Commentary & Analysis
Being a Leader--and a Change Agent
by Bob Raus of Oc&
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 28, 2005
by Bob Raus of Océ North America's Digital Document Systems Division No longer can business owners or executives rely on delegating technical awareness to operating staff. The "I'm too busy, you guys go learn it" approach doesn't work anymore. February 28, 2005 -- It's easy to see how technology has changed your business. But how about your staff? And what about the way you manage? Humans have an almost hardwired averseness to change. Aphorisms such as, "If it's not broken, don't fix it," or "We've always done it this way" are often matched with reasons why a new or different approach is likely to fail. But in an age when technology delivers change at a nearly constant pace, it is a management imperative to not merely embrace change, but also paint a vision for employees and staff and lead them to adopting new ways of doing things that can help your organization move forward. Business owner or executive can no longer rely on delegating technical awareness to operating staff. The "I'm too busy, you guys go learn it" approach doesn't work anymore. Most importantly, executives must adopt the idea of leading change. To do this an executive first must recognize how a given technology can change or transform their business. This means adopting an attitude of, "I'm going to change first." It means not being afraid of new technologies and recognizing the value they can bring to the business. This could be reorganizing a department to leverage workflow efficiencies gained from software purchases, faster print engines, MICR or color capability, more finishing options or intelligent inserting equipment, for example. Next, they must commit to the change, what it will entail, and communicate this to your employees or staff. Being open about why you are making changes and what it means for your operation and your staff are important to achieving their support. Perhaps the changes will foster business growth, increase productivity or efficiency, expand the services you provide, enable you to acquire new customers or new types of jobs. It may also mean different use of staff, retraining, and additions to (or reductions in) staffing. These all require workers to adapt by increasing their knowledge and skill sets in ways that will get the most out of the new technology. Three Steps to Change Recognize how a technology can transform their business. Commit to the change and communicate it to staff. Lead the implementation and share the vision behind it. Third, you have to lead the implementation. You have to be sufficiently "tech-savvy" to understand the issues that invariably arise and be able to ask the right questions while encouraging your team to do the same. This is where your leadership in sharing your vision is important: it helps them contribute to the changes and gives them ownership over the "new normal." Involve Your People Younger workers are often more likely than their bosses to be attuned to advancements in technology--and understand what it can do for a business. Be sure to tap that knowledge--and ask for their ideas. This is all great when technological change is driven from the top down. But in reality there are plenty of print providers out there who will admit to not being comfortable with technology and who rely on their managers and operational staff for technical expertise. Younger workers especially, trained in graphic design, programming, databases, and comfortable with all aspects of digital printing, are often more likely than their bosses to be attuned to advancements in technology--and understand what it can do for a business. And they would probably like to tell you what they know. So how do you tap that knowledge? How about a contest? Incentivize your staff to tell you how new technologies can improve your business. Share your goals with them, so they see where you want to go and charge them with finding technologies that support your vision. Encourage good ideas, make it fun, and share the wealth. Offer a set bonus amount, or even an upside award, such as 1 percent of all the savings realized by implementing their idea. This approach leverages the skills and knowledge already present in your business and make your staff willing participants and partners with you as agents of change. And now I ask you: What have you done in your business or printing operation to foster change? How do you communicate it to your staff? What are the best ways of implementing change? And do you listen to the ideas your staff offers about new processes and new technologies? Have you actively asked for their input and have you integrated their ideas into your operation? Let me know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your stories and how you manage, encourage and implement change. I'm looking for leaders who see technology as a way to the future and success. Tell me who you are.