Great entrepreneurs and innovators tend to have an infinite capacity for generating ideas, but implementation is typically overlooked by them. It’s important to remember that any idea is only as good as its implementation and poor execution can kill the best of them.
Despite this, not many firms take the task of implementation seriously. The team’s appetite for change and the impact that a new idea may have on operations are often underestimated.
What do we know about the ‘Psychology of change’? When implementing changes, it’s critical to remember people, and the cyclical journey we all go on that accompanies it.
Whilst evidence shows that people, in general, fall into one of the three categories listed below:
- ‘Change Lovers’ – love change, embrace it and thrive on it
- ‘Creatures of Habit’ – routine is the key to survival and provides peace of mind
- ‘Followers of Reason’ – accept the change based on reason i.e. purpose of change and sound arguments (luckily most fall into this category)
Implementation can be stressful, scary and overwhelming, for all groups.
In fact, the psychology of change shows three clear stages of an emotional journey that all of us experience to varying degrees depending on the category we fall into:
Stage 1: Denial
Stage 2: Fear, defensiveness, resistance and anger
Stage 3: Acceptance and normalisation which eventually lead to enjoyment
Considering what we know about the psychology of change, it’s not surprising that over the many years of working with some great financial planning firms, I’ve noticed there’s a trajectory that all companies go through when implementing changes.
As issues are resolved, solutions implemented and changes embraced, emotions navigate through highs and lows; I call it the RIE Trajectory. This is how it works:
- Resolve (Stage 1) – when identifying true causes of issues and suggesting solutions, the level of enjoyment tends to be high as individuals recognise and welcome the positive impact the change will have.
- Implementation (Stage 2) – as firms begin to approach the implementation stage, the level of enjoyment dips. It starts to dawn on those involved how much time, work and effort it will take to transform the issue. Naturally, first obstacles and signs of resistance start to creep in. The first days of letting go of old habits and embracing a new way of doing things are often the most challenging.
- Enjoy (Stage 3) – once the hard work has been completed and the change has been successfully implemented, enjoyment levels peak. The changes are embedded and the whole team can see the benefits.
This cycle repeats itself over and over again as businesses evolve over time, which no doubt you recognise when looking back at implementation of various changes in your own firm.
As you can see from the RIE Trajectory the emotions are at their lowest at the point of implementation and it’s not unusual for resistance, defensiveness and anger to accompany this stage.
The key things for Practice Managers to know about change are:
- Change has to be balanced – no change leads to stagnation but too much change leads to poor outcomes. Introduction of changes should be interlaced with periods of stability, to avoid team members becoming disheartened or disillusioned by constant unsettlement.
- Change means having to give something up – losing something that gives us comfort or is a habit can lead to fear and discomfort. Knowing this can help you anticipate the issues that are likely to arise and allows you to communicate with compassion.
- It’s key to consider how to minimise the negative emotions and optimise great outcomes by involving all team members in the process!
Practice Managers work closely with business owners and the leadership team to agree business objectives, as well as focusing on the logistics of achieving these. However, it’s easy to forget about the emotional aspect of change, often due to a lack of time, but managing these emotions will be just as important as dealing with the logistics.
How to ensure successful implementation?
Five factors are known to influence the outcome of change
Three are within your control and two aren’t. During change, focus on the things that you can control – to help bring your team with you on the implementation journey:
- Provide information (Information) – this means sharing your vision, aims and objectives to inspire others. To be meaningful change must have purpose, so always give your team reasons for change (if you remember most are ‘Followers of Reason’), and most importantly, communicate clearly and with compassion!
- Involve the team as much as you can (Participation) – according to a recent U.S. based study of employee engagement conducted by Gallup only 3 in 8 employees are fully engaged with their job and workplace. While this is a great increase compared to the figures reported by them in 2013 there is still much room for improvement! As Practice Managers it is vital that you make the whole team feel invested in what they are doing. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that each and every team member is fully engaged. There are a whole host of options that you can implement straight away to make everyone feel that their contribution is valued:
- Give your team members ownership of their work (delegate & don’t interfere)
- Create opportunities to share ideas
- Listen and take on board suggestions & feedback
- Implement their ideas
- Give credit where credit is due and celebrate great ideas!
- If a suggestion cannot be implemented, give feedback on the reasons why
- Hold regular update meetings, brainstorming sessions etc
Allowing your team members to get involved in brainstorming and the ideas generation will have the bonus of making the introduction of changes much easier to navigate.
- Instil confidence (Trust in Management) – in the last 12 years of doing the consultancy work I’ve noticed that there are two main reasons for teams losing trust in those in charge: lack of follow through and not leading by example.
Here are the top tips for instilling confidence in your team:
- Always follow through and deliver on your promises
- Reassure your team that nothing will happen immediately> – don’t introduce changes from one day to the next. Instead, give people time to contribute to your thoughts and ideas and adapt to the possibility of change taking place.
- Lead by example – the management team and the business owner need to follow the new way too. If you are a Practice Manager coordinating implementation of changes, you will need the backing of the owners. I know that this can be a challenge, so we will write about this topic another time!
- Be realistic about your expectations – agree a roll out date that is realistic (no it can’t be done as of yesterday!) – it will be an emotional journey so don’t add unnecessary pressure. When implementation goes ‘live’ monitor the roll out and team’s emotions. Not everything will work smoothly from the start.
Trust that the change can work
As Brian Tracy says, “Work is never fun until you are good at it”. If you have ever gone from the position of being an expert in something to being a novice, you will know that no matter how exciting the new opportunity may be, work is fun only once we feel confident in our ability to achieve.
Always plan to:
- Train in areas that people are likely to need support
- Organise a dress rehearsal or testing before launch!
Members of our Master Practitioners Club can find these relevant resources in our library.
- Psychology of Implementation & How to Get It Right with Dominika Sieradzka
- Decision making & how to get your ideas across with Dominika Sieradzka
- Leading Change: how to prepare for being acquired or to acquire whilst keeping the culture alive and your teams engaged through uncertainty with Caroline Hawksley & Hayley Mitchell of Progeny
- Why a Thinking Environment? with Rebecca Timmins of When We Think
- Improving Your Execution Skills with Brett Davidson of FP Advance
- The Development Process with Arah Perrett of Arah Perrett Consultancy
If you are not a member why not consider joining us now 👉 https://rie.solutions/services/master-practitioners-club/.
Meanwhile here is a nice article on the appetite for change 👉https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2016/02/19/new-data-shows-that-leaders-overestimate-how-much-their-employees-want-to-change/?sh=75b8a00e162f