Do you notice how quickly our employee benefits industry is changing lately? From “Medicare For All” to reference-based pricing, consolidation of agencies to value-based insurance design - there are new products, services, and ideas. And, they’re coming at us faster than ever before with no end in sight.
Let’s face it: change is now the normal state of business today. Despite the presence of change all around us, change within an organization doesn't come easy. In fact, many of us fail to make changes that are necessary for our business, and we often blame it on employee resistance. At times, this is true. More often, we overestimate how difficult it is to lead and implement change effectively.
As an ex-Amazon executive, I’m no stranger to it – in fact, change is somewhat of an art form there. I’m sharing three tips to navigate change with success that I’ve learned over my career in rapid-change environments…
1. Early involvement
Don’t wait to share your ideas about a need for change until you have it all figured out. Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean your organization has to proceed in the dark. When you voice thoughts of change early, be sure to explain the reason behind it and emphasize the critical pieces.
Doing this long before you have a full implementation plan defined creates four benefits…
- It enhances engagement. By giving employees time to marinate on ideas and allowing them to provide feedback, you invite them to share in the journey.
- It creates buy-in. Your organization will take ownership and buy into your vision if you ask them to help craft it.
- It uncovers potential pitfalls. The problems you’re solving are too complex to be solved by a single person. Your teams have great insight, creativity, and judgment – leverage their early input to avoid issues later.
- It builds trust. The “like it or leave it big reveal” of a completed plan erodes trust within an organization.
2. Consistent communication
As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” While this is always true, perhaps it’s most critical when you’re implementing change.
A few years ago, I was leading a significant organization-wide change and made this mistake. I didn’t gather enough input from ALL departments or communicate often enough with all the players. It set the project back two months and I had to rebuild trust.
To avoid my mistake in a future project, I set up recurring times from the very beginning for everyone to think together – challenging each other to look beyond their individual roles and consider the industry needs. Here are a few helpful hints in effectively communicating throughout the change process:
- Include everyone in the organization that will be impacted by the change. Don’t leave any person or department out as they will bring a unique perspective.
- Create an environment for robust dialogue where everyone is encouraged, allowed, and even required to give their honest input.
- Instead of giving answers, ask questions and LISTEN. Make sure everyone is heard in order to get the best end result.
- Maintain regular updates. You may find the need to meet more frequently at first, but don’t forego regular meetings over time. They ensure everyone is informed of progress and changes.
3. Pursue project management
Significant changes often fail due to lack of careful planning and mediocre coordination. As leaders, we’re expected to coordinate and implement change. Yet, the majority of us don’t have formal project management training (except maybe that one course in college).
There are many different training courses and books on project management (click here for one of my recent favorites). Whatever resources you choose, be sure to identify a few constant steps for all of your projects. I’ve found these help me form a solid plan…
- Define the scope and what you’re trying to achieve.
- Write out the goals and criteria for success.
- Identify needed resources and constraints for the organization and team.
- Prioritize initiatives to ensure resources are maximized.
- Create a clear timeline with all owners for all deliverables.
Change is not difficult to face if you’ve helped foster the right kind of environment. Your team should be energized, engaged and always on the lookout for exciting new ways to do what they do.
When was the last time you tried to roll out a new product, idea or process to your team? How did it go? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.