How to Up-Sell Change
As Freud cautioned, it's insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. You know things have to change. Business as usual is a guarantee to fail. Your boss supports you, but is fairly lukewarm about resources and time commitments. Your staff agrees but then claim they are too busy. Activity traps, inertia, disinterest, ambivalence, fear? people fabricate (consciously or unconsciously) lots of reasons to avoid making change. This is a frequent organizational dilemma: a needed change stalls before you even get started.
Unless you're willing to wait for a crisis (that usually means someone gets fired), start thinking about "up-selling" change. "Up-selling" change means to persuade your employees that making a personal commitment to the change will reap them personal benefits. Similar to up-selling your customers by informing and sharing the value-add to your products or services, you need to demonstrate the value-add of your change initiative. Just like any business problem, you start by making the business case for change. Except in this situation, your employees become your target market. So, you better have a good answer to the "WIIFM" test - What's In It For Me?
Even if you don't know the answer now, don't let that stop you. The best place to start looking for answers to that question is your employees. Go to them and get them involved in your thinking. The act of asking and listening not only engages them, but informs them as well. When people feel partially informed, not part of the "in the know" group, uncertain of what is really happening, and have no clear answer to "what's in it for me?" you are guaranteed to face stiff resistance to change. The act of engaging employees early on in the change process will accelerate acceptance and learning at a pace most managers would be thrilled to achieve. Weave people into your change plans - their buy-in, their reactions, their learning curve, their commitment (or lack of) to adopting the change.
Don't bother to "up-sell" change without first administering the "WIIFM" test. The test is really rather simple. First, do a quick check of your team's vital signs. Walk around and randomly ask people questions like "So, what do you think of the changes we've been talking about?" "How do you think it will impact your job?" "Think you'll be able to adapt quickly to the new system?" You'll be surprised (and maybe pleased) with the feedback you get. If your employees can articulate a positive connection to their daily job performance, then you've passed the test. On the other hand, if you get answers that vary widely across the board, or responses like "what change are you talking about?" "I hope it's not like last time" or "we're so burnt out now, I don't think we can handle another change," you have some serious remedial change management work to do.
If you pass the "WIIFM" test, then your communications have "connected-the-dots" for your team in ways they can understand and absorb into their daily job functions. If you hear resistance to the change, you need to go back and literally reconnect-the-dots for your employees so that they can clearly understand how the change directly or indirectly will impact their job. You can never over-communicate during a change initiative. Continuous, repeated, and rapid information exchange and knowledge sharing are key to successful adoption of change. If you're sick of talking about it, you've probably converted your true believers but have only reached 25% of your people. Talk it up some more and keep "up-selling" the change.
The art and science of dealing with the people side of the change equation is Change Management. As a practice, it draws from a multitude of social science disciplines to effectively bring people, technology, and ideas together at the same time.
(c) 2004 TurningPointe Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved.
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