Leadership : 3 Keys to Successful Implementation
Someone recently asked me what it takes to ensure a successful implementation of Magnolia Prime’s Telebeneficiary™ Service, a communications platform that delivers a customized, recorded and scheduled voice message to a phone of any type (to learn more visit www.magnoliaprime.com.). I listed a number of factors, but as I thought about it later I realized that what drives success is leadership.
It seems like a pat answer—everyone knows that leadership is a crucial factor in everything we do in our work and in our lives. So, I started to break down what leadership looks like in this case. There are three roles a leader must play, the Champion, the Listener and Facilitator, and the Delegator.
It begins at the top of an organization. The sponsoring executive who brings Magnolia Prime into the organization must do more than just hand off to the administrative staff. The introduction requires a Champion—a senior leader who not only signs the contract but makes clear why it’s being used, what she expects the benefits to be, and what she expects of staff in using it. She sets a tone of cheerful optimism and high expectations, and transmits to staff that she expects the same from them. She also encourages the staff to be creative in thinking about how they will use it and thinking thoughtfully about which features will or will not work for them in their setting.
We’ve worked with clients who completely hand off implementation to staff without having championed it. While it’s true that staff will actually do the implementation, it is incumbent upon the Leader that she present Magnolia Prime as her project, making clear that she wants it and she wants it to work. When an executive introduces us, sits in on the first demo with the staff, encourages them about their special role in implementing, and lets everyone know she will want to receive feedback on key metrics such as responsiveness of call recipients and improvements in compliance, there is a far greater chance of timely adoption and positive engagement.
The Listener and Facilitator
The Leader must also act as Listener and Facilitator. She must be ready to listen to staff’s concerns and help guide them toward solutions. This might mean making small internal changes or helping them to bring problems to our attention.
The Leader has to be aware of any issues, including performance issues, that present obstacles to successful implementation, and ensure they are addressed in a timely manner.
Choosing the right staff is another critical component of success. When there is a championed introduction and the Leader has made her expectations explicit, making sure that the path to implementation is clear of obstacles, the Leader then turns over the implementation to staff. These staff members must recognize the potential value, look forward to working with the system, and actively accept responsibility for it. Expecting an increase in efficiency and improvement in the effectiveness of their work, they will proactively engage in meeting implementation deadlines. They will anticipate potential problems, be better prepared to address them and be committed to using the system for the long term. This will result in a positive return on investment.
There will be follow-up required, of course, but at this point the Leader has to take a step back. One of the worst things a Leader can do is to second-guess the staff. For the most part, they have been chosen because it the Magnolia Prime functionality is in the area of their job responsibilities. They know the intended call recipients, either personally or as a group. They understand what it takes to effectively communicate and they know how the Magnolia Prime system works. The staff must be allowed to proceed without unnecessary interference. They must be comfortable bringing questions or pending decisions to the Leader without her overriding and sending them back to re-work everything they’ve done. Whenever possible, she should defer to their choices and decisions. If there is an important reason to override a staff decision, then the staffthey must be made aware of the justification. It increases their understanding of the priorities and goals, enabling them to make better decisions in the future. Knowing the Leader’s priorities not only empowers them but also saves them from mistakes that would require costly and unnecessary re-work.
Taking a step back doesn’t mean walking away. From time to time the Leader must reinforce her confidence in staff and ensure that they remain motivated. She will have to re-connect to ensure that no new obstacles have arisen. But she cannot take over. We saw an unfortunate example of how micro-managing can cause an implementation to fail. For some people, it is initially uncomfortable to make recordings of messages. We had a client who pushed her way through this discomfort to record 16 messages. It wasn’t easy and I was impressed with her willingness to move forward despite her self-consciousness. Just before launch she reported to her Managing Director that she was ready to launch the system. At that point, the Director then asked to hear all the messages and proceeded to edit and re-word just about every single one, causing the need for re-recording. Imagine how deflated she this staff member felt. Taking it away from her in that way took with it all her initiative. She never re-gained her momentum, ; as a result, the system wasn’t used and it was ultimately discontinued. The Managing Director therefore never saw a benefit or reason to continue using Magnolia Prime. We lost a customer but they lost a valuable tool and also demotivated an employee.
In a very different example, there was a client who had designated two staff people to be administrators. One was very comfortable recording and the other was not, so they divided the work according to their preferences. When the first person left the organization the second expressed concern that their use of Magnolia Prime would suffer because there was “no one who could record.” The Manager encouraged her to try recording, listened and praised what she heard, expressed confidence and approval, and encouraged the employee. She then stepped away and gave the employee time and space to get comfortable. Today that employee is one of our best boosters. She loves the system and she loves making the recordings!
Leadership isn’t the purview of only the sponsoring executive. Once the responsibility has been turned over to the staff, they must demonstrate leadership qualities with each other and the intended call recipients. They have to be champions who facilitate the implementation and use of the system by the call recipients.
Magnolia Prime also has a leadership role to play. Once a Magnolia Prime Customer Engagement Manager is assigned, it is her role to champion use of the platform, train and support staff through initial set-up and launch, and be available after launch to help address issues or solve problems. And finally, the Customer Engagement Manager must know when the staff is ready to go it alone, and therefore step back and let them.
Here is a model definition of the Leader’s Responsibilities that I’ve used for many years. In the chart below, it is mapped against the Leader’s role that we have been discussing.
This works well for most project implementations. We have found it to be a perfect description of the Leader’s role in successfully implementing and launching Magnolia Prime. We are confident it will increase both satisfaction and the benefits that can be realized by using Magnolia Prime’s Telebeneficiary™ platform.