The Insider: The Truth Hurts
Coming to the end of 2010, I was reflecting on the year, its challenges and its opportunities. One of the greatest insights of the year came to me at the 2010 CEDIA Management Conference. Prior to the conference, a book had been recommended to me, “SWITCH,” written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Again at the conference, the book was recommended and endorsed by others in our Industry.
I have always been very process-driven and very often get feedback that we are too “process” bound. I have struggled with this, grappling with the yin and yang of systems and processes. On one hand, we know that structure and repeated processes create economies by minimizing the unpredictable and providing a framework for improved mastery and skill. On the other hand, people often complain that processes curb creativity and force them into a structure, which can seem bureaucratic and limiting.
Even without what seems to be an innate resistance to processes, we have to grapple to change people’s habits, get buy-in and to ensure consistency as new processes are grown in our companies. What I liked so much about “SWITCH” and, in fact, last year’s Management Conference, is that it dealt head on with some of these issues.
While I have struggled with how far to take processes, I listened to Richard Millson talk about his experience building what he calls a “powerhouse” that is bound by processes and standards. He has learned that to ensure quality and predictable results, there has to be zero tolerance to exceptions; no place for ‘good enough’; no time for partial adherence. Millson would say that as a young industry, we have not learned to discipline this into our businesses.
We still act like hobbyists and ignore what other mature industries have long ago learned. Our processes and standards become the roadmap and the repository of all of our lessons. They are the roots that become our foundation as an industry and upon which software, tools and training programs reach into our businesses and help us adopt, reinforce and grow best practices. This doesn’t happen over night, or by will alone.
“SWITCH” provides a resourceful backdrop for initiating and perpetuating change in our companies. The book is very easy to read and enjoyable largely because of the many case studies that are well-crafted, reinforced and integrated into the chapters. The authors make a case that we are not innately resistant to change, an ‘apparent’ truism that has been expressed ad nauseam.
Refreshingly the authors make a compelling case that we are fine with change. They point out the many major changes we seek out such as buying houses, (sometimes many times), having children, changing careers, all done with excitement and anticipation.
“SWITCH” emphasizes, in a very compelling way, that very often resistance to change is more likely a lack of buy-in and then goes on to talk about the need for clarity around expectations. We learn that change can be crafted in a way that tips the balance in favor of success. We as owners and managers can influence the outcome by understanding how we initiate, engage with and manage change.
The authors show us how to mine for bright spots. Very often, winning combinations are built on small adjustments rather than major overhauls. Looking for bright spots can lead to insights that may otherwise go unnoticed. These bright spots can literally lead the way to effective change. Heath and Heath then talk about shaping the path by ensuring that people understand what is expected of them and by helping them build good habits as they integrate change into their day-to-day routines.
As I reflect on my years in this business, the greatest power of a team is its ability to integrate change into those processes and habits that already work. So often we forget about the bright spots pushing them unwittingly aside as we introduce new processes, strategies or ideas. Reading “SWITCH” helped me to look differently at change and at my assumptions.
I doubt I would have picked this nugget of a book up if I hadn’t attended the CEDIA Management Conference. I’ve been in this industry many years and I always bring value back from this conference. If you are serious about your business, I’d promise yourself two things going into 2011—read “SWITCH” and register for the Management Conference. CR
Marilyn Sanford is a founding member and past president of CEDIA Canada (Custom Electronic Designers & Installers Association). She is an active industry advocate who participates on CEDIA boards and instructs at CEDIA EXPOs. Sanford co-founded Smart fx in 1993, one of Vancouver’s first custom install firms. She brings over 25 years of diverse business management to the La Scala team.
Marilyn is a Registered Professional Accountant and a CEDIA Fellow. Marilyn was attracted to the Custom Electronics field in 1992 when she cofounded a firm in Vancouver, Canada. Marilyn merged this business in 2000 with La Scala in Vancouver and sold the firm in 2013. She is a founding member of CEDIA Canada, and President from 1996 through 1999. From 2000 through 2007 she sat on the International CEDIA Board and was an Executive member in the latter half of her term. Marilyn is currently involved with two startup firms offering services to the Custom Installation Market: LincEdge, offering online labor sharing software, and b3pro, linking service providers and business advisors to CI firms.