In the winter of 2017, I came across Slack— a seemingly cool app that promised to improve the productivity and collaboration of my workplace.
I was going to start my term as President of a student body come January 2018, and I thought this was just the change we required to get everyone excited about my team’s term.
However, I thought wrong, the outcome was quite the opposite. In fact, I was in for a shocker. By February, it felt like I was the most hated person in the organisation for suggesting the change. I had never been hated like this by my own people. When I look back now, I laugh at the entire episode but there were definitely a few managerial lessons that I drew from it, and you can also say it was the genesis of the idea for my latest entrepreneurial project, Bottle.
So here are the 2 most important lessons that I learned:
Everybody’s work life is defined by routines and we love them! You go to work every day, you know what you’re supposed to do and with each passing day, you optimize your approach and become better and faster at what you do. Until one day, your manager who has just read a new management book, drops the news that you’ll have to change your approach altogether. The feeling that follows is best defined by this song. I would include the video, but I will stick to our platform’s PG-13 rules.
Why do employees hate change though?
Every change comes with a learning curve, it requires you to leave your place of comfort and embrace a new uncertainty. Long story short, it requires a lot of effort. Just imagine the feeling associated with having to relocate your home. Okay, it’s not that intense, maybe 1/20th of it, but it still sucks. With most employees already complaining about how their plates are overflowing with work, this is the last thing they need, right?
That was slack’s biggest shortfall for my members, it was just not intuitive enough! With the pressure of academics, assignments, and the work they had to do for us, they couldn’t care less about spending time learning “a new way of communication”.
You’re excited about something, but your team isn’t? That’s a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I know (If you ever need consultancy on how to make horrible decisions that your people eventually reject, I am here to share volumes of experience).
Why is getting them onboarded important?
No matter how popular you are as a leader, eventually, it’s your team that is going to be interacting with the employees on a day to day basis. If they don’t believe in the idea, they won’t be able to pass it on to the employees either. Let’s face it, if you’re not able to get the buy-in of your closest confidantes and possibly the best-trained employees in your organization, it’s going to be a struggle to onboard the entire organization. Take this to be your fire test, if you fail at this, don’t proceed with implementation.
I’d spent a week trying to learn how slack works (which is alarming in itself) and when I introduced it to my team, they couldn’t make heads or tails of it initially, moreover they just couldn’t see the utility of the app being important enough for the amount of effort it would take to get used to. Nevertheless, the genius in me decided to go ahead with implementation only to hear 9 “I told you so’s” 2 months later. (Actually, some of them were nice enough to never mention it)
Before introducing a change in the system or process in your company, one must go over a few things.
Doing a basic utility vs effort analysis will help. Everything that seems like an improvement is not worth experimenting with, there’s a certain “improvement threshold” that the change must cross to make it worth everybody’s time, and more importantly in the corporate world, worth their money.
Here are 3 steps you should follow in any change management process:
Sometimes, step 1 might return really promising results but if you fail at step 2 or 3, think hard before you force your decision through. The last thing you want is to go through a change management process only to see your employees reverting to their original methods. You’ll only be left to count a failure. You would’ve lost some social quotient as a leader and even worse, you’ll be left much poorer.
That pretty much sums up what happened in those 2 months to me, along with the fact that about a 100 people hate slack now.