Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of people and organizations more than the word change. While change is a natural part of any life cycle, it is often viewed from the perspective of organizational crisis instead of unlimited opportunity. Every day, in talking to people about making the change to a new vacation rental management software, I really listen. I listen for and try to anticipate the underlying stress that implementing a new technology will have on an organization.
This article offers suggestions for mitigating the feelings of crisis when confronting change and focuses on the opportunity change presents. The key to successful change is to understand and handle your staff ’s styles for dealing with change and follow proven processes.
Changing software is more than just a change in the technology that you use; it is a huge opportunity to affect your company’s culture, to sync your technology and processes, and to bring into sharp relief your company’s ability to evolve.
Changes are natural in the life cycle of all organizations. In fact, the ability to change is essential to continued existence. Change in business is often the result of needing to realign people, roles, and processes with new technologies. What has served well as a business model for years may no longer be acceptable because of market forces beyond the control of your business. In the vacation rental or property management business, this has never been truer. Rapid change has required the evolution of the vacation rental landscape, including instant booking, transitions to nightly instead of weekly rates, and protecting your data and leveraging it in micro-targeted marketing campaigns.
As a response, vacation rental companies must position themselves against or leverage new marketing initiatives in their market while continuing to keep costs down. The fastest way to do this is by applying new technology. Appropriate technology helps companies address trends in the market, puts building blocks into place that facilitate growth and develop customer loyalty, and provides operational efficiencies that limit or cut expenditures. If the technology supporting your vacation rental business hasn’t changed or offered new functionality in the past three years, there is no question that you need to revisit change to stay competitive.
Preparing Your Staff for Change
New technology means changes to your staff ’s everyday work reality. You should plan on positive reactions as well as fear, resistance, and discomfort. Research suggests that each person has a “change style.” Understanding people’s change types and the best way to communicate with each type is important to help prevent or minimize complaints and resistance or even sabotage. Discovery Learning, Intl, compiled the aggregate results from 150,000 change-style assessments performed using its proprietary Change Style Indicator® to support its research. The results indicated that people can be grouped into three categories based on how they deal with change:
Conservers tend to be the most reticent of the change styles and may seem as if they are inflexible or resistant. They prefer to work in existing structures and processes. They honor tradition and highly value the way things have always been done. When faced with change, conservers want clear communication, guidelines, and processes to mitigate their internal stress.
Pragmatists are in the middle of the continuum. They are more likely to evaluate the ability to change to solve problems. With this perspective, they will often be the ones in the organization who see both sides of the issue and function as mediators between those who are resistant to change and those who embrace it.
Originators are agents of change. They usually have a strong streak of entrepreneurial spirit. They like change for change’s sake and will often seem too spontaneous or “willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” With their enthusiasm for change, they may miss details that need to be considered, as they are so caught up in their vision.
So how can you best use knowledge of change styles Ultimately, it is It’s all about effective communication and processes to support change. Understanding the various perspectives and helping inform all change styles in a way they can relate to will make the process of change smoother for your company.
Strategies for Successful Change
Here are some strategies for implementing successful change:
Ownership and Vision
What are the goals that you are trying to achieve? They include personal goals if you are the owner of the company, especially if you are considering selling the company. With these goals in mind, you take ownership of the change process and become the visionary. Want to grow your inventory, acquire a competitor, or be acquired? You need to own the vision of the company and the changes you need to make to achieve your goal.
Examine the Consequences
One way to reduce fear of change is to understand its consequences. Identify three opportunities and potential pitfalls of making changes. Involve people in all levels of the organization. You may want to consider involving customers to get their perspectives on your proposed changes.
Your timeline should include communicating whether via a presentation to staff at the outset to present your goals or weekly check-ins against your timeline. Make sure that you build communication into all parts of the change process. Remember that pragmatists often can function as go-betweens for the conservers and originators, so make sure that all staff change styles are given equal participation in discussions and your communication planning.
One of my former colleagues loved to say, “There are three reasons why you do what you do every day: the first is because that is how you have always done it, the second is because of the limitations of your software or other infrastructures, and the third is because of best practices.” Remember that changing software is a huge opportunity. Take the time to get feedback from all levels of the organization to uncover best practices. Use rounds of feedback to gain both business and operational efficiencies and to build consensus.
Structure and Timelines
Remember your conservers and pragmatists in your organization and their need for the comfort they receive from structure. Develop a logical sequence of events that everyone in the organization can agree is in manageable blocks. This will also hold everyone in the organization accountable to task-oriented goals. Often, a project management tool, such as Basecamp, can be used to provide structure and timelines.
Create a Map of Success
Everyone likes to be praised and to receive positive feedback; both are never more valuable or useful than during a time of change. Build a series of “quick wins” into your timeline, and then when those are met, celebrate them. Have a pizza lunch or give everyone an hour off early. Doing so will show how much everyone on the team is appreciated for his or her willingness to undertake the change that is needed to reach your goals.
Document Your Changes
Not one of the most interesting aspects of the change process but one that is necessary is documenting how you implemented changes: what did and didn’t work, what the stressful times were that in hindsight could have been avoided, and what went more easily than anticipated. This information will be invaluable to you as you confront another time of significant change in the organization.
Vacation rental managers have different goals that factor into their software selection decisions. Sometimes, they are positioning for growth. Sometimes, they are working in a system where they have had long-standing workarounds to support their process. Sometimes, they need to tailor or customize software because they are doing something innovative in their market.
Whatever the reason, we try to offer a very different perspective about how to successfully pursue this significant change by talking about vision and consequences. We know that various stakeholders are going to need different types of strategies to manage their concerns around change. We have a strong expectation that communication is vital, and we encourage rounds of feedback that are built into our implementation process. Structure and timelines are discussed, such as how and when we do data porting and how and when our partner integrations are brought into the mix. All of this is documented before we go to contract so that we have a strong foundation for our transition process.
Changes in technology can be successfully navigated with preparation, leadership, and communication whether you are a large or small organization. It is also an excellent opportunity to implement valuable processes and cultural change within your organization.