Secrets to Making Change Happen

Jan 24, 2019

By Linda Kaufmann

Most people fear change. Whether it is a new promotion, a new reporting mechanism, a new insurance plan or a new location, the newness can cause problems even when the reason for change is great.

In our 20-year history at Progressive Medical Inc., we have learned quite a bit about change. As a managed care company for workers’ compensation, we experience constant change. Another reason for the change we encounter: we have had the good fortune to experience extreme growth. Like many companies, change has enabled us to increase our value proposition with customers, expand geographic reach, improve relationships, add manpower and scale up  our success. And, each year, we have been rewarded with increased profits.

We learned the most about change from our many moves. Right now, we’re building an addition to our corporate headquarters that has required employees to relocate at least once, if not two or three times. Obviously, such moves disrupt employees and operations. Aware of this, we decided to organize our moves to help employees maintain positive attitudes by making the process fun.

Based on our experience, we have identified seven tips that can be universally applied to organizational change. See how they helped with the success of our moves.

1. Know the goal. What is the desired end result of the change your company is about to undergo? Develop a one-page change" vision statement"  that includes the goal of the change, desired impact on main constituencies (employees, customers, vendors) and success factors. A change vision that cannot be summarized in one page may be too complex to implement and the process, as well as vision, may need to be broken into more manageable parts.

Our most important goals were to maintain positive morale among our employees and to ensure our customers did not feel the impact of the moves.

2. Create a big picture plan. With senior management responsible for the change, paint with a broad brush the plan and how your company will achieve it. You will be engaging those affected by the change to create a more detailed plan later. Progressive Medical’s big picture plan gave senior management a good indication of who would be affected—internally and externally—as well as from who we would need buy-in. It also shaped the initial communication with employees conveying leadership confidence in our ability to manage the moves successfully.

3. Communicate early and often. Involve in the process of change those who will be affected by it—and do it early. Articulate the change vision early, communicating the goal, impact and desired success.

We developed a weekly e-newsletter to communicate important move details. We conducted weekly meetings with the executive team, and employees in charge of departmental communication. As actual move dates drew near, we communicated departmental responsibilities and deadlines. In our off-site building cafeteria, we displayed a video of the construction progress to reinforce the happy fact that we would all be together soon. We found over-communicating squelched the rumors that can keep employees from being focused on the positive outcome. And, because they could keep tabs on the construction, employees saw the progress being made in building their new home.

4. Establish that change is not optional. Sometimes employees resist change that they feel they can derail. Communicate up front that the change will happen. Treat it as a “when” not as an “if.” With a move, this was easy—the new building was under construction and employees watched the progress.

5. Form a representative impact team to create buy-in. Internally, who will be affected by the change? Will accounting be affected, how about sales or customer service? Select one representative with the most team influence from every department that will be touched by the change to participate in a “change committee.” By having “one of their own” involved in decision making, employees are ensured that their concerns are being communicated. We formed the “On the Move Committee” to collect input from each division impacted. The committee’s job was to develop cross-departmental action plans to help us meet our customer obligations and high service standards during each move. Further, employees became engaged, as they became involved in planning the moves, which helped keep morale high. We also needed buy-in outside Progressive Medical, so we developed a communication plan for community partners such as vendors, city officials and community members.

6. Get outside help if you need it. Has your company successfully handled this type of change before? If not, remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. Once you have developed a change vision and established a change committee, an outside consultant can make sure that you are operating efficiently. We turned to a move specialist to help with logistics. This step forced us to deal with considerations we hadn’t even realized were important, and helped us make seamless transitions.

7. Market your change. Use your creativity to market change to the internal team. For instance, we developed the “On the Move Committee” and set up a special e-mail address for questions. Two weekly e-newsletters—“On the Move” and “On the Move—The Sequel”—communicated important details and provided answers to employee questions. Move events were very successful, too. We hosted a luncheon in the new office space before moving so employees could become familiar with their temporary home. Along with a precise move schedule, we created move packets with area details such as lunch spots, daycare centers and shopping facilities. We included maps for employees to help them find their new offices easily. We even offered first-week start-time grace periods for employees who were late because of the new commute. We branded the moves, too, to help employees enjoy, recognize and anticipate communication from the move committee.

Many customers have commented they did not even realize we had moved. Our mission was accomplished.

We need to accept that change is going to happen. In fact, it is the only constant. Preparing for change can help your company successfully navigate it. And, in our case, that meant exciting growth that has rewarded employees and customers alike.