Time for Change – Clearing the First Hurdle
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”
A.A. Milne (1882 – 1956), Winnie the Pooh
Absolutely vital to any business change is allocating some time to do it. Sadly, most companies find themselves in the position of poor Edward Bear when it comes to dealing with changes to their business processes. From my experience in helping clients to implement change within their businesses, I have outlined some thoughts to help you get started.
You acknowledge that you need to change. You might know what you need to change too. You will make the change when you have time – this may be once a current project is finished, or once the year-end is out of the way, or when business slackens off.
You are in the grip of the vicious spiral that most businesses find themselves in. You are too busy to improve, you remain inefficient, and therefore remain too busy to improve.
Face it! There is never a right time, other than now. When this project is finished you will be into your year-end. When the year-end is out of the way, it’s holiday time. The only way to pull yourself out of this is to make time NOW! Once you free up the time, the improvements you make help create more time and you find yourself in a virtuous circle of improvement.
What’s going to give?
OK, you have faced up to the fact that Old Father Time isn’t going to tap you on the shoulder and show you an extra week you didn’t know was there. What can you do?
If the time isn’t going to just appear, you will need to free it up from somewhere else. Assuming that the changes are to be implemented during working hours, this means that something has to give. You just need to decide what.
What would you do if a key member of staff was off sick for a week, or a major unexpected crisis occurred requiring “all hands on deck”? You would manage, you always have. Think of the things you would temporarily stop doing then. You never know, you might find that some of them aren’t required anyway – there’s your first improvement!
The key is to give the change process the level of importance it requires. We can always make time for things that are important enough. This needs to come from the top.
Lead by example
Employees, in general, treat as important what they believe their managers and leaders think is important. This belief comes from observing what managers do, far more than listening to what they say! It needs to be clear to employees the importance that management attaches to the changes being implemented.
With some clients we find it useful to have senior management represented at workshops where they may not strictly be required. It is very hard for employees to argue that their time is more valuable to the business than that of the Managing Director.
When a member of the management team misses a workshop or meeting planned as part of the process of change, it can have a devastating effect on employee availability for future workshops. This simple act can be read by the employees as: “Ignore what I have been telling you about these changes – the day-to-day business is what is really important!”. Next time they are asked to attend a workshop, the answer is likely to be “I don’t have the time.”
Just Do it!
When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for action. In the words of the 35th US president:
“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. “
John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)
Or more succinctly, in the words of Nike’s marketing slogan:
“JUST DO IT!”