Change is hard. As much as we’ve heard this phrase to the point where it’s become cliché, there’s a reason it’s repeated time and again. It’s not easy to accept that there’s something different on the way. Over the years, I’ve worked and talked with countless people going through the membership software selection and AMS implementation process. I’ve heard of the sleepless nights and the daily stresses that can dominate this uncertain time. The unknown is always difficult to embrace.
It’s hitting even closer to home these days. My husband is going through his own workplace CRM change (albeit outside the association space). I see him stressed out, not knowing what’s to come, whether the new system will work the way he wants, whether the process will be worth it. While there’s no crystal ball that guarantees us that everything will be OK, there are hundreds of success stories that show how to navigate through change and come out better on the other side.
And there are just as many tips and tricks to association change management. Here are five to keep in mind and hopefully give you enough peace of mind to get a good night’s sleep…
1. Know who’s on your team and openly discuss expectations
The first step is to find your people—those who understand (or at least listen to) your concerns and who share your goal of getting things right. The implementation team (consisting of both your staff and vendor reps) needs to work together and communicate openly and consistently. Establish a rhythm of communication so that you can work with one another throughout the implementation process by posting questions, assigning tasks, and sharing deliverables. Everyone involved in implementation should be kept in the loop at all times. With everyone communicating, you’re less likely to run into big problems later on and more likely to build an AMS that best meets your needs.
Successful implementation projects require time, patience, and flexibility. Rarely does the initial plan that associations create turn into a reality, as changes to the plan often have to occur. Going into this process with realistic expectations is essential and will help you tackle each phase of the project in a more productive manner.
2. Make sure your voice is heard
Frequent and open collaboration means that you’ll have the opportunity to express yourself: take advantage of this! During the AMS implementation process, it’s important to clearly articulate your needs and ask as many questions as necessary to ensure your team has a full understanding of what you need. Ideally, this is all accomplished during the discovery phase. But as you go, if something comes up that doesn’t feel quite right or if something needs to be added, bring it to light immediately. It’s better to voice your concerns as soon as they arise than wait until the eleventh hour or, worse yet, not voice them at all.
3. Take advantage of training
In order to do things the “new and improved” way, you first have to come up to speed on how to do them. Learn what you can to arm yourself. Your association is investing not only in a new system, but in the staff that will be using it. Good training will allow you to do you job better, work more confidently, and onboard other teammates who can follow your processes and procedures.
Find the classes that will benefit you the most and then learn from them. That sounds obvious, but how many of us have signed up for a class and then spent half the time responding to email and putting out fires back at the office? Be present in the class, take notes, do the work, and the results—and the confidence in your ability to work in the new system—will come.
4. Celebrate incremental milestones
When I was in grade school, my piano teacher would keep track of my practice schedule, giving me stars for each week of successful practicing. Once I had 10 stars, I got a small toy (Star Wars stuff was my favorite, for the record). And while I knew the inevitable stormtrooper was in my future, each star I received represented a small win. That star was getting me one step toward the bigger reward.
Incremental milestones are important in a long-term project, when that end goal can seem so far, far away. Maybe you and your staff don’t have the budget to hand out Han Solo figurines to everybody, but some pizza, candy, or a late afternoon toast at the end of each implementation phase can go a long way toward easing everyone’s stress levels and keeping the focus on small victories.
5. Keep the end goal in mind
There’s a reason you changed in the first place and, most likely, that reason is because you’re moving toward something better. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the but-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mindset, and very few of us relish the opportunity for large-scale change. When it all starts to feel overwhelming, just imagine where you’ll be months after this is over—when what was new and different is now routine and empowering. Someday you really will look back and wonder how you ever got anything done before. In the end, focus on the good out there that’s coming your way. Your new system and what it will do to help you and your members will make it all worth it.
To find out more about what to expect during an AMS implementation, check out the eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Membership Software.