PM MENTOR: IMPLEMENTING NEW TECH AS A TEAM
Keeping your team up to speed can be difficult when it comes to implementing change. Natalie Hastings demonstrates how to lead from the front to achieve a smooth transition.
The real estate industry has been changing at a rapid pace, with technology giving smaller teams the ability to handle greater workloads while offering their clients superior property experiences.
For those of you who are industry veterans, think back to your ideal week of a decade (or even two decades) ago. In all likelihood your days were consumed with ‘heavy lifting' communications, including phone calls, snail mail and slow paper-based admin processes.
Since then, new technology has maximised every one of our working hours – and as a profession we're keen adopters of new tech, starting with mobile phones and website development before, more recently, investing in sophisticated property management software and beginning an earnest conversation with the public using social media.
In such a fast-paced and responsive profession, it is easy for a business to suffer from ‘change fatigue' – something that causes teams of people to become negative, tired and demotivated.. Costly in both a monetary sense and in terms of morale, change fatigue is the result of new responsibilities or learning having been mismanaged into a team.
Implementing new property management software into an established real estate business is complex but may be an important step forward for anyone looking to streamline their services whilst growing their rent roll.
I've experienced first-hand the anxiety and concern of teams who have been through too many changes to systems, processes and technology too quickly.
It's not that change itself is the issue here: it's change mismanagement and poor implementation that is at fault. Change is rarely well managed and, without your team's full ‘buy-in', the positive changes you hope to make by implementing new technology or essential systems and processes will be difficult to implement.
So what can you do to engage your team fully when adopting new technology that requires substantial learning? How can you prevent change fatigue while minimising negativity towards ‘newness'?
WHY SHOULD WE CHANGE?
Unless your team understands why a change is needed, it is very unlikely they will get on board with the project. Don't use negative reinforcement here – scaring staff with negative consequences should they not comply rarely creates good outcomes. Instead, talk to them about the benefits of change: how the proposed changes will help them, why change is imperative to their success. As a leader, you'll need to ‘walk the talk' here. If implementing new software, don't delegate knowledge to a member of the team who becomes a go-to for everyone – you must adopt changes and lead from the front.
Bring your team together and explain the situation, and the subsequent changes required. Let your team know what you expect of them and ensure that it's an ‘all in this together' message.
I'VE EXPERIENCED FIRST-HAND THE ANXIETY AND CONCERN OF TEAMS WHO HAVE BEEN THROUGH TOO MANY CHANGES TO SYSTEMS, PROCESSES AND TECHNOLOGY TOO QUICKLY.
ENGAGE AND EMPOWER
People dislike feeling forced to do anything: there's a natural resistance to being out of control. Take steps to overcome this resistance by giving your team a sense of change ownership, allowing them to generate problemsolving ideas as a group.
Whether you book out brainstorming meetings or ‘change retreats', stay on-point when it comes to why change is necessary and what your expectations are of the team – then facilitate useful discussions to get the ideas flowing. Ensure ongoing engagement by appointing team members responsible for change projects or actions; accountability is key here. Got a team curmudgeon who hates change? Put them in a position of responsibility – they're likely to flourish in a leadership role and won't want to fail, making them an ally.
After all that team brainstorming, you'll likely have lots of ideas. It's time for you as change manager to cull many of them. Long lists of good intentions can be daunting, so categorise the list into ‘easily implementable', ‘needs planning to execute' and ‘nice, but not necessary'.
Act on the ‘easily implementable' immediately, so that your team can see change in action. Then go on to create a change plan which incorporates other ideas you've discovered as a group. Identify responsibilities to change, timelines for change and dependencies; accountability is everything when it comes to making changes stick.
Take property management software change implementation, for example: your change plans would involve team training in blocks relevant to their functions, exporting data successfully into the new software and creating a ‘systems and processes' manual to manage workflows changed by the new software.
By ‘being the change you wish to see' and fully explaining the benefits of the changes you intend to bring about in your business, you're not only likely to minimise change fatigue: you're more likely to bring your team with you into the future in a more productive way.
Remember – create quick wins after brainstorming change with your team, recognise achievements in the process and allow the team to take responsibility. ■