Troubled by the idea of changing your company’s existing way of marketing and selling to one using the new Sales and Marketing Automation tools? Or all fired up and ready to boldly leapfrog the competition, but worried about convincing the rest of the company?
Let’s face it: changing people’s behaviour is never easy. Years spent automating business processes allowed me to witness this cycle of change in many people, and in case it’s helpful, here’s what I've learned.
You can divide a population undergoing change into three groups: People who change reluctantly (slow-pokes), those who relish it (quick-change artists), and a large group in the middle. But for all three groups, it’s a process. A cycle. Something that happens over time – it’s never instantaneous.
People change in stages. Most models designed for lifestyle changes like addiction and weight-loss have 6 stages, but because it’s not usually that difficult to change a business process, my model has 4.
- Precontemplation (Not yet acknowledging that a need for change exists).
- Contemplation (Acknowledging that things could be improved but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change)
- Preparation/Determination (Getting ready to change)
- Action/Willpower (Changing behavior)
When business processes change, the old way disappears, so there’s usually no need for the lifestyle model’s stages 5 (Maintenance) and 6 (Relapse).
Before people accept a difficult-to-implement change, especially one enforced on them, they cycle through a set of emotions, too. All three groups cycle through the same set, only their rate of passage differs. Even for the quick-change artists, then, it goes something like this Fear, Anger, Denial, Resentment, Resignation and Acceptance. It’s worth noting that this whole emotional cycle must be undergone before a person moves from step 1 to step 2 in the model cited above.
You eliminate fear with information, so start your project by listening a great deal. Launch the idea for the need to change, and sit back and soak it all in. All the fears, the objections. Don’t get weighed down by the slow-pokes, but it’s better to hear them in public than have them whisper, so don’t ignore them either.
Put together a package educating people on the issues. And then, despite their claims of being fearless, give the package to the quick ones. If you can’t dispel this group’s fears, you lose your stripes as a change instigator. When this group is all fired up, send them forth to evangelize. Some suggest aiming this effort at the middle group, as the slow-pokes will be too difficult to convince and if you get the middle on side, they’ll be swept along. I think it pays to do this, of course, but also to pick some useful slow-pokes – the Tipping Point ones, and bring them in one at a time into the talks with the middle group. Slow-pokes help to hone your argument and offer the middle-ground people some comparisons.
Lastly – Most of us need to see what’s in it for us before we agree to undertake additional hard work to reach an uncertain goal. Financial targets with published progress towards goals allow everyone to share the excitement. And personas and scenarios can show people how “easy” their jobs will be after the change, how much more time they will have for face-to-face activities as the machine takes care of the drudge tasks.
Bit-by-Bit # 4