If you’ve got a problem on your hands that you’re eager to solve, you’ve got to first sell the problem before you pitch the solution. Karen Cross, Director of Leadership Services at the Michigan Association of Schools, recently spoke at a Michigan Library Association workshop and presented this as an effective way to manage transition.
Before you run to your team to tell them how much better work will be once this new policy or procedure is implemented, step back and first get them to see that there is truly a problem that needs to be addressed. Don’t start off by telling them how you’re going to fix something–instead let them see and understand what’s broken and truly needs fixing.
This approach can work with transitions large and small. When I started at my previous position as Head of Circulation, I wanted to update how materials were checked in by circulation staff. It was obvious to me that too many errors were being made when attempting to process the items at the front desk while providing assistance to patrons.
Rather than issuing a mandate to improve this process, I first started conversations with staff to talk with them in a way that they too could see the problem. This generated productive conversations about current procedures and how they were falling short. After everyone agreed to the problem and provided suggestions for change, I implemented a rotating schedule that got people away from the desk to focus on processing materials exclusively. This change resulted in a reduction of errors and improved the level of service provided to patrons.
You don’t need to give the same sales pitch to each person or department. Tailor the message and use different approaches so that everyone understand the problem in their own way.
Once you get everyone on board with the problem, you can go forth and present the solution. Selling the solution after everyone sees the same problem (even if from different angles) will create a solid foundation for an effective implementation.
And Tom Waits has a deal for you that you won’t be able to pass up.