The constantly-evolving digital landscape means that businesses across industries are experiencing seismic shifts. Business models are being challenged, disruptive startups are snapping up market share, and yet a lot of companies are struggling to undertake the radical change necessary to keep pace.
Why is that?
It’s simple: change is hard.
One of the gravest mistakes organizations make is to assume that change will flow naturally throughout your organization. But it’s not so. There is an entire process called change management devoted to motivating teams to think differently so they can enter new phases of growth successfully.
These five best practices for change will help your company undergo its next transformation so you can thrive in the brave, new digital world.
1. Create a Process
When done well, change in your organization is highly systematized—even down to the people.
Create a process for how you expect to enact the change in your organization, how you plan to react to different scenarios (say, if someone isn’t on board with the new plan), and exactly how you intend to reach your new goals.
A good place to start is to state your goal. What change are you trying to make? Then, outline every single step it will take to get you there. Who needs to be on board? What processes and systems need to be revised? Baby steps, if/then scenarios, and plans for team training will help you make sure that change flows down through your team steadily and successfully.
From the outline, it becomes easier to answer questions about how to systemize change across the board. Updating your process from top to bottom isn’t easy—but it is possible if you prepare.
2. Get Your Leaders on Board at Every Level
The big proposed change should be desirable and relevant so you can get your leadership team on board at every level. It starts with the C-suite and should cascade downward.
It’s not enough for your CEO and CMO to embrace the change. The head of your sales team needs to be excited. Your customer service leader must be ready for all the new training, and so on and so forth.
At this stage, data is your best friend. Consider the case of the New York Times. In 2018, they generated more than $709 million in digital revenue. With that data in hand, leadership at the paper has set a goal of accruing 10 million subscribers by 2020.
It’s hard to argue with facts. Data like this helps share how other print businesses are successfully turning digital. It explains why the move is urgent and gets your leaders excited and supportive for the next phase of your business.
3. Create Ownership Among Team Members
Because change is hard, inevitably some of your team members will resist it. Transformation requires your teams to be genuine cheerleaders for your organization. Even passive acceptance will cause friction as you work to integrate completely new systems within your team. You need to get each and every last person excited about what’s to come.
You can help team members own the process by clearly communicating what’s happening, why it’s occurring, and how you plan to make the change. Part of building this sense of ownership is providing your team with the tools and training they’ll need to succeed in achieving these new goals.
You can also create incentive programs that actually work so that everyone feels compelled to own a piece of the puzzle. For more information on how to do so, we suggest reading Ownership Thinking by Brad Hams.
Change is exciting—but it’s also pretty messy. As much as you prepare, create processes ahead of time, and keep your team informed and excited, you simply cannot predict some of the roadblocks (or victories!) your organization will face as you undergo this experience.
Because of this, transparency is key to success. Communicate with your team early and often about how things are going. Did you try a marketing campaign to boost digital subscriptions that totally flopped? People need to know. Marketing can revise their assets; sales can revamp their pitch, and on and on. Alternately, did you have an incredibly successful quarter thanks to a big paid promotion on social media? Share that, too! If you don’t communicate as you work through each step of your digital transformation, it can leave your team feeling unmoored.
Which brings us to our final, and perhaps most important, best practice.
5. Review, Reflect, and React
Don’t forget to measure your efforts against your big goal and adjust your strategy accordingly. Nothing is set in stone when you’re making a major change, and processes must continue to evolve as you learn. Always examine the why and the how: Why are we implementing this next step? How does it help us meet our ultimate goal?
Remember to be patient with your team; change takes time. Your new plan for the business, whether it’s going digital or something else entirely, is asking your team to break down everything they know as the status quo and build it back up in a new way. Be clear, be open, and be prepared so you can enter your new phase of growth successfully.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to build deeper relationships with their best customers, launch new products and membership programs, and execute smarter marketing strategies.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data supported methodology to discover your “spin”—a simple insight that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right technologies, marketing plans, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author, Rob Ristagno
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Throughout his career, his focus has been on embracing technology and analytics to spur strategic development and growth.
At the Sterling Woods Group, he and the team are passionate about helping clients understand their best customers through data, and developing products and membership programs that exceed expectations – and generate impressive revenues.
Committed to spreading this message, Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.