• Joe Vandervest

Change and Change Agents

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Be the Change Agent.

As a small business owner you hear about it over and over again. You know the litany of promises: change is easy if you buy this snake oil, you better change or you’ll become extinct, hire this company or that - they are change experts.

You’ve learned over and over again from snake-oil sellers, there’s no magic wand that can make things happen. You know, that things happen through effort, focus, flexibility, and more effort. You live it every day.

Regardless of what you’re told, change is hard. Technological change can be even harder.

Change - what is it?

“Change” in this post means information technology change and business process changes needed for your business. Some of your competitors may have already made significant changes as they adopt new technologies and processes.

One thing is for sure, your customers, especially the younger ones, are already used to change and changing. They anticipate features, services, and data to be available online. Regardless of your business - change is coming. Regardless of what your business -- is information technology will bring change to your business.

These changes will often bring new tools. New applications. New solutions. New laws and regulations often require broad changes in your business process. All of these new tools/methods need to be brought into your organization, incorporated into your approach to business, and integrated into your business work-flows.

Change comes in many forms.

Change can take many forms such as: touchless cash payments via phone, cloud based applications, marketing and response inputs from many sources, compliance data protection and privacy requirements, increasing requests for data insights from suppliers and providers, shortened order/fulfillment cycles and expectations, increasing customer expectations for customization and personalization, etc.

Prepare for it. Just because you know change is coming - doesn’t mean you can just wave your hand and adapt to it.

You are the Change Agent

But how can you prepare to change? You need Change Agents. You need to be the main Change Agent.

A Change Agent is a catalyst that ignites change in organizations. As a leader of your organization you and your leadership team need to lead change. It takes energy, focus, persuasion, and patience to bring about change. Sometimes you need to overcome obstacles.

Resistance to Change is Real

Resistance to Change is the ability of your organization to accept and integrate change. It’s a fancy term for the “adaptability” of your organization. In some organizations resistance to change is low. These organizations are able to adapt quickly to new conditions, they are able to adopt new processes and technologies quickly. Other organizations have a high resistance to change they don’t adapt well to new conditions, they don’t adopt new technologies quickly, they tend to fear change.

Often, resistance to change is born out of bad experiences with technology and technical changes. This is likely due to “snake oil” promises about one tool or solution. Or it is due to the wishful thinking of leaders that a tool or solution would be a “silver bullet” to solve all an organization’s needs.

You can't wish it away. You can't order it away. You have to face resistance to change and deal with it.

As a small business owner - you have an advantage over larger organizations.  Though your budgets are smaller, your business's ability to adapt and change is greater. But only if you choose to use that advantage.   YOU - as the key Change Agent are the key.

Lead By Example

Don’t rely on diktat to force change from the top down - that won’t get you there. You need to rely on leadership by example.  Your job is to be sure you show them how to use the new tools or process, that you’re open to feedback about them, and that changing the change is possible.

Short List

As a Change Agent you need to remember:

  • No one change will solve all issues facing your organization.

  • No one tool x all problems or issues.

  • Change is not snake oil, don’t sell it like it is.

  • Change is ongoing and a way of life. Like doing toe touches, the more you pursue change, the easier change becomes.

  • Your organization can adapt and learn flexibility.

  • Change is easier if everyone involved in the change and agree on the need to change.

  • Be sure everyone understands the value and payoff from changing.

  • Focus on the upside of change.

  • Change is less scary if everyone knows that during the course of implementation change can be changed.

  • Change will only take hold if Change Agents act with and on the change.

  • Champion the change. Lead by example.

  • Plan on and measure the success of change, then celebrate successes, learn from mistakes.