8 steps to help you manage change on the farm
Change is inevitable, especially on a farm.
Over the centuries, farmers have dealt with shifts in the weather, climate change, technology, equipment breakdowns during seeding and harvest, trends, global production fluctuations, trade agreements or consumer demands and more.
But today, how do you deal with change and the process of implementing new practices?
One of the leading experts on change management is Dr. John P. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. His book Leading Change, outlines an eight-step change process accepted across industries that helps achieve successful business transformations.
Following and carrying out these steps can be the difference between a farming operation having a mediocre future and a stellar performance.
1. Establish a sense of urgency
Communicate to all family members and employees about the change, the plan around it and the need for it. It’s important to convey that the business may suffer or even shut down if the change does not occur – urgency is a key motivator. Farm management must be all in for it to succeed.
2. Create a guiding coalition or working team
Change is unlikely to succeed without a plan. Decide early who will lead the change. These leaders will help with sourcing and purchasing, and research the logistics of operating in a new way. They’ll ensure employees are properly trained, build a marketing plan and budget for new equipment.
3. Develop a vision and strategy
With the project leaders in place and the details starting to take shape, it’s time to define what success looks like. The entire team should be part of describing what success looks like to develop a strategy to achieve success.
4. Communicate the change vision
It may sound cliché, but you can never communicate enough. It cannot be limited to the leaders, the dialogue must happen between every team member – success hinges on how the vision is executed.
5. Empower employees for broad-based action
To move the change forward, empower everyone involved to execute the vision.
With a strategy and structure in place, it’s time to find the barriers and deal with them. There may be emotional barriers, like nostalgia to keep the farm the way ancestors built it, or resistance to change, since for some, moving into the unknown creates anxiety and stress.
To move the change forward, however, it is important to empower everyone involved to execute the vision.
6. Generate short-term wins
Change can be hard and takes time. To help keep everyone invigorated, focus on the little things. Set several smaller goals and when those milestones are reached, celebrate them and the team that made it happen.
7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
Celebrating the wins doesn’t end after the occasion is marked. Leaders should take those small wins and use the momentum to propel the team towards the next goal. Building on the wins also includes identifying what went right and what needs improvement.
As the old saying goes, don’t declare victory too early, as that can lead to failure.
8. Anchor new approaches in the culture
Culture is important amongst your team as the farm pushes forward with change. When anchoring new approaches within the culture of the operation, make sure your ideas are known to everyone - that includes your family, staff and customers. One of the greatest parts of a winning culture is a positive attitude fostered by supporting the team.
Make sure the people who propelled the change are recognized and rewarded. The entire team should be proud of the accomplishment. The more they feel part of the win, the more they will feel part of the team.
Overall, the key element to remember is never losing track of why you made the change in the first place.