Three Steps to Implement Change

Change is a threat when done to me, an opportunity when done by me

—proverb

Change can be exciting, terrifying and… inevitable.

Standardizing a new tool. Adopting a new method. Developing a new set of products and services. Going after new market segments. Dealing with a a new management team. Change is happening all the time.

But to succeed with any change, we need buy-in from those who are going to be most impacted by the change.

Here’s an example: Say your company has a problem with ridiculous and crazy email threads. You know, someone hits “reply all” to a group email, but the next person doesn’t. Files are shared again and again, duplicated and changed repeatedly. It’s only a matter of time before half the group has one version of the conversation, the other half has a different version, and inevitably someone gets left out completely.


So your organization decides to adopt a collaboration tool to help reduce those issues. But if you don’t have buy-in for all of those who will be impacted, will it work? Say your team gets Slack. Some early adopters will get involved quickly and set up relevant channels. Others will wait and see if this new communication tool is even going to work. And then leadership continues to use emails as the sole method of communication, sending mixed messages to the entire company.

Without buy-in from those who will be affected by the change, the new tool or program will become useless, or create more problems than it fixes.

Or on the other side of the coin, what if your organization is constantly adopting new tools and methods, only to discard it for something newer and better a few weeks later? If you do a cut-over from one system to another with no explanations and no training, then no wonder people are resistant to change.

How do you get your company on board with change so you can improve things without adding more problems?

Here are three steps to implement change.

Step 1.

The people making the change must understand why you’re changing. Clearly explaining the benefits of the new system, program or tool will help people see why you’re making the change, and why the change may be necessary. If you don’t take the time to explain things, you won’t get the buy-in and they’ll be more resistant to adopting the change—even if it will make their jobs significantly easier.

Step 2.

Everyone who will be impacted by the change needs to have the tools and training necessary to transform from the old way to the new way. If you just give people the new system without any training, there’s a pretty decent chance they won’t be able to figure it out completely on their own, or they’ll just ignore it forever. (Pragmatic Institute can help with this. Contact our team to learn how.)

For the people who are changing, some will embrace the change and some resist. Just like customers, our colleagues and employees fall into the five categories described in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. Innovators and early adopters value newness and embrace change. The majority value safety and accept change somewhat reluctantly. Laggards value tradition and resist change, and will only succumb when there’s no alternative.

Step 3.

Leaders must support the change in their words and actions. Because if the big bosses don’t embrace the change, no one else will.

If you’re driving a transformation, work through these three steps: explain why, empower the teams and get executive support. And recognize that some team members will embrace change while others will resist. Oh, and don’t forget that all this change is happening while your team members have full-time jobs to do.

Build lots of communication into your plan. Change isn’t an event; it’s a process.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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