Making Company Changes Without Making Enemies

About a year ago, I took over a position overseeing roughly twenty people spread out over three teams. Their organization and execution was inefficient and needed some help, so I made some changes. Big changes.

When you step into a new management position—whether you’re a CEO at a new company, the next team lead for a scrum, or any such position of company leadership—it’s likely that you’ll see some things you’d like to change: processes that seem inefficient, blind spots in those who have been too close to the SOP’s for too long, or something else entirely. You may even think something big needs a complete overhaul.

How much change should you really try to initiate? How do you do it? Here are the three key things I learned from trying to change the systems that existed before.

People Like What’s Familiar

Many of the changes I tried to put into place were big, drastic, and disruptive. I thought people would be refreshed by these cool new ideas and excited for the great new way of doing things.

But people were used to what they had. They had grown accustomed to and comfortable with the way things were run; they knew what to expect. Suddenly, this new guy (me) changes everything and they don’t know what to expect at all, which is stressful. This point comes first because it paves the way for the next two.

People Like to Feel Involved

Instead of coming in the first week, guns a-blazing, new plan already starting to be rolled out, I should have talked to the people I was overseeing to see what they would say worked well and what didn’t. Not only could my changes have been adjusted to meet the needs that already existed, but people would feel like those changes were actually beneficial because they had been heard.

Change Happens Slowly

The easiest way to wake up is with the gradual increase of light as the sun rises. This is because the easiest changes to make are the slow, gradual ones. Change happens slowly—in people, in business, in all kinds of things.

Instead of changing everything all at once, like I did, focus on one thing at a time. Improve a single process or step and make sure people are comfortable with it before putting more on their plate. Depending on your relationship with the people you work with, you might even introduce changes in twos or threes if things must move quickly.

But if the systems in place don’t need to be changed urgently, don’t make things urgent. If you can take your time, you’ll create less stress for yourself and everybody else.

Nobody wants to go along with somebody they don’t like, so if you have hopes of improving things in your new position, one of the most important things you can do is get (and stay) on people’s good side.

If you are a new CEO or trying to make big changes in your company and need support, we are here to help. Reach out to CLS.

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