Dealing with resistance to change

Transient

The two word question that can open minds to the need for change.

We were called in to lead a session to help an organization determine its next strategic move. Shortly into the process, we hit a roadblock. There was clearly a lot of resistance to change.

So I asked this question. “Since the time this institution was founded fifty+ years ago, what has changed? What’s different today than it was back in the 1950’s?”

Things got quiet. Very quiet.

Then someone said, “Well, the town has changed. A lot.”

Someone else said, “The whole county has changed.” A third person said, “Customers in general have changed. They expect more.”

“And they know more – including what they can find on the internet,” a young woman said.

Another lady added, “There was no internet, no email, and no voicemail back when we started.”

“And there was a lot less competition, too. Nowadays we have a competitors all over.”

And so it went. The group began to focus on all the changes around them that have been taking place continuously – which I’ve come to believe is frequently the first step we all need to come to before recognizing the need to rethink and possibly change the ways we do business.

Over the course of the session, the group eventually talked themselves into why their institution had to change.

And most important – they chose to change – a far better result than if the CEO or anyone else simply told them that things had to change.

Here are some good questions to ask your leaders, managers, and other team members at your next session or retreat:

  • What’s changed in our business since it was started in ______? What’s changed in the past five or ten years?

  • Which of these changes ended up being for the better – and resulted in better outcomes or value for (customers, clients, patients, and so on) – and for us as a company?
  • What’s different now in our marketplace – or the communities in which we do business? Are these good changes or bad changes?
  • How have our competitors changed – and their products and services? What are they offering people now that wasn’t even thought of years ago? What will happen if we don't change to keep up?
  • How have customers themselves changed in recent years? How have their lives changed? What do they want today that they didn’t want ten years ago? Are these changes good for us or bad for us? Why? What's the difference?

So what can you accomplish with this exercise?

The first objective is to help people see change as ongoing, not just something they are being asked to go along with today.

The second objective is to help them distinguish between good change (which makes you sharper, stronger, and more competitive) and bad change (which simply creates burdens and problems).

Transient

Encouraging change isn’t always easy – and ordering change hasn’t worked well for most organizations.

Perhaps a good strategy for your organization is to begin with what you see changing around you – and then, as a deliberate second step, involve people in finding ways to help your organization adapt to those changes successfully.

Carl Francis

Re-posted from our archives

Personalizing your services... to be more competitive

Consumers are increasingly expecting unique services tailored for them.  Here are some indications that you have work to do to get ready for this trend:

  • If you don’t maintain a database of personal preferences or habits of your customers
  • If you don’t regularly divide up (segment) your customers based on those preferences and address them in your marketing
  • If you don’t train your people to look for, understand, and record unique wishes and preferences among your customers
  • If you don’t yet have the ability to communicate instantly and personally with every past and present customer in multiple ways – by mail, email, text, phone, or in person
Transient

It had to happen sooner or later, and it’s happening now. Consumers are getting tired of buying the same things as everyone else. They are increasingly looking for retailers, service providers, and institutions who treat them as individuals and who can give them something uniquely theirs.Land’s End has 20 different styles of gift cards available – suitable for virtually every occasion and recipient – and you can even record a personalized message into the gift card holder for an extra special touch.

Nike allows you to customize a pair of their shoes with different colors, trims, icons, and team names, according to the Wall Street Journal.

You can buy skins for your computer or your MP3 player to change its color or appearance.

Even the U.S. Post Office, long scorned for its seeming lack of innovation, lets you customize your postage stamps through its website.

Have you started thinking about how you can offer customers more personalized choices – or just more choices than your competitors?

Here are some indications that you have work to do to get ready for this trend:

  • If you don’t maintain a database of personal preferences or habits of your customers
  • If you don’t regularly divide up (segment) your customers based on those preferences and address them in your marketing
  • If you don’t train your people to look for, understand, and record unique wishes and preferences among your customers
  • If you don’t yet have the ability to communicate instantly and personally with every past and present customer in multiple ways – by mail, email, text, phone, or in person

Too much trouble or too expensive, you say? Bologna. These are no longer dreams. They are becoming the basic prerequisites for competing. And it’s never been easier or more affordable to get in the game – thanks to technology.

Virtually every major retailer in America has figured it out and is working on the next generation. It’s no secret – what the market leaders do ahead of everyone else eventually becomes the standard for their industry… about the same time that the bar is raised yet again.

So… are you ready for a customized world?

Carl Francis

From our archives

Are the nay-sayers killing your company?

IF NEW IDEAS OR BIG CHALLENGES are constantly greeted with "No’s" or rolled eyes, you have a big problem. When Intel wanted to land the computer chip contract for Apple TV, it didn’t submit a low bid, favorable terms, or promises of extra service. Intel modified their chip to make it thinner and small enough to fit into Apple’s set-top box.

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Opportunity or distraction?

AS A LEADER, CAN YOU STRATEGICALLY, CONSISTENTLY, AND LOGICALLY EVALUATE NEW IDEAS OR CONCEPTS – regardless of where they come from? Can you determine whether or not it is a valid, worthwhile concept to pursue – or simply a time- and resource-wasting distraction?

One of the greatest strategic challenges facing leaders like you today is choosing the few best opportunities from the choices you have. This selection process is also one of the greatest threats – largely because pursuing the wrong opportunities distracts attention, saps energy, and wastes resources.

Transient

Very few leaders have an intuitive ability to make only wise choices. If that is true, where does it leave the rest of us?

The challenge comes in developing innate skills at sorting opportunities from distractions. Opportunities advance a company – helping it move forward and eventually become more productive and more profitable. Distractions usually begin as very appealing and profitable ideas. But somewhere along the line, they turn ugly.

How do you tell the difference? How do you figure out which to pursue – and which to abandon from the start?

Here are three clear – and immediate – steps that you can use immediately -- and get better at over time.

    • Develop a few strategic questions to help you quickly sort out and evaluate opportunities on their merits – and to permit you to discard those that are likely to become distractions.

Add to these questions a simple rating system (say 0 – 5) to bring more objectivity to your thinking. In this case, zero or one is little or no value. Two or three is possible. Four or five is very promising.

    • Fit us and our skills, capabilities, and our company?
    • Fill a need or a hole in our offerings? Is this a logical extension of what we offer that people might buy in addition to what we are already selling or doing for them?
    • Provide new value to our customers/clients/patients?
    • Would they recognize this value – and think it’s important?
    • Would it produce value for us – as revenue, profits, or in stature, reputation, or relevance?
    • Enable us to do something we’ve wanted to do – or do something better?
    • Help us strategically move forward and advance the company in some way or open other doors?
    • Allow us to eventually leverage it into other areas or opportunities?

Don't expect perfection, especially of early ideas. The point is, if the idea makes it this far, there’s one more step. The concept or opportunity should be able to stand up to further scrutiny. Here are a few more questions you could ask (before others do):

    • Is this a straight-line opportunity – meaning, can we immediately take advantage of it with the knowledge, skills, and resources we have now, or must we learn or develop something that we do not have at present?
    • Do we have the resources, funding, skills, connections, logistics, and so on – in order to adequately act on this, or does it require other commitments (i.e., borrow money; hire people, etc.) that might be distracting all by itself?
    • Would this make us more competitive – or perhaps give us a competitive advantage – or even keep competitors from entering this market?
Transient

RECOMMENDATION    Develop your questions and use them – along with a simple rating system. And then teach your team to do the same thing. Improve your questions and judgment over time. Write them down and teach them to empower others. If you do, you will become a more strategic leader – surrounded by a strategic team – which together can consistently find opportunities amidst the distractions.

Carl Francis

From our archives