A few years back I worked for a small firm and, like always, I was looking to improve processes and make things run better than they currently were.
The whole staff had company Blackberries that got their email and calls, yet they still hand wrote phone messages and had staff stop at the front desk to get them. I thought this was a rather odd way to do things given the available technology.
At the monthly meeting I brought up the notion of sending emails and calls to the folks Blackberries directly so they could respond sooner. You would have thought I asked if we could try communicating telepathicaly or something… they were aghast.
“We’ve always done it this way and it works, there is no need to change it.” and other notions like “what if I lose my Blackberry, how will I know I received a message”
They were very serious about their refusal to try it my way. It was my first or second week too, so I’m pretty sure they were already thinking they made a mistake in hiring me.
I wasn’t going to give up just because they were displaying their pigheadedness… so for the next month I did it both ways. I had no complaints. We continued for the next month as well and it seemed to be going well. So I brought it up again at the next monthly meetings…
“How about we send a message to your mobile devices, instead of handwriting notes you have to remember to pick up” I asked.
“Aren’t we already doing that?” they replied.
“Yes, but a few months ago you told me it wouldn’t work and I think it’s working out quite well.” – they were all on board and didn’t know what the fuss had been earlier.
Sometimes when I’m trying to make a change in an office I find myself returning to that experiment… doing the task both ways so they can see how it works and how better it is or, sometimes, see that I was wrong and their way was better. It does help your co-workers and boss to see what you mean sometimes rather than just trying to explain it.
While between jobs, I worked at national association for a few months one summer. I was soon far ahead of what they had thought could be done and improving the ways processes were completed regularly. They really loved me for all the hard work I did for them. Eventually, another job offer came along and they couldn’t compete with it so I departed.
Before I went I put together a tool kit of all the things that I had created during my time with them including directions for how to make them work. This was standard stuff – templates, step by step directions on how to use particular software that a layman could understand, a filing method for their meeting minutes along with the agenda format I initially provided.
I felt kind of arrogant doing that… I mean, here I was not even staying with the agency but showing them how they could improve their processes and daily tasks with just a few changes.
The Director of the department came to say goodbye on my last day and reassured me that it was a nice change, no other temp had come along and helped them to improve so much in so little time and they wished they could keep me. So I felt more ok about showing them all my ideas. Good folks there and I took info I learned forward to the next venture.
Far too often I hear at a work site – “we’ve always done it this way” or “so and so likes it this particular way” and that’s great and all, but if it isn’t improving or worse, if it’s slowing us down and creating extra steps… it’s time to find a fresher, better way to do it.
To sell ideas for change I’ve found I’ve had to provide information on how much it will save time or money to make the change happen.. I don’t always know before I begin, but I go in with the right attitude and determination I can figure out fast enough.
Where I currently work we encourage all of our staff to think outside the box, think of things you’re doing each day and if we can find a better way to do it. No idea is wrong, sometimes we just need the right sounding board to understand what we’re after.
Not all ideas are winners, I had a great idea Monday, and one of my sounding boards helped me to see that it wasn’t a feasible option. If you’re trying to make things better you have to be open to what others see as obstacles.
Anyway, enough for today – I had a pretty productive day at the office even with two webinars in my schedule.