As I walked through my daughter’s playroom the other day, I looked at her dilapidated toy kitchen set and laughed as I thought about the fateful Christmas Eve night it came to life. I had purchased what I thought would be the coolest kitchen set ever. The pictures on the box were fabulous, and so was the display in the store; but as I sat on the floor that night surrounded by pieces that seemed to fit nowhere, I wished the box had shown me a picture of the instruction manual. It was two pages… written in Martian, I believe. Its only value was to serve as the coaster for my eggnog, and I had to forge ahead using that picture on the box (and some duct tape) to guide my assembly.
As I work with sales leaders who are embarking on large improvement initiatives, I see how easy it is to overlook the investment made in the “instruction manual”. I also see what happens when they make that mistake. Of course everyone is dealing with limited funds and great visions for the future, and most leaders would, understandably, rather spend that last dollar on fixing a process or adding a feature; but they need to be careful not to shortchange what is required to help their people absorb the change.
This is especially critical with a sales force for two reasons: they are working independently in dispersed locations AND their priority is working with their customers. When changes occur, people in the field depend on communications that clearly explain what they need to do and why. They don’t often work next to their peers and have less of an opportunity to ask others for help or clarification.
In addition, salespeople are also less likely to spend the time trying to figure changes out themselves - more than likely customer demands will take precedence, and can you blame them for that? Without a solid change management effort in place, initiatives may flounder, salespeople may become discouraged, customers could be impacted, and the overall return on investment may suffer.
So… the next time you are about to embark on a large initiative, don’t get distracted by the shiny picture on the box – remember the “instruction manual” and make sure you have a change management plan in place to ensure that your picture becomes reality.