This isn’t the first time I have said that here or in real life. I keep saying it one because it is true and second because I must continue to remind myself to embrace the opportunities that come with change. Even when at first it looks like the change is all bad and there isn’t anything to be learned or gained, you should focus on finding the opportunity because if you don’t you will get stuck on the bad side of change which normally results in anger, guilt, wasted time and failure to grow. So today I wanted to talk about changes that I have continued to see in my life around business and what I learned from them.
IT is one of those industries where change happens almost daily or at least several times a year. We try and build a standard “IT Stack” in which we deliver core technologies to our clients in a consistent manner. But every day we or our clients are getting calls from people with the latest and greatest way to do what we are already doing better, faster, cheaper or a way to do something new better, faster, or cheaper. Sometimes there is a real value there and sometimes it is just a change in color of the screen or logo on the device. There are times these changes are presented not to management at a client or even to us but to the end user that is most directly affected by the benefit of the change. It’s a great sales tactic because the vendor knows that change is resisted by management and IT because of the true cost of change. What we have discovered in being part of unplanned change like this is that we can serve our clients better by building a process to evaluate these opportunities. We determine whether the change is end user facing, process, or back-end facing. We then evaluate if it is something net new or a change to an existing system. From there we try and determine the true cost of the change and the expected benefit so we can measure the overall value. In some cases, change still happens when the value isn’t good but at least we have stopped long enough to give the change a consideration.
When was the last time you received a notice that a team member was leaving the team and you were truly happy? You or your company probably spent a lot of time posting an opening, reviewed a lot of resumes, did many interviews, then made an offer. If you are like us then you spent a lot of time and energy bringing that new team member on board and up to speed on their role. In some cases, this can be months, especially in roles like Account Manager and Sales where relationships and buying cycles take time. We refer to it as “9 months to make a baby”. For years we were like many others, we got upset, blamed the person that was leaving, and stressed over what to do next. While the stress can still be there in key roles with shorter notice we have changed our approach. We have worked hard so our team knows that they can always come to us when they aren’t sure working with us is the right thing for them without fear of reprisal. We want the opportunity to understand the concerns and try and address them if we can. If we can’t then we want to lay out a plan that helps both the company and the individual move forward to a better place. We have gotten notices of up to 12 months before. We have sat down and made changes that team members needed to allow them to remain great team members and we have had instances where the right path was for the team member to make a change. When the latter happens, that extra effort means we all leave on good terms and who knows we might work together again in the future. In each case the change has allowed us to evaluate ourselves and become better for everyone on the team.
I know now you are asking, “But what about the times you have to let an employee go?”. There can’t be something good from that change is there? I think there is. When we must part ways with a team member we know we have done all we can to have a good outcome first and foremost. But once it has happened what can we learn? We ask ourselves “Where did we fail to hire, on board, lead, or manage well enough?” This question requires us to acknowledge our roles. We try and understand if we missed something in the hiring phase that we can do better next time. We try and determine if we aren’t doing the right things to bring good people to the team effectively. We try and understand if we didn’t keep the person’s goals and ours well aligned through leadership. Lastly, we try and determine if we didn’t do the hard work of management well. This doesn’t mean we are always at fault but I can promise every time we make changes that help the existing team and the next team members be more successful.
Who doesn’t hate losing a client. In our business for both us and our clients building a relationship is hard and to have that change takes a lot. That alignment of expectations reaches a point where one or both parties decides that something must change and that something is outside of the relationship. It makes me sick to my stomach every time it happens. We operate professionally in the transition because we work in communities where you never know what will happen in the future. But what can you learn from this change. Much like a staffing change there are some basic things we evaluate. We look to determine if we met the expectations set during the sales process by executing our on boarding process well. Did we have good alignment of expectations of what it would take to be able to successfully support the client. Did we fail to not only support the technology but the people. One of the areas we know happens from time to time is we can get so focused on fixing the “issue” and we don’t spend enough time helping the person understand what is going on. We also want to double check to be sure what we were doing for them was aligned with what was needed. Many times, we find one of these areas we can improve in and work very hard to do that.
Change is inevitable and if you don’t embrace change you will meet irrelevance. So always try and find a way to evaluate, plan and improve from any change or opportunity for change. This can also apply to personal life but that is another TV channel than mine. What is the biggest change you have had to work through in your work life? Have you ever known a buggy Whip Maker? I always love to hear from you on what is happening in your business because I learn every day by listening to those around me.