No, this isn’t an onion metaphor. And I don’t often sit down, look at a problem, and wonder to myself: What would Tony Abbott do? However, when I do see something strangely effective, I wonder if it can be applied to other contexts. And regardless of your political persuasion, it’s hard to deny that Tony Abbot was strangely effective at getting a message through.
‘Axe the tax’ and ‘Stop the boats’ were brutally effective three word slogans he used during the 2013 election, and he’s still at it. Beyond just capturing the mood of the day; they are simple, catchy, memorable, and repeatable by the masses.
So, what the heck does this have to do with implementing change management within a financial advice practice?
Slogans are sticky
We too have the capability to use simple slogans to make a message simple, catchy, memorable, and repeatable.
This is about getting change to stick. This is most relevant when we’re trying to break cultural norms or form new habits in a team.
Changes in policy, written or stated, often don’t change everyday activity. Management oversight helps, but if cultural change is to take place it needs to be self-reinforcing. We expect engaged team members who are on board to carry the message in everyday internal exchanges, yet give them few tools to do so beyond referring to a policy or ‘remember the boss said we had to do it this way’.
Put into practice
Consider these examples:
Problem: Team isn’t using the ‘Task’ system in the CRM, with work being assigned verbally or via email. This results in poor client records and frustration when something is forgotten/overdue without recourse.
Solution: Communicate an expectation that all requests are to be set via a task, and if not, there is no recourse for the assignee. Essentially: Don’t say your requests aren’t getting done without the proper paper trail.
Slogan: You didn’t task, you didn’t ask.
You can see how this could be easily taken on by team members. A team member receiving a verbal instruction doesn’t need to reference a policy. They can simply reply: ‘Sure, I’ll get on it. But please make sure you task. You didn’t task, you didn’t ask, after all.’
Problem: Team doesn’t have the habit of entering details into the CRM.
Solution: Provide training on CRM usage, short-term benefits of doing so (efficiency, risk reduction), long-term benefits of doing so (data mining for opportunities, practice valuation).
Slogan: If we know it, <our CRM> oughta show it.
Again, we have something easily used within the office between all team members at all levels. If information is a paper Fact Find somewhere, but not in the CRM, any team member can invoke the training and all the benefits cited in it by saying ‘If we know it, <our CRM> oughta show it’.
Problem: Leadership starts too many projects without following them through to completion and this is identified in staff feedback.
Solution: On identification of the problem, a commitment is made to by leadership to complete all current projects before commencing new ones.
Slogan: Stop starting, start finishing.
This one isn’t about the team being self-regulating, but about empowering the whole team to manage upwards.
This gives every team member the opportunity to remind leadership that they’re straying from what they committed to, without having to bring up the conversation per se.
Problem: Systems, process, and policies are implemented to drive efficiency. Leadership identifies a deviation from a ‘Client First’ mindset.
Solution: Formally adopt a ‘Client First’ mindset. Communicate this to staff, express any changes in terms of how they support a ‘Client First’ approach, require any policy changes to demonstrate how they support a ‘Client First’ approach.
Slogan: Always client first.
This is a broader example, which goes beyond changing a targeted behaviour and targets culture change. When adopted well it should feature heavily throughout internal communication.
Has a team member gone above and beyond? Don’t acknowledge it just as hard work, but for commitment to being ‘Always client first’. Announcing change? Express through business commitment to being ‘Always client first’.
Opportunity: Family business has a long history of exceeding client expectations, and wants to integrate that into how each team member approaches their client interactions.
Action: Adopts approach of ‘Our clients are our family’ and integrates this approach into their communications and service offering.
Slogan: Our clients are our family.
This isn’t a problem, but it’s about taking something existing which is good and extending it into a mantra that can be used in everyday life.
Opportunity: Business doesn’t have a method for iterating change through continuous improvement.
Action: Business adopts the Kaizen management approach of ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’, and introduces it through staff training and regular weekly meetings covering one iteration per week.
Slogan: Plan, Do, Check, Act
Make the change
It’s far from a silver bullet. However, changing existing norms is hard and you need every tool available. If you’ve got a change you’re trying to help stick, try packaging it with a slogan and give your team members the tools to regulate each other.
This is best introduced when announcing the change or through training that supports the change, as well as constant reiteration at regular team meetings.
There are two things I would caution against:
- Introducing more than one slogan at a time. Whilst embedded slogans may continue on forever, and you may start to accrue them over time, these are meant to direct attention simply and clearly. One at a time please.
- Being too broad or sweeping. Tony Abbot didn’t say ‘Change for better’. The slogans which stick are clear, specific, and don’t need explanation.
If you want to have some fun with political three word slogans, or are stuck for ideas, you can also have a play with this Three Word Slogan generator via The Guardian Australia.
Have you seen any slogans or mantras introduced into practice which you found were particularly effective? Let us know in the comments below.