One of the biggest mistakes companies make when buying and implementing software is not approaching it as change first. Any software you are implementing into your company is likely a major change to the day to day routine of your employees, use a change management methodology and of course the golden rule to increase the likelihood of success!

Change is one of the biggest things human beings struggle with in life! We seem to be naturally programmed to seek routine, predictability, and control of anything we can. Very few people like to change a routine they have developed and formed for any amount of time, especially one which has been lived for many years.

Even a routine which has major negative consequences, including loss of health, relationships, job, reputation, etc. Human’s will literally risk dying for the comfort of their routine! We won’t get into all of that deep stuff, but it is important to remember when you are talking about changing the routine of your company and consequently, your employees, you are messing with sacred ground!

When you are changing up the routine of your employees and asking them to implement any change, including, but not limited to a new software program, you are likely going to experience resistance and you can expect your most tenured employees to fight the hardest, even though this may seem counterintuitive. The employees who have formed their routine the longest are most likely going to struggle and fight the most with a change to that routine. They also have the most ammunition to fight with. All of their experience and history with the company will likely be used to defend their position. Especially if they have a proven track record of getting successful results.  

According to Nikolay Bulava of Customer Think, the top reasons cited for resisting a CRM software implementation are:

  1. Fear of Change
  2. Fear of Visibility into one’s daily work
  3. Inconvenience of Use  

Here is the point, if you are implementing any type of software or any other type of change to your company, you need to first recognize it as change, not just new software or a new process or a new GM! With any change, you need to expect some, if not all of your employees to experience some sort of negative feelings and you will likely see/hear them bitch, argue, fight, yell, scream, tell you where to go and even quit! If they feel any freedom at all to express themselves you will hear about it and if they don’t, they are still talking about it. This is the worst case scenario because it is happening whether you hear it or not and it is much harder to stay on top of and address if you aren’t aware.



Okay, so let’s get into managing the change piece…

The following is a very simple and logical way to approach change within your organization. There are numerous Change Management concepts and processes you can Google to learn more, but I have found the SWITCH methodology to be a very simple concept to grasp. Don’t be fooled, change is never a simple formula, it’s never going to go perfectly according to plan and it’s never going to happen without a strategy and patient, relentless execution.

The SWITCH concept comes from Dan and Chip Heath’s New York Best Seller, SWITCH. It is a very quick and enlightening read for any business owner, manager or individual who wants to drive change.  

The Heath brothers describe the problem their method helps to solve in the following excerpt, “For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team…each has an emotional ELEPHANT side and a rational RIDER side. You’ve got to reach both, and you’ve also got to clear the way (the PATH) for them to succeed. In short, you must do three things to impart the change you want:

  1. Direct the Rider – appeal to the logical side
  2. Motivate the Elephant – the emotional side
  3. Clear the path – the environment around them

Jonathan Haidt, a professor at the U of VA, who authored the analogy of the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path, in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, describes it this way, “our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”

As long as you understand this concept, and apply it during the software implementation or whatever change you are requiring, it will help! You will constantly be addressing one or all of the three parts:

  1. Your employee’s emotional response to the change – The Elephant
  2. Your employee’s logical response to the change – The Rider
  3. The environment which impacts your employee’s ability to change – The Path



But let’s dig a little deeper about how this will help you implement a software program

When you are introducing a software program to your team, something they will need to use on a regular basis, you are messing with their day to day routine which they have been forming potential for years.

Don’t forget, asking someone to change the way they do their job is very personal. Again, the longer they have been doing that job and the more freedom they have had, the more resistant they will likely be. If they are really fearful and very strong willed, they may even try to talk you out of the change or ask to be exempt from implementation.  

DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! I don’t care how high
performing they are and how persuasive they are. Do not entertain this! The second you show your lack of commitment to this change is the second it has failed! Your employees are looking to you to see how committed you are to this change and how important it is. If you show them it isn’t that important, they will resist until it goes away. If you are involved and stand strong, you may lose someone but giving in is worse, your whole team will lose respect for you!

Using the SWITCH model for change:

DIRECT THE RIDER: Appeal to their logical side!

First, you want to appeal to the logical rider! The logical side of each person on your team. This means as a group and individually. You will want to explain why the change is necessary. Use statistics and facts to help give everyone an understanding of the business case for why the software implementation is necessary.

In the book, Chip and Dan reference a concept called “Script the Critical Moves!” You are going to want to clearly define each step you want your team to take in order to help them know exactly what to do, when to do it and how! This is one of the biggest issues we run into because very few small businesses have a formal sales process and adding software to an already blurry sales process is very difficult and not recommended!

In his book, ROI from CRM, Brian K. Gardner says, “When companies go looking for process improvements, they often throw money at technology with the hope it will do the job. But it’s critical to first understand the processes behind the needed change.”

Think about it, wouldn’t it help your sales team to know exactly what they are supposed to do and say in every situation. For example, if a prospect hasn’t returned the first follow up call or email, how often is your salesperson supposed to call them back and how many times? How is your salesperson supposed to remember when to call them back? Is there a point where they change this prospect from receiving calls to receiving marketing content or do they just stop communicating at some random moment? How many of the people who walk in your store fall into an abyss? You won’t know if you don’t have a process/script for your team to track every single person!

The bottom-line, the more specific you are about how and when to use the software or sales process (or both) or whatever change you are requesting, the less your team can deviate from using it, the quicker it will become part of their routine.

(SIDE NOTE: Include your team in building the “script.” The more involved they are in determining how the change is implemented the more palatable it will be for them to swallow. Especially, those who are extremely resistant!)

