Software, applications, tools, and products. You and/or your team have decided it is a good thing to buy and use something new. You may have made the decision based on the classic, “Faster, Better, Cheaper” approach, or there could be other benefits that were identified like scalability or diversification of your operation. Regardless of the reasons, the decision to purchase and use it was made. You now must implement because quite simply, it does not work if you do not use it.
The struggle is real! You may immediately be thinking of software and applications, but it pertains to anything from a simple tool to new window cleaner. In 2015, I wrote 4 Strategies to Effectively Embrace Technology and stated, “if you ever get overwhelmed by all the new technology and implementation challenges that come with it, you are not alone.” Fast forward seven years and this has not changed.
I had a good chuckle from one of my teammate’s remark several years after the implementation of our software system, “I fought it but now I do not know how I could function without it!” – Team Leader. He did not literally mean fight nor was he deliberately being difficult. He was reflecting on the implementation process that he experienced and his own struggle to change and adopt it.
To improve our successful implementation strategies, let us consider and understand a few things that contribute to the challenges:
- Change is hard: This may be a cliché, you already know this, but we must be aware of what lies ahead. We need to accept the challenges head-on. In Harvard Business Review, Change is Hard. Here’s How to Make It Less Painful. by Erica Anderson, the author states, “People only begin to be open to accepting, embracing, and making this change when their mindset starts to shift from “this change is going to be difficult, costly, and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding, and normal.” The author goes on to offer strategies to overcome this element.
- Habits: The way we work and do things over time almost become natural; a habit. A habit can be defined as something that we do often and regularly, a behavior we do without even knowing it. As many of the things we try to implement may involve changing habits and adopting new ones, we should consider the obstacles and methods to changing habits. When developing an implementation plan, it may also help to establish effective methods and time frames. I am often asked, in the context of our evolving industry, “how long does it take to implement?” and my answer is usually, “it depends on….”
- The texting example:
- My texting story: Not to age myself, but I recall sometime around 2006, we had interns communicating on their phones. I did not quite understand what they were doing. As I explored, I learned they were texting, modern technology? They amused themselves by texting me every hour, “Cat Facts.” As I could not understand what was happening and became frustrated by the interruption of “Cat Facts,” they told me to text “Unsubscribe,” which led to a notification, “You are unsubscribed from Cat Facts, Welcome to Dog Facts!” I eventually figured out that I was an innocent victim, and we all had a good laugh. So fast forward, texting is a habit in our daily communications, both personal and professional.
- Is texting now a habit? We text instructions, job updates, and communicate with customers via text. It may have just become a habit and cultural norm in our operations. “The x job is done,” “We need to go back and XX,” and so on. Many of these communications are examples of things that should be managed in your company’s software or applications. Is the habit to text? Are we trying to change the habit?
- Changing Habits: There is a popular rule called the 21/90 rule presented by Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s self-help book, Psycho Cybernetics. Essentially, the theory is that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit and 90 days for it to become permanent. Since then, there has been additional research presenting new insights about habits. These two articles provide further depth:
- The texting example:
- A plan: “A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In, Some Things Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: Restoration Edition, I offer some things to consider in developing a plan to deploy anything new from software, tools, equipment, and supplies.
Here are a few tips for overcoming the challenges that come with the implementation of something new. I encourage you to collaborate with your team, and others as you seek solutions and stay focused on the goals.
- Define a successful implementation to those who are responsible for getting it done. Leading change deliberately is critical.
- What is success?
- What is our timeline?
- How long does it take to implement X?
- Anticipate challenges and how the leadership will overcome those challenges.
- Leaders of change: Those charged with implementation need to be prepared, skilled, and equipped to develop and execute a successful strategy and overcome the challenges. To continue the “text” example, consider a 90-day challenge to unite leadership and help change the habit. It may look like: Every time a text communication is made, the leadership responds, “Thanks – did you update our system? Don’t forget to update the task, make sure the job notes reflect that….”
- New People: Do not give up. Long-term and even key people may have the most difficulty adapting to the change. They will often have established habits. We often start a new implementation with the most seasoned and experienced in our organizations. Keep the implementation moving forward with the new people, they do not know any other way, no work habits, no change to deal with. For example, consider moving from a paper timecard to a digital timecard. Your new team members in this case are the easiest to adopt the new system.
- Keep an open environment. Allow for feedback and open discussions. This will help to manage some of the challenges of implementation. An example of this: you may collect feedback that it takes me longer to use the new sprayer, sketching tool, etc. It presents the opportunity to explain that there is simply a learning curve. Also, that when you are proficient it will be easier than what you are currently doing.
- Be Realistic: Manage realistic goals on how many its and the timelines that you are leading at any one given time. Give yourself and the team the opportunity to celebrate the successes.
As much as we all want to simplify a new implementation, it may be best to abandon the notion of simple. It is most productive to look at an implementation of anything new; as a process that needs to be executed. There will be a benefit. Remain focused on an effective strategy, i.e., get it to working in your operation and use it. Move quickly past any frustrations, keep your eye on the prize and enjoy much Restoring Success in implementing it.