How do successful managers implement and execute an idea? When it comes to instituting your great change, I wrote in a column last week, the way to go may involve a programmatic approach, which means converting an idea into something actionable.
Here is a good recipe for setting up an internal program geared toward enacting some type of change. To illustrate, let’s use as an example a firm that sources and sells products, and also offers post-sales consulting services.
Part of the company’s overall strategy, since it has been around for a number of years, is to take advantage of the collective experience of the company. But information is still not shared well internally. The goal is to increase communication and knowledge sharing internally, to boost sales of higher dollar value contracts.
Step One: Pick a simple idea
A powerful idea is a simple idea. And programs are always more complex than the ideas they are based on. If the idea is complicated, the program will be ridiculous. Start over by thinking about making a smaller change. If the change that is sought is about ensuring better communication between individuals (such as salespeople) or departments (such as sales and sourcing), a simple idea here could be “share best practices.”
Step Two: Ensure an obvious link to strategy
The idea should align with the overall business strategy. But that’s not enough. The program name or theme must also blatantly advance or support the strategy, or the team will not buy it. Following the same example: sharing best practices makes sense in light of the “collective experience” strategy. And the name Best Practices Program would be an obvious, and not cheesy, nod to the strategy.
Step Three: Develop the guts of the program with the team
The point here is to get input from the team along the way, not after the fact. Staying with “sharing best practices:” ask the salespeople, for example, what day is best to get together, and everyone on the team how they want the information communicated (in a meeting? reported on an intranet? e-mailed out by the office manager?). It will go a long way toward getting the program put together and used properly later on.
Step Four: Make a big deal of the program launch
Get everyone in the company together. Dedicate a substantial amount of time. Play music. Serve food. Ensure the team understands this program is different from other ideas that have been discussed before, and that you are serious about getting the message through and having the program succeed. For the example in question, all the field salespeople and consultants would be brought back for a day-long session with everyone in the company. The launch would be held in the morning and the afternoon would include training on what the program is trying to accomplish and how it will run.
Step Five: Tie the program to compensation
People are unlikely to change their behaviour if money is not somehow tied in. And it likely can’t be a negative incentive. Additional compensation should reward the desired behaviour change. The amount will be dependent on all kinds of factors, but it is the acknowledgment of increased activity that is important. In our example: a new bonus program could be set up so that employees participating in the program more than 80 per cent of the time are eligible for additional compensation.
Step Six: Tie the program to performance evaluation
This isn’t about slapping someone on the wrist at review time. It is about denoting to the team the seriousness of the program by saying “this is going to be one of the factors I look at when I think about your performance.” The example here would be: add “sharing best practices” to the other key criteria used for performance evaluation during reviews with management.
Step Seven: Institute team rewards
Sometimes money isn’t enough. And programs are almost always about getting more than one person – usually everyone – mobilized. Team rewards are a great way to get people to work together inside the program. The reward should be tied not only to the desired behaviour but also back to the outcome you were looking for when you dreamed up the idea. For example: a team reward of a paid night out or a trip could be handed out when everyone has hit a program participation threshold (attended three sessions), and the shared learning has been positive for the firm (the collective experience led to converting a stubborn prospect into a client).
Step Eight: Employ visual reinforcement
Most of us (about 70 per cent) are visual learners. And visuals can be strong reminders of progress toward goals (that’s why the United Way always has fundraising thermometers on its campaign billboards). Banners, posters, websites and progress trackers will help keep the program top-of-mind for your team. In our example: a large board could be installed in a central area of the office that captures the key learning from each best-practices sharing session. That board could also be replicated in e-mails for the folks in the field.
Lastly: Embed the program in your culture
The most straightforward way to do this is to make sure it is part of the conversation at your company. Bring it up in meetings. Ask people how they are doing with it in the hallway. Invoke the department of redundancy department rule. This is the surest way to convince your team you mean business and you want the program to succeed.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Healy, P.Eng, MBA, is a partner at Satov Consultants – a management consultancy with practice areas in corporate strategy, customer strategy and operations strategy. Mark’s focus areas inside the customer strategy practice include consumer insights, customer experience, innovation and go-to-market strategy. He is a regular speaker and media contributor on topics ranging from marketing to strategy, in telecom, retail and other sectors. Mark is known as much for his penchant for loud socks and a healthy NFL football obsession as he is for his commitment to Ivey and recent Ivey grads. He currently serves as chair of the Ivey Alumni Association board of directors. Mark lives with his wife Charlotte and their bulldog McDuff in Toronto.