Operations: If Change is Inevitable, Then Flexibility is Essential

by David Miller

Have you ever heard: “It’s not my job.” “I haven’t got time.” “My manager doesn’t care anyway.” “Nobody told me about it.” “If it is such a good idea, why didn’t we do this the last time management changed their mind?” “It will all change again next month.”

Resistance to change is not always a bad idea. It is a wonderful part of history and native heritage to have tradition that has survived to be celebrated in this day and age. Yet, when it comes to tribal business, change is inevitable. If it is inevitable, then it can be planned for and managed.

There is a phrase that has been used for as long as anyone can remember – “Because we’ve always done it that way.” This is a dangerous phrase in business because it is easily recognizable as an excuse and a fear. Excuses or fear can be different, depending on the circumstances. But, regardless of circumstances, there is one thing in common – the impact of change, whether unexpected or planned, and how to successfully work with change, depends on the ability to be flexible and knowing what to do when the inevitable happens. How do we manage change?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Change management is often described as the planning and introducing of new processes or methods of working in a company or organization. The success of any new process or method of working then depends on the success of the team members responsible for implementing any new changes. Change management is influenced by culture, strategy, mission, vision and values of the tribe or tribal enterprise. Begin by understanding and identifying the need for change.

This can be accomplished by the following four steps: 1) identify a business need or opportunity; 2) define the project (scope and objectives); 3) design the business solution (processes, systems and organizational structure needed); and 4) develop any new processes and systems.

Once there is an understanding of what is to be accomplished, shift focus to how to make it happen. To implement the solution into the organization, begin managing change by having a strategy. This strategy includes the following steps to develop, align and deploy ideas:

Develop Objectives: Whether by leadership or teams, these are the reasons for the change. What are the major objectives driving the need for change?

Determine Goals: These are the action steps that accomplish the objectives. What are the best possible actions that help reach the objective? Decide Strategies: Strategies should align people and ideas with the objectives in order to implement the needed change. Brainstorm all possibilities and decide on the most feasible ideas and prioritize them.

Measure: Know how you will measure the success of your strategy along the way.

This is all just to begin the process of understanding the necessary approach to change. Asking the right questions is critical. Where are you already successful and how can you leverage that? It is the idea phase in order to discuss the why, how, and what of planning for change or dealing with an unexpected change. With a strategy for how you will approach change, you can begin the process of how to manage change.

There are four key areas that ensure successful change: 1) understanding change; 2) planning change; 3) implementing change; and 4) managing resistance to change. Once a casino, or any tribal enterprise for that matter, understands the business need for change, the hard part begins. The challenge is how to implement change considering all of the people and personalities involved in making it happen. There are some pitfalls to avoid:

• Not appreciating that people have different reactions to change.

• Treating large scale change as an event rather than a mental, physical, and emotional process.

• Being less than candid.

• Not understanding the importance of people in the process.

• Underestimating human potential.

Every organization will have team members that will embrace change, some that are very stable, predictable, and dependable, and those that adopt a wait and see attitude. These responses are driven by their perception of the change that is taking place, possible losses or gain involved, their past experiences with change, or any current level of change they may be experiencing.

A goal-oriented model to drive organizational and individual change has five components. These components are the five milestones an organization or individual must achieve for change to be successful. When applied, this model allows leaders and change management teams to focus the activities that will drive change and therefore allow for successful results. It provides clear goals and outcomes for change management activities.

Create an awareness of the need for change. Does everyone involved have an understanding of the business need and desired outcome? This involves effective communication from top to bottom in the organization and all involved.

Is there a desire to participate and support the change? The leadership and management need to be involved in the strategy to gauge and assist in developing the atmosphere in which change will be communicated and implemented.

Does everyone have the knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like)? This sometimes involves technical training or certification, personnel development, coaching and guiding teams through change, and again, clear, honest communication.

Is the organization set up with key people in the right places to implement the necessary changes? The front-line managers have the ultimate task of being responsible for the change on a day-to-day basis. They need all of the tools they can get to manage their teams and processes to the best of their ability.

What is the organization prepared to do to ensure the change sticks? There needs to be a reinforcement of successful change for it to become a habit. Change can not be a “do as I say, not as I do” plan. Know how you are going to reinforce change from the smallest detail, to celebrating what the ultimate success looks like. It could be as simple as a team member demonstrating cultural values, or an example of an amazing guest experience. If it is going to stick, there has to be value for all involved.

Whether new challenges are presenting themselves or a need to innovate and continuously improve, change is constant and necessary. It is a natural and continual part of today’s workplace. Factors such as changing technology and competition are increasing the importance and pace of change in our tribal enterprises. Change is necessary for any sort of growth, renewal, invention, or creativity to occur. The absence of change does not bring comfort – it is more accurately a sign of stagnation. Being faced with hiring challenges, retaining employees, competition, or regulatory changes, an organization must offer new ideas, improvements, services, and products to be successful. The continued success of tribal enterprises will depend on the ability to successfully navigate change.

David Miller is an international customer service and leadership expert, member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and President of Life Incorporated, a Brad Worthley International Affiliate. He can be reached by calling (479) 856-3328 or email [email protected].