Time For A Change

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In professional services, the importance of monitoring your time on projects is relevant and important.  This information will help you understand your costs associated with each client.  The data provided from this process improves your ability to increase profit margin on a job.

The idea is great in theory, yet when you have not done it for fifteen years, the change effort is significant.  It required a change in habit for almost everyone inside the company.  The leadership team talked through the need for time tracking almost incessantly and finally it was time to communicate & implement this new policy.

How would you respond to the approach below?

1.) Send an email out to everyone in the company, which includes the rationale, the expectations, the “Time Tracking” form and the timeline for launch.

2.) Return “Time Tracking” forms to manager by the end of the week

3.) Repeat “Time Tracking” each week moving forward

4.) Analyze time for each job and provide data to each employee regarding time usage by client.

Our initiative failed.  I immediately heard from employees that they did not like the approach and the process we initiated to track time.  The complaints began immediately.   We as a leadership team had to face the consequences of a failed initiative.

What could we have done differently?  Let’s dissect the approach and connect this to how people navigate change.

1.) Happens To You Or With You:  This is an important nuance.  We typically react positively to change that we initiate.  The reason for this is that our level of control is higher when we take the initiative.  The key word here is “Control.”

When we co-create change, our tolerance is much higher than when the change happens to us.  Yet, change that happens to us is a common occurrence today.  I was shopping for a television last night and learned that in the next 16 months all TVs will move to UHD away from HD. Thank you for the change that I did not ask for.

2.) Comfortability Bias:  We as a leadership team had talked for months about the importance of time tracking, so we naturally became much more comfortable with the idea.  The problem was that no one else inside the company had been thinking about it.  So the gap between comfort and discomfort was massive.

Comfortability bias occurs when we become comfortable with an idea that we have been ruminating about for some time.  We begin to generate a bias for the action, which influences our comfort level with change.  The challenge occurs when we take our comfort to those that have not heard about an idea before and expect comfort from them.  Clearly, this is what occurred when we launched our exciting time tracking initiative.

3.) Continual Communication:  Communication around change must be early and often.  The leadership team made a poor decision by not involving others in our discussion early on.  Had we gathered several others and started discussing our ideas, the outcome and uptake would have been much higher.

Think of what Apple does prior to the release of new products.  The buzz and the rumors last for months prior to the release to get you amped and aligned. As leaders we need to do the same, start the conversation early and this will lead to gains later.

So how do people respond to change? Take a look at the model that Adam Grant discusses in his book “Originals”











Essentially, individuals respond to change in four possible ways.  The first response is people consider an “Exit” of the business when a change initiative occurs.  The exit is certainly detrimental to the company.  The next response is “Neglect.”  People neglect the change initiative and do not respond at all. They are the ones who do not use the new technology or follow the new procedure.

The last two responses are positive to the organization.  The person may “Voice” their approval and begin to embrace the change.  While the “Persistent” response is good for the organization it may have a may negative or complaining tone during the engagement in the change.  A persistent response is typically someone’s desire to keep things as they were before, yet over time they may incrementally embrace change.

What are you doing to include others in change initiatives?  How are you responding today as a leader to a change going on inside your company? The four quadrants will give you a good idea on whether your response is helping lead the company forward or hindering its progress.