meeting where you come back and address each concern directly.

3. Updates: Give scheduled updates (maybe during a weekly meeting or in an email) throughout the entire process to keep end users informed.

Giving the team this kind of involvement will lessen the anxiety around the change you're making.

4. Encourage testing

It’s normal to want to avoid experimenting with new technology. It pulls us out of our comfort zone, takes time to learn, and forces us to try new workflows. And in the end, there’s a risk that it doesn’t work. By fostering an environment that encourages testing, your team will get better at assessing new tools, learning to use them, and figuring out which ones work best.

Remind your team at the beginning of each quarter that you want the tools and technology you’re using to benefit their productivity and the overall company’s goals. Suggest that they always continue to seek better ways to accomplish tasks, and make them feel comfortable suggesting innovative solutions to the broader team. After all, the organizations who have a mindset of iterating with new tools regularly, without fearing failure, are the ones who ultimately find the best solutions.

After all, the organizations who have a mindset of iterating with new tools regularly, without fearing failure, are the ones who ultimately find the best solutions.

- Greg Walder, Head of Customer Success, Front

5. View your vendors as partners

When you announce that you’re going to start working with a new vendor, your team might feel like they’re getting more work — a new tool to learn, more emails to send, more people to communicate with each day. When you announce that you’re working with a new partner, however, it gives the change a more positive spin. It implies that you’re bringing on new stakeholders to help you reach your goals.

Plus, treating your vendors like partners lets you get more out of the tools you’re using. At Front, we've found we can always bring better outcomes for customers who trust us as partners throughout the implementation, from onboarding and beyond. The more you share with vendors around your goals, challenges, and roadblocks, the more they’ll be able to enable your transformation. By keeping your vendor updated and involved, you’d be surprised how much they can enable your success.

Change is unavoidable today, so it's more important than ever to find effective change management tactics for your team. Rather than searching for one-off change management solutions for every change you decide to make, try working to alter your team's perspective on change. By cultivating a team that embraces change, you'll be more receptive to new technology, and you'll ultimately be able to move faster than your competition.

Written by Greg Walder
Originally Published: 13 February 2018

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