The rapid growth of technology is speeding up innovation across all industries, and construction is no exception. Mobile devices, cloud-based software, manufacturing processes adapted to construction, building information modeling and new delivery methods all bring promises of better efficiencies and improved productivity. But for those with the role of overseeing innovation and changes, the journey often has one big roadblock: implementation.
Anyone who’s ever tried to make change or innovations has faced the challenge of getting buy-in from internal and external stakeholders. The most contentious stakeholders are those who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is often their mantra. But there are also the more subtle resisters who simply withhold their support as they wait for the innovation to fail.
For anyone resistant to change, you’ll usually find fear is at the base of their resistance. They may be afraid of losing authority, that change will erode their standing as an expert, or that it will challenge their competence. People get invested in their skills and in their experience. The greater their investments, the harder it is to change. There could also be an issue of security. If you’re trying to automate processes, for example, it’s a given that some people will feel threatened by the imagined, or real, possibility that they won’t be needed anymore. Generally, the more people feel a part of the change process, and the more they recognize the need and advantages of the innovation, the more likely they will buy in and engage positively in the process.
It’s also important to remember that not all change is appropriate. Whenever you’re trying to implement something new, it’s wise to open a discussion on the topic. The idea is to prove the change is appropriate or necessary long before moving to adopt it. Next, define the current problems at hand so there is room for plenty of input.
A good starting point is to speak with the people who are most affected by the upgrades. If you’re the one in charge of the implementation, it’s helpful to view your role as a facilitator. Here are a few tactics for reducing pushback:
1. Know the Stakeholders. If you list the stakeholders, either by name for small organizations, or by group for larger ones, you can infer their level of support based on how much the innovation will affect them. Those affected positively are more likely to support the innovation while those affected negatively are more likely to resist. You can further define the individuals or groups by their influence––those with more authority would logically be top influencers, but don’t overlook the informal structure of your organization. There often are people with low authority who have significant influence. Try to confirm your assumptions before moving forward by asking people what they think about the proposed change or innovation.
2. Gain Support Early. Start with the resisters who have the most influence and try to win them over as supporters. When that isn’t possible, plan how you will handle their resistance or inaction. While doing this, involve the supporters with high influence so they get engaged and support the change efforts. Try to move challengers with low influence to the supporter side, while nurturing supporters with low influence to keep them engaged. Take the time to keep track of the insights you receive about the supporters and challengers. Skipping this step or minimizing its importance is a recipe for a failed implementation.
3. Listen. People need to know that their opinions are not only heard, but valued. By listening carefully you will receive insights into what people fear and what they welcome. You will also hear their ideas about the innovation and what they think will make it more successful. As long as ideas are welcome and seriously considered, this is where some of the best ideas come to light. This is also the time when you will get different perspectives on ways to accommodate stakeholder needs.
4. Communicate and Inform. With a well-defined change or innovation program laid out, it is time to raise awareness and understanding. Focus on telling and showing people what the innovation is, and keep them updated throughout the entire process. This is also the time to provide all the information necessary to help people transition from the old way to the new way. Don’t overlook communicating how the innovation was adapted to answer stakeholder concerns. Be sure to keep the future in mind and document key findings and best practices arising from implementation so the history is available to those who weren’t around during the launch.
Innovation is all about change. The more you communicate the reasons behind the change, the easier it will be to implement the change. Taking your time, involving stakeholders, listening to your team members and communicating your strategy will help ensure the innovation and implementation is successful.