Another idea related to “Directing the Rider” is to give your people a vision of where this change is taking them/us. Studies have shown people are more willing to embrace change when they have an idea of where it is taking them and what the change is supposed to ultimately accomplish! This can also be done in conjunction with another concept in the book related to “Motivating the Elephant” by imparting a vision and embracing a common, emotional rallying point. Imparting a vision and rallying your team around an emotional cause is a powerful way to impart change! I’ll reference this again in the next section.  



MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT: Appear to their emotions!

At the same time, you are appealing to the logical, rider side of your team, you are going to want to address the emotional side, AKA, the elephant!  

Remember, emotions are running high when you are introducing change and depending on how disruptive the change, will determine how fired up the “elephants” are and how difficult this will be to overcome.  

Personally, I think awareness of this is a key step in overcoming it. Many companies just bulldoze right over their people with a new process or new software or whatever. They don’t include their people in the decision making, strategy and implementation. Yes, that takes more time, but it also creates buy-in which saves time in the long run!

The Golden Rule of software implementation is the same as the Golden, Golden Rule! It definitely applies here!

The successful implementation of a software program is 80% preparation and 20% implementation. If you do the prework, the actual software itself should be a relatively minor step in the process! I find very few companies and leaders want to do the pre-work and are shocked when no one in the company is using their software.

Pay attention to what your team is feeling! Listen to them and be prepared to patiently lead them through the change. I have seen grown men publicly pout about adding a software program to their job. It takes time and lots of patience and treat them the way you would like to be treated!

According to Chip and Dan Heath and the SWITCH model for change, here are 3 tips for motivating the elephant:

  1. Shrink the Change: in other words, if the change is too daunting for your team to digest, break it down into steps. My favorite example of this is when someone wants to lose weight they tend to focus on a daunting goal like losing 10 or 20 pounds in some undetermined amount of time. It’s so overwhelming emotionally they end up giving up long before they even get close to accomplishing their goal. Instead, if you break it down into more palatable steps or goals, it become less overwhelming to your psyche. Shrink the goal of losing 10 or 20 lbs into a 3 to 6 month goal of losing 3 to 4 pounds per month and it becomes almost more motivating as you achieve each smaller goal, and empowers you as you work toward the larger goal.

The same goes for implementing software. Sending an email to your team which says,
“Here is a link, your username, and password for the new sales software we mentioned last month. You will be using daily starting tomorrow. Please attend one of the training webinars listed below. Thanks!”

That is not how you introduce or implement software to your company. You should have a very specific schedule with phases and built-in victories for your team so they can digest this change over a period of time as well as learn it in a way they can hit the ground running when it is time to use it.

Break the implementation down into steps which include Q&A and the opportunity to provide feedback, not only to better understand the actual software but why it is important, etc. Again, 80% of success is related to preparation (the why and what behind the software implementation) and 20% is the actual logging in and learning it.

Another way to motivate the elephant is to Grow Your People: As it relates to implementing software, this may include education on the business case for the needed change; or putting your people in charge of researching the solution; or putting your biggest skeptics in charge of overseeing the change. The bottom-line is, you want to empower your people to take more responsibility for the needed change. You aren’t treating them like inferior employees, you are treating them like a team and you are asking them to step up for the team to lead the change!

I mentioned earlier in the Direct the Rider section: Giving your team a vision of where this change is taking them and using an emotional cause to rally around is a powerful way motivate them.

Chip and Dan say, “Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change! Make your people feel something!”

Is there an emotional rallying point you can use to motivate your team. A strong competitor who is on your heels or one you are close to beating. In the case of most of our clients the industry is changing so dramatically, so fast, not changing could result in shutting down locations, and/or downsizing and even going out of business! Sounds like a pretty good rallying point to me!



CLEAR THE PATH: Make sure there are no physical impediments getting in the way of the desired change!

Finally, clear the path so the rider and the elephant can get through without too many problems! The most dreadful change efforts I have witnessed involve companies who do everything right except make it easy for their employees to adopt the change…in this particular case they don’t provide their employees the physical requirements…updated hardware (computer, tablet, phone), wifi, other integrations, etc. They skimp on the physical needs to execute the desired change. Even a showroom redesign might make it easier for your team to use the software you want to implement.

Don’t’ get me wrong, there is no perfect path, but think through and listen to those reasons people are giving you for not using the software. If you can change the showroom around or you can give everyone a tablet or laptop, they will see your commitment and it will help motivate them to change, BUT if they feel like you want them to change for your benefit only, and it only makes things more difficult for them, you will have a much bigger battle on your hands!

There are many other ideas and strategies around this concept in the book SWITCH and a ton of free resources on their resource page:

Remember there is no plug-in formula for change of any kind! There is no objective way to guarantee success when it comes to change. You are dealing with the most dynamic part of your company, your people and you are asking them to do what very few people volunteer to do unless the pain of the change is less than the pain of status quo! This is a relationship which means you need to not only address them as a team but also as individuals. It means you have to listen before you talk. It means they have fears and an emotional reaction to this change and they need time and a safe environment to process it.

Do the planning up front, involve your team in as much of the process as you can while along the way addressing the rider, the elephant, and the path! But, one thing can address all of these at the same time and that is your active participation in the change!

I see it all of the time, the change is for everyone but the people at the top. This is the fastest way to failure on many fronts but especially when it comes to change!

Finally, The golden rule of software implementation is the same golden rule we learned as children: Treat your employees the same way you want to be treated and any change will go more smoothly!