We have all heard that it is human nature to resist change. People like their comfort zones and doing things status quo. However, modern day theory is that companies either change or die. Now that may seem unrealistic to some of us, but recently in my market one of the most highly recognized landscape companies closed its doors forever after sixty years in the industry. The most likely reason was their reluctance or failure to make the appropriate changes in processes, procedures, and personnel, as the world and the economy around them did.
A great example of a large global company that we are all familiar with, that wanted to keep the status quo and bucked change at every level of the organization was Kodak. Their mindset in the late 1980’s and 1990’s was that nothing was going to replace film and that this digital thing was just a fad. Well, as I’m sure most of you have read, Kodak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. If you read the history of Kodak over the last 20 years you will see that it was their reluctance to change that ultimately brought them down.
So what about our industry? Through my work with companies across America I have found that resistance is strong and my belief is that it is a direct result of the everyday routine of the work that we perform and the mindset that Innovation does not apply to landscapers. If you think about mowing lawns, fertilization applications, building a block wall, installing a lawn and the most routine of all planting, all of this work is performed the same no matter where you go. This has bled into our cultures and is the reason we like the status quo in not only our job tasks but also in the way we operate our businesses.
One big area where there is a reluctance to change is in the area of IT. Yes, we all probably have the latest and greatest smart phones and tablets, but what about the software needed to help run and make your business operations more efficient? I have been working at implementing new industry software into old established companies and am in awe at the level of resistance especially with the senior management to change. I show them how consistent and efficient new software can be with estimating, selling, purchasing and production functions. What I hear is grumbling and belly aching about having to move away from their excel spreadsheets and word documents.
Status quo seems to reign supreme. I remain persistent though and as they work longer with the system they begin to see the advantages and efficiencies and change slowly happens. IT is a great way for companies to save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in efficiencies alone each year.
That is just one example of resistance to change. So now you might ask how and where can we start. As always it starts at the top. The culture of the organization needs to be the first place the CEO and his executive staff need to work so that everything they do and things that they say are presented in a way that emphasizes the importance of change. In one of my businesses, I made innovation my focus and offered one suggestion a week to my staff on how I felt we could innovate and change to differentiate ourselves from the competition. I suggested – I did not force changes upon the staff. It was their job to take my ideas and improve them or tell me I was crazy.
Either way, it was the team that was making the change happen at the company. Involvement and not dictatorship is what helped my company with buy in to change. We made changes to our customer relationship management, our purchasing processes, our scheduling and production processes as well as our product offerings, all with a focus on innovation and differentiation, a message that I verbalized day in and day out as our culture.
It is senior management’s responsibility to oversee, orchestrate and promote conditions for change. It is best to hold middle management responsible for starting change and deciding on the approach to make that change without the influence of upper management. Six steps as outlined in a Harvard Business Review article that I read can help these managers in their path towards making their change initiatives successful.
1. Mobilize commitment to change through joint diagnosis of business problems.
2. Develop a shared vision of how to organize and manage for competitiveness.
3. Foster consensus for the new vision, competence to enact it, and cohesion to move it along
4. Spread revitalization to all departments without pushing it from the top.
5. Institutionalize revitalization through formal policies, systems and structures.
6. Monitor and adjust strategies in response to problems in the revitalization process.
By taking these steps and making change a part of your culture change will happen and success will follow as a result.
Bryan Mours is a business consultant/software implementation trainer and previously owned a lawn care company.