So, you just got back from a great conference, or workshop, or speaker. What great content! So many great ideas! You talk about it with your team and maybe get started on a few projects. Three months later, nothing has changed. Has this ever happened to you? Almost every business owner I’ve ever talked to has had this experience. I’ll admit it’s happened to me!
Implementation is challenging. Besides deciding “what” you are implementing, “how” to implement is its own subject, worthy of study. Of course, I can’t discuss implementation without mentioning probably the leading academic information on the topic ever, Leading Change, by John Kotter. I would highly recommend any leader or owner putting this very high on their reading list. (After reading this article first, of course)
For this article, though, I want to focus just a little on the mechanics of implementing and a lot on the psychology around implementing. At our recent Grand Summit in Lake Tahoe, we had the opportunity to provide a series of breakouts on this topic. During these sessions, there were several themes that really hit pay dirt. A lot of them were on the emotional (psychological) side of things. The discussion that ensued was real and exciting. The information discussed challenged all present in productive ways. Here’s a summary of our discussion:
- Change is emotional, put it on the table. Change (which is what your implementation effort is trying to accomplish) is a risk. And risk evokes an emotional response every time, especially when the stakes are high. No matter how we express our feelings in logical terms with logical reasons, the underlying issues are emotional. Be ready to recognize this and put it on the table. Then focus these emotions on how great it will feel when you achieve your goal.
- Understand your habits, good and bad. You went to an event to learn and grow, that’s a great start. But there are likely some things you are doing to inhibit implementation as well. Learn to recognize these habits. Some specific ones are addressed below.
- Your business is not a fiefdom. Your employees are not serfs. You do not have to be “Lord Business,” coming up with all the ideas, and rolling them out to the serfs down below. In fact, if you find your team is not engaged, this is probably why- ie, you may not be letting them participate enough.
- Done is better than perfect. As David Sandler says, “You Can’t Learn to Ride a Bike at a Seminar.” If you can’t get to “do,” you won’t implement much. So, get to doing quickly. Writing down a plan and the next steps are extremely important. But you don’t need a perfect plan. Mistakes and unforeseen events will happen. Rather than trying to foresee every issue, establish regular status checks. Then adapt and get back to the “doing.”
- Manage your expectations. It’s easy to get excited, but keep your feet on the ground. Implementation takes time and will likely take longer than you initially think. Be committed and resilient. (see our previous article, Building Resilience)
- Highlight the little wins. Keep the momentum going by highlighting the small wins along the way. Don’t let mishaps and speed bumps overshadow your vision. Regularly come back to what it will feel like to accomplish your vision.
- Choose the most primitive form possible. Many times technology can be its own inhibitor. Not only are you learning a new process, but a new technology at the same time. Strike the Tech. Learn the basic process first and then implement IT to streamline it.
- Just do it. By the end of our breakout session, this was our motto. At some point, you will have to decide that what you are implementing is more important than whatever complaint or fear you have. Assign a date, a person, and a place. Establish focus time on your calendar along the way. Then execute.
By no means is this a comprehensive list. These are the real challenges that we faced and discussed as a group. Hopefully, some of the topics above help you describe and understand your struggles, making them easier to overcome. Take small steps, and get them done. The fear of risk, change, or failure may never go away. But you can learn to overcome it. Tasting success is great medicine. “Feel the fear, do it anyway,” as Kevin Nolan likes to say.
What are your implementation successes and challenges? Please let us know in the comments below.
All the best,