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Managing Change (or How to Get Stuff Done)

It’s almost impossible to achieve news things as a business without changing the way you work. Whether it’s increasing income, being more efficient or engaging audiences better, you’re unlikely to achieve any of those things by sticking to what you’ve always done.

As a Business Analyst at Spektrix, I spend a lot of my time working with arts organizations to help them achieve their business goals in marketing, fundraising and sales. These projects are often long term, require buy-in from everyone at the organization and challenge everyone to rethink how they do their day-to-day tasks.

I see a lot of desire to change, but various barriers get in the way. So you might have the best intentions to achieve your goals and make exciting changes, but the tasks you need to do to actually make that happen often get left at the bottom of the to do list.

So why is change so hard? There are three big factors that block change:

  1. Not understanding the need for change.
  2. Low motivation.
  3. Lack of time.

With a little thought and planning these barriers are easy to overcome. Whether you want to increase your email open rate, try new ideas you heard at a conference or achieve something big for your organization, here are some practical tips for overcoming these barriers.

1. Not understanding the need for change

For an organization to change, everyone needs to buy into the strategic aims of the business. One person will struggle to implement change on their own.

It might be that not everyone is directly involved in the change but that you still need to communicate the reason for change to everybody regularly. Over time people will start to appreciate why you’re away from your desk for 30 minutes every week, people will understand why something has been put on hold to make time for a different task, and everyone will play their part in making the change happen.

Here are some ways to communicate the need for change.

Talk about it all the time.

At team meetings, staff meetings, staff newsletters, in the bar, in the kitchen while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew…talking about the project is a great way to get people involved and get buy in. Don’t be fooled by thinking one email to the whole team, or just telling your team is enough. To keep people engaged you’ll need to keep talking about it.

Be open and honest about the problem.

This doesn’t mean criticizing everything everyone has ever done, but you’ll need to clearly communicate the problem so everyone understands why there’s an urgent need to change. Aim to do this in the simplest way. For example, graphs and statistics are a great way to communicate information quickly.

Talking about how solving the problem will positively impact the business going forward is crucial to explaining why change is required. Once everyone understands the problem, change becomes a no brainer.

2. Low motivation

Change takes time. It can be difficult, taking people out of their comfort zone and requiring constant thought. So how do you keep people motivated?

Long term projects will often drop off as people become disinterested and fall back into old habits. But keeping people motivated will keep the project moving forward, even if it takes 18 months from start to finish. Here are some ways to keep people motivated.

Split the project into bitesize chunks.

Announcing you want to increase audience retention is great, but what does this mean? What are the small goals you’ll need to achieve to reached the bigger picture? Breaking the project up into small chunks and short milestones means the project is less daunting and easier to track.

Splitting a project into smaller chunks also means more people can get involved and take ownership of an area of change. Not only does this mean change happens more quickly, but everyone has smaller, achievable, goals to reach.

Set measurable goals.

Trying to do everything at once is difficult. Projects that aim to do too much often don’t leave the starting block as no one knows quite where to start. So set out clear, measurable goals. How can you know if it’s measurable? Simple. If you can’t measure it today, then you won’t be able to measure it in 12 months’ time.

Setting three to five goals is easily manageable without feeling too big a task. Remember, in the long term it’s better to get lots of small things achieved that add up do a big change, than achieving half of lots of big goals.

Celebrate success.

Along the way there will be successes, whether it’s a record-breaking open rate on an email campaign, a nice donation from a new donor or a handful of first-time bookers that have been convinced to make a second visit. Celebrate these successes.

Knowing that change is having a positive effect on the business, no matter how small, will encourage people to keep going and keep investing time and energy in change.

3. Lack of time

This is one of the biggest barriers but it’s more an issue of perception than fact. If you feel under pressure and that time is short, finding time to make change seems like an impossible task. But it’s not impossible. It’s about looking for ways to work more efficiently, keeping meetings short and making sure you have the space to concentrate. Efficiency should always be a goal when embarking on change. Making sure new processes and strategies are efficient means you’ll save time in the long run meaning the more you do now, the more time you’ll save in the future.

Here are some tips to carve out time.

Start by setting aside a small amount of time.

The thought of finding a whole afternoon to work on a new project is daunting and will feel like an impossible task. If you try to do this, you’ll probably find you keep putting it off.

But, there’s no excuse for not setting aside 30 minutes a week. We can all manage this, and over a month that’s 2 hours, something you’d struggled to find in one go. Once you get into the habit of this, try increasing it to an hour a week.

Make that 30 minutes productive.

Plan what you’re going to do in each 30-minute slot, book it in your calendar and when the time comes close your emails, social media, put your cell phone in a drawer and your desk phone on ‘do not disturb’. If you can, get away from your desk altogether and sit at a different desk, in the café or even the auditorium, anywhere people won’t find you so you can’t be interrupted with questions.

If something isn’t working, change it.

If 30 minute slots don’t work for you, try 2 hour slots once a month. If people keep interrupting you at your desk, work somewhere else. To get the biggest impact you need to make the most of the time set aside, so if something isn’t working, change it.

Work out if you’re a morning or afternoon person.

When you schedule your 30 minutes, think about the task and when it’s best for you to do this. For example, I’m much more creative in the morning so I’ll schedule tasks like writing this blog post for the morning. For tasks like reading a new article and tidying my inbox, I’ll schedule 30 minutes late afternoon when I know I can’t use that time on more creative tasks.