By Leader Contributor – The Editorial Team at CRäKN

Changing daily habits at work can disrupt everything we’re used to — and, in the short-term, change can push us completely outside our comfort zones.

But in many situations, change is necessary. There may be short-term pains associated with it, but usually, we adapt because of the long-term benefits.

Is your funeral home implementing or considering any kind of major change this year? If so, here are seven tips to help you implement the change successfully.

1. Be transparent.

If you’re the one who is pressing for change, be sure you share the intention and purpose behind any change initiative. Sometimes that can take a degree of vulnerability, but it will be worth it to share where you’re coming from.

You’ll also want to be sure others with authority in your funeral home display the same level of commitment as you.

You may assume other team members see things the same way as you, but many times, they won’t have the same perspective. Sharing a new point of view and the “why” behind the desired change can help others see the bigger picture.

While it’s never too late, when sharing the need for change, don’t delay in opening up to your colleagues. When you open up and share your well-intentioned rationale from the get-go, you have a chance to set the tone in a positive way. You also have the chance to get early and continuous feedback from team members. They’ll see how you’re being transparent and that you’re open to getting their input, too.

2. Take a look at how you’re currently operating.

In order to implement any kind of change to your culture or to the way work gets done, be sure your current processes and systems are visible and clear.

If it’s challenging to describe the way work gets done currently, changing the way that work gets done will be more difficult than it needs to be!

Taking this “systems view” of your operations doesn’t have to be overly technical; simply start by mapping out or visually displaying (in steps) how your work currently is accomplished.

So many times, issues or problems have a root cause in the system we’re using, not in the people on our team. In order to change the way individuals and a team collaborate and work, it helps to get crystal clear on where you’re starting.

3. Define what success will look like.

Many times, we know we need to change for a number of reasons, and then we commit to that change — yet we forget to define what true “success” will ultimately look like.

What will the updated way of working look like? What will the outcomes be? What will help cause those outcomes? What will be critical to achieving those outcomes? Who will need to change and how will they be supported in the process? Who is most impacted by these changes? What does success look like for them each day? And last, what might be a barrier to achieving success?

This can be valuable for all team members involved because it can shed light on who will be most impacted by the change, helping all team members to have more empathy for them in the process. This doesn’t have to slow down your change initiative; instead, it should help you, collectively, define your vision.

4. Create a roll-out team.

What is one of the most important components of any change management process, especially with a software roll-out? Having a team that’s responsible for the roll-out!

Make sure the team is meeting regularly to discuss process changes. Meetings can focus on using the system for the first time, as well as tips and strategies for transitioning from one system to another.

For example: What are the top ways you are becoming more efficient with the new product? Answer that question by sharing best practices and strategies so everyone can benefit from what colleagues have already learned.

Successful teams will often have team leads coming from each job function. When it comes to adopting a new software, various roles on the “implementation team” may include:

• Executive stakeholder. This is typically the owner of the business who is involved in the decision-making. Be sure you are leading by example. It takes discipline — but stay involved throughout the entire implementation process. Know that people are looking to you for guidance. If you aren’t leading by example or explaining the value of the tool, employees will lose sight of the vision and won’t see the point in adopting the new tool.

• Project lead or implementation lead. This is typically the owner in a smaller funeral home, or it could be the Operations Manager in a larger firm. This person is often the one who is assembling the rest of the team. This role will primarily focus on communication with the software partner. This has to be someone who is confident and able to overcome roadblocks. This also may or may not be the same person who we’d often think of as a project manager.

• Functional leads. This may include a lead from accounting, admin, funeral director, embalmer, part-time staff, or anyone else who can represent those who play a large role in using the tool. Again, having someone from each area of the business can help you know your business requirements for each function are being translated and supported as best they can.

• Champion(s). These are team members who are supporters of the adoption of new technology and who are well-versed in what’s going on with the software roll-out. Often, this is the same person as the functional leads, but not always. Later on, these are team members who will continue to advocate for the product when there are feature changes and/or upgrades, for example.

5. Plan for resistance.

Many funeral directors are caught off guard when there is resistance to the change they are responsible for implementing.

Rather than stray from your plan or objectives because of individual team members who are reacting negatively, plan for there to be push-back about what you’re trying to achieve. If you anticipate a certain degree of resistance, you can be better equipped to respond to it. This doesn’t mean you tolerate the resistance … but be sure team members have the skill and confidence to deal with these behaviors when they inevitably show up.

For example, set clear, well-defined expectations early on about each team member’s responsibility as it relates to the change initiative. These expectations can be for individuals and for the team, and those expectations can be monitored throughout the process.

Get their buy-in, continue to communicate with team members during the process, and identify what may be driving any resistance. After all, they could have a reason for why they are holding back the change, such as fear of job loss or uncertainty in general.

6. Be prepared for it to get worse … before it gets better.

When it comes to adopting new software, be ready for inefficiencies in the process. Your team will be learning new ways of working and new routines, often while still using processes and data from your old system.

For a period of time, it can almost feel as if you’re doing twice the amount of work. Stay patient as you use two platforms, keeping in mind the long-term benefits and greater efficiencies are coming.

7. Foster the right environment.

Be sure those who are supposed to be implementing the change have the right kind of influence and respect they’ll need, especially in a complex and potentially emotionally charged environment.

Gauge how people are feeling throughout the process and share learnings as you go. Asking a simple question like: “How are you feeling?” or “How are you progressing?” can go a long way. While one person may be adapting to change and embracing the changes around them, their peer could be feeling another way. Check the pulse and be willing —when appropriate — to adapt as needed.

You may find you need to be more proactive than ever about communicating. Your communication style, tone, and format will change throughout the process.

After all, first, you’ll want to set the tone and to set priorities. Later, your story will shift; you’ll be removing barriers as you find them, reinforcing the right behaviors, and keeping people motivated and aligned.

Take advantage of communication that can help support a patient and positive mindset. When there are milestones achieved in your process or even “small wins,” be sure to celebrate as much as you’re able.

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