Moore or Less: The Battle of Change

MOORE-or-Less_NEW-Moore-Brand.jpgIntroducing change can be a bit of an uphill battle. People get comfortable and comfortable people don’t want to change, especially in a business that’s already successful. After all, what you’re doing has worked well enough so far, why bother changing it?  The world is evolving constantly and if you are unprepared for innovation then you risk falling behind.

Wal-Mart is a perfect example.  For years, they were the world’s largest retailer and dominated their industry. They got comfortable. They didn’t innovate or grow their web presence when e-commerce was taking off.  They had the infrastructure and capital to have easily dominated online sales but, instead, kept their focus on their brick and mortar stores.

Enter Amazon: an online bookstore. They saw the potential of e-commerce and realized that if they were going to be successful, selling just books wasn’t going to cut it.  So, they diversified - and fast.  Now Amazon is valued at $916 billion (Forbes, 2019) while Wal-Mart lags well behind at $296 billion (Forbes, 2019).   A missed opportunity for Wal-Mart with almost a trillion dollars of potential revenue lost as a result of failure to innovate.

Don’t be Wal-Mart.

Despite the cautionary tale, leading change and introducing new ways of doing things can be difficult to implement.  People can be resistant to change, and it is your role as a leader to inspire and motivate them to embrace innovation.  Staying sedentary is not an option. The challenge is to introduce change in a way that makes your team feel included and allows them to see the big picture.

I have always believed in the “our firm” mentality at every level, not just the partner group. When your team knows that their opinions and voices matter, they go beyond just getting the job done and into a place of thinking “What more can I do to support the firm?”.   It’s that “we’re in this together” mindset that makes introducing and implementing change less daunting.  When your team becomes invested in the success of your firm, they get behind the progressive ideas that take your firm a step forward.

Planting the Seed

When you have an idea that could benefit your firm, be it improving a process, supporting teamwork or introducing a policy shift,  gaining support for the idea can be as simple as a carefully placed seed, usually in the form of mentioning  an idea among your team in a casual setting.

A real example of this at Segal LLP, began in the midst of this year’s tax season that led to a relatively significant policy shift.  In early April, I sent an email to our team that our traditional “Casual Fridays” policy would be expanded to every day for the balance of the month; the end of tax season here in Canada.  During our post-season review in early May, members of the team voiced their appreciation of the relaxed dress code and suggested making it a full-time policy. The team had already been discussing the idea around the lunch table and over coffee, and the idea had steadily been gaining momentum and support around the firm.  They took it a step further and proactively started to research and consulted member firms from the Moore network. Together, they crafted a policy that would allow a more relaxed dress code that still maintained the professional image our clients expect.  The result: Segal introduced “Dress for Your Day” just two weeks later.  I credit the success of this initiative to both our team’s collaborating on their ideas for change, and our firm’s receptive culture.  It took just one steering committee meeting to approve the new policy.  It took more meetings than that to get our current folder design approved! 

The takeaway here is that there is a big benefit to warming people up to change – let a seed germinate and grow roots.  As they become familiar with an impending shift and have the opportunity to contribute, it makes implementing change more to likely to succeed.   

Cultivate a Culture of Change

As a change progresses from thought to action, plan in parallel; it takes your idea from a thought to the start of something tangible. Be cognizant that change should be for the benefit of your organization.    Focus on presenting change in a way that aligns the firm’s goals to your team’s own professional and personal goals. Encourage and enhance a healthy work culture that promotes the idea “when we do well, you do well”.

Closing Remarks

It’s important to remember that change affects both you and the people you work with, so bring them in right from the beginning. Search out like-minded people within your firm - people who share your vision for growth and positive change. Talk to members of your firm’s leadership; invest the time for one-on-one discussions to talk through an idea and its merits.  As people listen and offer feedback, seriously consider what they’re saying. It could enhance your idea. Don’t let ego blindside you to valuable contributions and thoughts from your team. 

Leadership and active listening go hand in hand. Listen carefully. 

Contributed by Dan Natale with Segal LLP (dnatale@segalllp.com)