Chairman’s Corner - Nov 2011
As leaders for our companies and our association, we sometimes forget how incredibly hard change can be. In fact, sometimes we disregard how hard it can be for those around us and those we will be impacting the most.
Change is not something you can bring about because you are the leader and you have decreed: “We will change because I have decided we will change.” The key word in that sentence is the word “I”. Yes, it is true that you and your team may very well have decided that a change is needed, and more than 90 percent of the time you and your team will be right. The problem arises when implementing the change requires significant buy-in from those who will be impacted by the change and 100 percent buy-in from those responsible for implementing the change.
I recently fell victim to the above decree when I asked the Trustees for a vote to change the name of the Association from the National Tooling and Machining Association to the National Tooling and Manufacturing Association. Of course, the Executive Team, the Branding Team, and I all understood why we thought this change should occur. In fact, we thought it was a non-issue (First mistake). Since we were so close to it (Second mistake) from the rebranding project, we felt that it was clearly the best (Third mistake) change to make. The last sentence is a good example of how decrees happen. As you can imagine, the decree went out to the Trustees with little information (Fourth mistake). Of course, our reasoning was sound (Fifth mistake); we wanted to surprise (Sixth mistake) everyone at our Fall Conference with our rebranding effort. We were so excited and knew (Seventh mistake) everyone would love it (Eighth mistake) as much as we did! As most of you know this had problems written all over it and, yes, it was greeted with great resistance.
Since at least eight mistakes were made and a significant amount of resistance was voiced, the name change failed on a 30 in favor to 15 opposed Trustee vote. You might say from those numbers it looks like the change won. Remember in the second paragraph I said “implementing the change requires significant buy-in from those who will be impacted by the change.” For this vote our bylaws required a 75% or 39 votes in favor. We did not get the buy-in we wanted. This is one of those enormous, humbling and reflective leadership experiences you get by leading your company or your association. I have listed below the mistakes that were made in our process.
1. Change is always a BIG issue for those impacted by it.
2. If you are close to the change, you lose your sense of perspective.
3. Never assume the change recommended is the best course of action until you have buy-in from a representative sample of those that will be impacted.
4. The more information, both pro and con, the better.
5. Sound reasoning isn’t sound if everyone doesn’t hear it.
6. Surprises are for Cracker Jacks, not for implementing change.
7. How can you know something, if you haven’t asked or researched it?
8. To love or like something is very subjective and needs to be left out of the change sphere. Keep it objective.
The following is a checklist for change that I have learned from this experience.
1. Communicate why you are asking for the change.
2. Communicate how you came up with the proposed change.
3. Communicate the pros and cons of the change and the impact if nothing is done.
4. Ask and listen for feedback on the change.
5. Adjust or recalibrate the change as necessary, before, during, and after.
6. Measure the level of buy-in and if more is required, get it!
7. Communicate to avoid all surprises.
8. Last but not least: Communicate.
Although the name change did not happen, much was learned. Once the communication process started, participation was over the top! The rebranding – without the name change – was a big hit at the conference and you will begin seeing it on the Website, in The Record, and in new member kits and brochures. We want you to be as proud of it as we are.