Editorial: Change, change, change

Feb 28, 2014

The business is evolving faster than ever. Here are Mark Zweig’s eight steps for implementing change.

I am convinced that both the world and the A/E/P and environmental business are changing at an accelerating pace. That means you have to change your company at a faster pace than ever if you don’t want to become obsolete. Who wants to be the next “Blockbuster Video”? Not me! The problem is that all this change creates stress. Not everyone can imagine it. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone copes well with it. I consider myself someone who can take a lot of change. Yet, I still cling to my beloved BlackBerry. You get the picture. Yet, change is necessary. And some day, when Blackberry goes belly-up or gets sold, I will be forced to change. So change is inevitable. We have to deal with it. Here are my suggested steps for implementing change more successfully:
  1. Solicit input. The more folks you ask for an opinion on what to do next, the better off you may be when it comes time to implement change. Everyone likes to have their say – especially those closest to whatever it is you are going to change. If you don’t consult them, you run the risk of alienation. When people feel alienated, they will work against you. That includes people inside and outside your company. So ask for their help, suggestions, and ideas.
  2. Study the input. It’s not good enough to just ask. You need to actually study the input you get. You may think you know what to do and are asking for input just to placate people. If that is your attitude, it will come through. You cannot afford that. By seeking input you may learn something and get some new ideas.
  3. Use the input when designing change. Use the input to formulate your changes. Asking and studying alone are not sufficient. Showing that you listen and incorporate others’ ideas (when possible) will make them feel better about whatever you are changing and help get their support. Everyone likes to know they are listened to.
  4. Build support for the change. Politick with the top people in the firm. Politick with the BOD. Politick with clients, subconsultants and suppliers. They want to be consulted and they want to be informed. Don’t forget them in this process!
  5. Reference the input when describing the change. You have to sell the fact that you solicited, studied, and are now acting on input that was provided to you by others, both inside and outside of the company. They need to know the process you went through. Even if they didn’t participate in the process, most people feel better to know a process has been followed.
  6. Make the change. All of the talk and input, and meetings and writing is a waste of time if you don’t IMPLEMENT. Implementing change in an A/E or environmental business is hard. Everyone is busy with external deadlines. We are project-oriented. Immediate client demands take precedence over everything else. Not good. You have to be able to spend time on your business as well, or you will kill it. No time to sharpen the ax because you have so much wood to chop!
  7. If it backfires, admit it didn’t work. Not every change initiative turns out well. If you have been driving it and it fails, admit it and move on. Don’t have so much pride of authorship that you cannot say, “I made a mistake. This didn’t work. We have to abort.” You will enhance your credibility as a leader both inside and outside of the company when you admit a mistake.
  8. Make a new change. It’s not good enough to pull the plug and admit your mistake. You have to decide what to do next. Start at step 1 again.
Doing these things will make you a better change agent! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1045, originally published 3/3/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.