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What’s the Big Idea? Leading Innovation and Changes That Stick | #ICMIchat Rundown (October 6, 2020)

Man looking at papers tacked to wall.

Leading organizational changes is never easy, and significant transformations are incredibly prone to failure. With ICMI's Contact Center Expo: A Digital Experience right around the corner, you're sure to be inspired with new ideas and initiatives you'd like to launch within your organization. Being inspired is only half the battle. When the event is over, you have to make good on the promises you made to yourself.

Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges. Check out next week's discussion and join the conversation on Twitter!

We've got your back! This week, #ICMIchat explored how to initiate changes and push them along their path to success. We examine why changes fail and how to prevent it. Our community even shared tips for securing stakeholder buy-in and funding from top executives. Don't let your big ideas go up in smoke; use these tips to make your next big project a winner.

We Must Embrace Change

No matter how perfect our current state, it's vital to continually refine, improve, and change our contact center operations. While we might meet our customers' needs today, their needs are likely to change over time. Additionally, our competitors will launch new services and experiment with new ways to connect with customers... potentially our customers. Our industry leaders didn't necessarily start with a much better plan; instead, they learned to adapt and evolve quickly to meet customer demand.

There are many ways to resist change. But many who do not want change tend to focus first on the risks of change. But there are risks of not changing. Resistance to change can bring risk.

Customers change, markets change, the economy changes. Contact centers are no exception. As they’re closest to the customer, they have to change at the same pace as customers do, and in the same direction as customers do!

Inspirational Insights

To get ahead and stay ahead, we must look outside our immediate sphere of influence. Industry peers and best practices help meet customers' baseline expectations and optimize our efficiency, but stopping here leaves untapped opportunities to differentiate our services and achieve a competitive advantage untapped. Experiences in every area of our customers' lives influence their expectations. It's crucial to look beyond our industry to stay ahead of what comes next.

Inspiration comes from peers, from reading, from competition, from hopefully paying attention to the market, and most importantly, from customers. Gotta get out of the office to feel the market.

I'm more #CX inspired by community organizations than by #Fortune500 corporations. The consequences of failure are clear for orgs that help real people survive. In my community, @awidercircle inspires me everyday in both its mission & its CX practices.

When to Make Waves

Having great ideas is only half the battle; picking and choosing which are worth executing is equally critical. If you have a good thing going, it's tempting to leave it be. Complacency is as dangerous as recklessness. Deferring change until the last possible moment often leads to a build-up of changes that must be executed in less than ideal circumstances. As opportunities, large and small, for progress present themselves, take advantage of them before they become urgent.

Ideally, you're anticipating the need for change based on scanning the environment, keeping tabs on customer issues and needs, etc. Data will help you, if you study it. Customers will help you, if you listen. Your contact center employees will help you, if you ask.

Sometimes you can see the need for a change coming (e.g. major product line changes), and you need to make process changes in advance of the rollout.

Slow Your Rollout

Change is both healthy and painful. It's mentally and emotionally taxing on organizations and their people. Changing too much, too quickly, or without stakeholder buy-in is a recipe for disaster. However, we must do it. It's crucial for change leaders to find the right pace to maintain engagement among those affected. Planning over the long-term and before it becomes an emergency helps keep the pace manageable and comfortable for those involved.

Change fatigue is real. Keep a pulse on employee sentiment during times of transformation (which is pretty much always nowadays). A once-per-year survey won't do it.

Yes, change weariness is a thing. Eventually, people stop adapting when asked to do so, because they learn the change is temporary. Resistance to change isn't always the resisters' faults.

Failure Is An Option

Not all changes are successful. Failure is the most natural outcome of massive organizational changes. Leading change is a lot of work, and it takes very deliberate explanation, planning, and collaboration to make it a success. Attempting to press forward without full stakeholder buy-in may be more common than you'd expect. While approval is necessary, understanding is crucial. Your stakeholders may withdraw support when reality kicks in.

Changes aren't always planned or thought through or project managed correctly. The right people often times aren't consulted. Scenarios & risks aren't always calculated. People are change averse b/c of how it affects their job security & finances.

A lot of this is are people buying into it? Are they championing it? Is it being communicated? Is it being managed? Is it being measured? Is it being improved? Ok - I just provided the success template for the strategy.

Getting the Right People On Your Team

If we could truly make change on our own, the process would be simple and easy. When we're the only ones affected by a new way of doing things, it's easy for us to decide how to proceed. In business, change is more complicated. We must consider the impact on our customers, immediate colleagues, other business units, shareholders, and more. Inspiring these parties to be as invested in your proposal as you are isn't always easy, but it's a critical step toward success.

Everyone. You've heard, "If you're not taking care of the customer, you better be taking care of the person who is." Paraphrased: If you're not leading the change, you better be supporting the person who is.

Leaders + employees must bring their A-game to change. There's some academic research on the qualities leaders should bring + emerging research on how employees w/design thinking capabilities (sometimes not yet surfaced talents) are great at leading change.

Help From Above

The right executive sponsor can make or break your initiative. While worthwhile changes don't have to be expensive, many require funding or other resource allocation to be successful. Building a solid business case and clarifying how projects advance an organization's mission must be an early consideration. In large organizations, it's especially crucial to understand how you support your team's broader objectives.

I think CSWeek is a great occasion to get executive leaders to spend time at the #cctr floor. When executed well, both parties walk away with insights about each other and feel more connected to the company’s mission.

Always have to show ROI or impact on the top or bottom line or on LTV or similar. The WHY and HOW MUCH really matter to sr management.

Learning to Lead Change

You don't need a particular title to make a difference, but understanding how changes affect your team and the ability to inspire others is essential. Like any other skill, these attributes can be learned and practiced to improve. The next time you have an opportunity to lead an organizational change, be deliberate in your practice.

I recommend taking a look at Dr. Dani Chesson's work on design thinkers + change management. She writes that the natural abilities of design thinkers sometimes go unsurfaced in orgs that really need those talents to shine through. Google her.

Be a servant leader. Ask for feedback on what needs to be changed. Then act. Reward and recognize even the smallest wins. Create a workculture that supports everyone always looking for incremental improvements that over time lead to big wins.

A key part is to understand the culture and the dynamics of the org. The deeper this understanding, the more successful their initiatives. No change is outrageous when the team is determined.

Promote what is good and create solutions for what is not working well.

Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges. Check out next week's discussion and join the conversation on Twitter!