In a recent blog, I talked about the amazing changes that the Workshare customer support team had brought about, increasing FCR (first contact resolution) by 25%. The quality and speed of response continues to go up, (last week the team achieved 78%, a great result in a complex technical support environment), and it got me thinking on how you approach change.
For the majority of human beings, change can be disruptive, unnerving, stressful; even for those with much experience of change. By nature, we are invariably more inclined to focus on what we know (our comfort zone) and avoid the change, aligning ourselves with those we are most familiar with. Even anarchists, who seek chaos hang out together!
When considering change within a business environment, we look to the outcome we desire and go into “solutioning mode”. We think through the practical steps required to bring about the change, the means to track successful implementation and the people involved. All too often, because it’s difficult, we avoid considering the impact on the people. Having recently gone through such a period of change, here’s 5+1 things to consider when approaching such a project:
- Stakeholder buy-in: even where a change is driven by a stakeholder, the consideration on what (is the change), how (to achieve the change) and when (to implement the change) needs to be discussed and agreed. Consideration of all those affected, making sure broader buy-in is critical. With the recent changes at Workshare, Knowledge Management, Customer Success, senior management and IT all needed to be aligned and engaged in the process to ensure timely success.
- Over-communication: In the rush to deliver a solution, we forget about our teams’ hearts and minds. Frequent & open sharing of progress, showing where we are on track and when we are behind out target will help drive buy-in, soothe frayed nerves and ultimately ease the team through the change. Lack of communication can be incredibly counter-intuitive. By not sharing widely and loudly enough during a period of change, the team may not be aware that they are doing a great job, and the adoption of new better working habits to support the change can take considerably longer to bed down. Instead, over-communicate – place a big board showing progress, outlining this week’s focus and flagging areas of special attention to help the team focus and drive the result.
- Milestone planning & phases: In the years of delivering change, transformation and start-up projects, I learned one very important lesson: there is NO silver bullet, no magic wand to wave to make things happen. Change is a series of baby steps to reach a milestone, which collectively add up to a bigger outcome. Sometimes, to make this more manageable or palatable for a business, breaking this up into achievable phases, where the team can see the result they need to achieve is by far the best way to get people on board.
- Course correction: Very few things in life run smoothly all the time. We know this, so assuming that a project may need some in-built buffer is a good start. A better approach is to identify the triggers for where things may drift and consider the corrective action you need to take to get it back on track – plan for the worst and you’ll be ready to handle it! This includes date slippage, unexpected change, but most importantly it must include the management of those running and involved in the project. As mentioned, change is often stressful, people react in different ways, so being able to step in and support someone who is struggling means minor course correction early on avoids project failure later on.
- Celebrating success: One of the benefits of implementing change in a phased approach is that with successful completion of each phase, we can come up for air, pause momentarily and celebrate the success of winning. We forget to do this all the time with our teams, but with each successful phase completed, we move closer to the goal, building on the momentum, personal pride and collective achievement.
- Engagement in the delivery: my bonus point is one I really observed in the recent Workshare customer support changes. A small team of line managers coming together to understand the goal, brainstorm a bold plan and engage their teams in delivering was a marvel to see. With little or no involvement, but plenty of support, the managers and their teams own the delivery and build their own confidence. Sometimes it’s difficult not to jump in and interfere, but holding back and enjoying your team’s own ability to succeed is one of the most satisfying parts of being a leader.
Workshare’s Support 2.0 project goes from strength to strength, with the next phase well under way, we’re identifying barriers to maintaining and increasing our quality. I’ll be sure to follow my own advice so that our next phase is even more successful than the last!