'Adapt or die.' What worked for your ten person company won't cut it as you zoom past fifty people. The processes you had when you were a hundred employees will break down as you scale up to two hundred.  For businesses to succeed, openness to change is a must. And while most organizations intuitively know this, building a culture that supports change can be challenging.

Employees can make or break the introduction of new ideas, processes, and tools. For these introductions to be successful there are a few helpful steps you can take to ease the transition and get your team on board.

Communicate. Listen. Repeat.

From trial to company-wide rollout, communication is necessary at every stage to lay out the value and goals of the change. It's important to explain the pain point you're solving. If people don't agree there's a problem, they're less likely to want to embrace your solution. Once you're ready for the full transition, develop a clear plan for how you will communicate the shift.

Make sure to designate a place where feedback can be voiced. Whether it's a Slack channel, Trello board, or company meeting, creating a place where people can leave feedback will alleviate more concerns than you may realize. Sometimes people just need a place to understand their opinion is heard before they move forward with a change. They want to feel included in the decision making process, rather than have someone dictate what they do or how they work.

Talk to your peers

Most companies at similar stages suffer from the same growing pains. By talking to peers, you can understand how others are solving your problems, which saves you time and money. However, you can also make employees empathize and understand that the tools you want to use have already been proven elsewhere, and on someone else's dime.

A decade ago, my co-founder and I scrappily handled all the payroll and operations for our first startup.  Years later, when we started Trello, I knew there had to be a better way to do things.  When I asked around, other startup operations people recommended using a newly formed PEO company called Justworks.  Our peer companies had already vetted their payroll and benefits solutions against the other competitors, and that made it much easier for me to trust we could onboard quickly and get back to building our business.

Roll it out strategically

Change doesn't happen overnight. Rather than trying to get the whole company to champion your change, try targeting specific, potentially impactful groups of people within your organization. We see this happen a lot when Trello gets adopted across an organization. HR will start using Trello to onboard employees, then as people join the company and see how the tool is used, they adopt it to solve their own problems, whether it's building a product roadmap or an editorial calendar.

You can simulate the organic process by introducing your change to a smaller audience and getting their feedback. If it's new software you're rolling out, have the group utilize it for actual projects and ask for their feedback. Populating it with real content will serve as a good example for the larger team during the official launch. Once the kinks are worked out, rally these beta testers to act as evangelists and help you champion the change with the rest of the team.

Set a timeline

There's nothing worse than indecision. Once you state the problem, present the solution, and have everyone on board with the transition, the next (and most important!) step is to create a realistic timeline for implementation. You've done all the heavy lifting, now it's time to get things done.

As you're onboarding team members, use the pre-loaded information from your beta testers to give everyone real context. This will help them understand and pick up the tool more quickly, rather than starting with an empty slate. Allow people to customize their use of the tool and present it in ways that feel more personal to individual teams.

For example, it shouldn't just be managers who help the tool spread throughout an organization. Our support team had been using a tool called Zoom for video conferencing with Trello users. When our monthly town hall needed a more robust meeting tool, they suggested Zoom as an alternative. We knew we could trust it to work as they had real experience to draw on, making it an easier sell to the rest of the company.

Key takeaways

Remember to pick your battles. Focus your big transition efforts on tools or procedures that will make a significant impact to how your company operates. But keep in mind that giving employees autonomy makes them feel invested. When you don't need company-wide consensus, let your people choose their own tools to get their jobs done.
People are creatures of habit and impacting change across an organization can be daunting. However if you understand where people are coming from, get them to understand why you're introducing the change and ultimately get their buy-in, you'll be able to gain deeper trust from your employees and grow as a team.

Published on: Jan 29, 2016