Service transformation is about change and just like change, its messy in the middle. When a business jump starts its transformation journey, everyone gets buoyed by the euphoria of onboarding what’s new and shiny. The tail end of the journey, if the business is lucky, will be a success. But it’s the middle that will cause tumult.
The middle is considered to be the transition period and it’s where the business is pivoting from the familiarity of a known universe, to a new reality. While there may be absolutely compelling reasons for the transformation, these reasons carry intellectual currency that don’t translate smoothly into psychological acceptance by rank and file employees. Inevitably, four times as much effort that would have been needed for the kick-off and announcement phase, will now be required to keep the middle moving.
Service transformation is about change and just like change, its messy in the middle.
In the kick-off phase, there may be a groundswell of buy-in to the service transformation, with everyone nodding their heads in agreement when asked, “Do you support the transformation?” Businesses, I believe, need to beware of this false positive, because as the adjustment phases progress, so does the level of buy-in……downward.
When the actual rubber hits the road and every employee is required to begin adopting and demonstrating the change, that’s when effort hesitancy and the level of buy-in collide. The thing is that everyone wants change, but no-one wants to change.
What business leaders discover is that every individual has a set level of habituation, familiarly known as the comfort zone. When this comfort zone is challenged, the motivation to change must outstrip the gravitational pull of constancy. The “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me), must be powerful enough to make individuals want to change.
Inevitably, four times as much effort that would have been needed for the kick-off and announcement phase, will now be required to keep the middle moving.
The most intense collisions between change and constancy occur in the middle of the transformational process. It can be quite the wake up call for businesses that may not have anticipated just how disruptive the pushback from employees can become, after all, the start-up was going so well. Or so the business leaders thought. Businesses therefore, must prepare for this phase and aim to have their employees opt-in to the change, rather than just buy-in to it.
One of the starting points is making a clear differentiation between buying-in and opting-in. Buying-in is about getting employees excited about the upcoming changes, whilst opting-in is about getting employees to adopt and adapt to the changes, willingly.
Getting employees excited about change should follow a playbook that includes setting out the reasons for the change, communicating the intention, establishing the urgency of the need for change, outlining the rollout plan and, the most important step, employee engagement in the process.
The most intense collisions between change and constancy occur in the middle of the transformational process.
Getting employees to choose to opt-in and be a part of a transformational effort willingly, involves the masterful art of getting people to believe in a vision or a goal so noble, that the effort to support the achievement of the goal flows naturally.
Overcommunication is another element on the “must do” list in preparing for the messiness in the middle of the transformation. To me, this ranks right up there as one of the most neglected areas when a business is transitioning to its new state. So often, leaders believe that a one-time announcement, followed by intermittent updates will keep employees informed and their levels of enthusiasm elevated. I believe this to be absolutely erroneous reasoning.
The communication strategy that accompanies the transformation effort should never be patchy and discontinuous. It has to be sustained and resonant, as in addressing the questions of enquiry and curiousity, that rise to the top of employees’ minds throughout the transition timeline. In fact, it’s better to err on the side of too much, rather than too little information.
Businesses therefore, must prepare for this phase and aim to have their employees opt-in to the change, rather than just buy-in to it.
The middle of the transformation is where the old and the new begin to trade places. The new landscape, or maybe I should say, the “promised land,” should be a compelling proposition. Every employee should believe that there will be a space and place in the new configuration, where he or she can flourish. This encourages him or her to trust the process when the path ahead is not always clearly hewn.
Making provision to help employees trust the process includes providing tools for navigating uncertainty and putting extraordinary effort into helping frozen employees to unfreeze.
Onlookers who may be fence-sitters, will be very impressed that the business believes that no one should be left behind and may very well hit the opt-in button.