7 Steps to Manage Change Effectively
Change is hard. There are no two ways about it.
As Director of Onboarding Programs at Practice Ignition, it's my job to lead clients through change. More specifically, to help them successfully implement Practice Ignition within their organisation.
On a daily basis, our team of Customer Success Managers regularly help practices around the world manage change, and have obtained extensive insights about what this process involves.
For instance, we’ve learned that people are creatures of habit. We get used to certain systems, processes, and tools so we shudder at the thought of suddenly having to abandon existing ways of working.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?
Unfortunately, this attitude can actively hurt your practice. Your existing tools and systems might do the job just fine, but you don’t want to provide a service that’s just fine. You want outcomes to be excellent.
You want to impress clients, grow your practice, and become more efficient in the process. Therefore, you're going to have to evolve with the times, implementing new tools that will improve your ways of working.
However, you’ll first have to master how to effectively manage change. Fortunately, this is easier than you might think.
Let’s explore 7 important steps that will help you seamlessly manage change within your practice.
1. Understand there's never a "perfect time"
Perhaps you’re thinking, “We’re too busy! We couldn’t possibly implement another new solution.”
Annoyingly, there’s never a ‘perfect’ time to implement a change. Sure, you’d be well-advised not to revamp your entire operations during tax season, but if you’re waiting for the ideal moment, the perfect opportunity, then you’ll always be left waiting.
However, always keep the end goal in mind.
Remember that you ultimately want your practice to be more efficient and to provide your clients with more value. Despite the short-term disruption, implementing innovative solutions will always be worthwhile over the long run.
That being said, there are a few key best practices to keep in mind.
Firstly, schedule the change at a time when you’ll be in the office. If you’re supposed to be leading the project but have gone AWOL then of course you won’t gain team-wide buy-in.
Secondly, make sure that the change won’t adversely impact any high-value projects that desperately need to be completed. Although you’ll never be able to avoid any disruption, you can certainly avoid implementing large-scale projects at the worst time possible.
2. Bring your team along on the journey with you
Nobody likes micro-managing and dictatorial leaders. The days of managers assuming a ‘command and control’ style of leadership has fortunately fallen by the wayside, with it largely being replaced by collaborative leaders who prioritise excellent communication above all else. I remember an old manager telling me “I don’t care if you understand why it’s happening, just do it”— and nothing has ever disengaged me from my work more.
Remember the following points when trying to get your team on board with any change projects.
i) Share the problem you’re looking to solve with the change
Before you begin, you’ll first have to communicate why you’re making the change, outlining the issues that your practice is facing, and explaining how this solution can help you solve these problems.
ii) Show the value that the solution provides
You then have to go one step further, convincing your team that a better future awaits after this initial short-term disruption.
After all, nobody wants to have to relearn a process that they can already do in their sleep.
iii) Support them every step of the way
Be open to discussion. Don’t simply make a change without consulting your team first, or without being willing to engage in a genuine, honest, back and forth dialogue. The rationale for implementing this new solution might be clear as day for you. But for your team, this may not be. As a result, have patience and understand that you cannot simply make wholesale changes without their support.
Once the change is underway, you need to regularly check in with your colleagues. Ask them what they’re struggling with as things stand and if possible, provide them with solutions. If not, guide them to where help might be sought. In addition, be understanding that productivity might dip in the short term while they get used to how the new tool works.
3. Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations
There’s nothing worse than a poor manager. But what exactly makes a good manager?
Being ‘personable’ and a great communicator are obviously fantastic attributes, but the most important thing is that a manager can get the best out of their team.
This is why it’s so important that you clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
When it comes to implementing a new solution for your practice, it's probably prudent to enlist the help of more experienced colleagues, as they’ll have a better idea about what your practice requires to operate with high performance.
So who should take charge of onboarding?
Well, ideally, somebody from your new software provider. They’ll have a ton of experience setting up their software within a range of different practices so they’ll be well-versed in integrations with different tools, common hurdles that firms encounter, and how to sidestep these issues. This also allows your team to focus on their daily priorities.
However, you must trust the external onboarding expert to do their job and empower them. They ultimately know the ins and the outs of the process better than you do, and their job will be so much quicker, easier, and more effective if you enable them to just get on with it.
If you do want to maintain a sense of control over proceedings then just make sure that you’re involved in any decision-making conversations. This will play a key role in getting the project over the line as quickly as possible, removing the roadblocks that occur with lengthy approval processes.
4. Break the project up into manageable pieces
We’ve all heard the phrase, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and implementing a new tool might seem daunting as it’s a lengthy process that requires a series of small steps.
That’s why it’s crucial that you break up large, practice-wide projects into manageable chunks.
People who are training to run a marathon don’t just go out one day and try to run 26 miles. Instead, they get used to running 5, 10, 15, and then 20 miles - taking on the process bit by bit. Likewise, you shouldn’t think of a large change as being one massive project. Break it up into bite-sized pieces and you’ll find that it’s really not so scary after all.
5. Always stay focused on the final destination
You might run into roadblocks. Perhaps you picked a tool specifically due to its wide range of integrations, but for whatever reason, these aren’t working as they should. Maybe your team is quickly becoming fed up with the new tool and has asked you whether they could just revert back to the system they’re used to.
Maybe you even make a mistake and have a client question your approach. During times like these, it’d be easy to retreat back into your shell and quickly drop the project, especially if clients are beginning to be affected by this disruption. Teething problems are normal so they should be expected. However, they shouldn’t be major causes for concern as your clients also makes changes to improve their businesses and go through similar ordeals.
Always keep in mind the final destination that you’re working towards (i.e. greater efficiency, practice-wide visibility, or an improved payments process), and work diligently to achieve your end goals.
6. Drive internal urgency
The longer a project is in the works, the more people’s faith in it begins to wane. We’ve all worked on projects that have faced endless delays, hitches, hurdles, bumps in the road, and so on.
Eventually, you just begin to question why you’re even doing it in the first place. Morale drops and the entire team seems burdened, rather than bolstered by the project.
At times like these, it’s hard to get the team to finish the project, let alone get them excited enough to care about what this change means for your practice.
This is why urgency is so crucial. You want the projects to take as little time as possible and to be as seamless as possible. Focus your efforts on swiftly picking, implementing, and using the right solution. Furthermore, try to influence and remove or flatten any roadblocks that may impede this urgency.
The sooner your project is complete, the sooner you’ll begin to benefit from its value.
7. Work closely with your providers’ onboarding teams
Your existing ways of working might not be the best. In fact, they might leave a lot to be desired. But they do have one major advantage: your team is used to them.
Fortunately, the best software providers understand that change is hard, so they have their own in-house implementation teams to help companies ease some of the pain. This is a major lifeline. Your team can focus on its core business activities while you, or one of your colleagues, liaises with the provider’s implementation team.
If you ever run into any problems, you don't have to brainstorm solutions with the rest of your team while key client work falls by the wayside.
Instead, you can operate as normally as possible while using the provider’s expertise to get you fully set up and ready to go.
It’s time to make a change
Change is hard, particularly for decision-makers. You might have to face some umming and ahhing from bemused colleagues who simply don’t want to have to learn a brand new process.
But change is an inevitable part of life—and it’s certainly a key part of running a successful business. In the long term, making the right changes can save you time, money, and resources. You have to stand strong and keep the wheels turning.
The first step is simply to decide that you’re going to make a change.
You might be thinking about implementing a new tool to help you gain greater control over your practice’s operations, bolster efficiency, and make late payments a thing of the past.
If you are, don’t hesitate to take that first step —create a free trial of Practice Ignition today and a member of our team will reach out to help!
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