How to Implement Change in a Firm

Practice Management Time for change

Two recent books, “Remaining Relevant” by Rob Nixon, and “The Future of the Professions” by Richard and Daniel Susskind, discuss a disruption in our profession being caused by fast-moving changes in technology. I earned my accounting degree in the pre-PC days, so I’ve seen significant changes throughout my career due to advances in technology. It appears to me that we are currently on the verge of significant changes, and I expect we may see more change in the next three to five years than we’ve experienced in the last 40 years.

How do we get our teams to “buy in” and embrace significant changes? It will take creating a “New Vision” with each member of our team, and then selling that vision through repetition. At our own firm, we found that after the first meeting, there were some who understood the proposed changes, but many were confused and unsure of the changes we proposed. We purchased copies of “Remaining Relevant” for everyone and strongly suggested that everyone read the book, and then we had additional meetings to discuss more specific details of our vision. We currently have weekly staff meetings that are focused on off-tax season training, and this gives us an opportunity to answer questions and sell our vision.

Joe Woodard, CEO of the Woodard Companies, calls it “Casting the Vision,” and that it is the responsibility of everyone in the organization to be part of the vision. The owners, who are setting the “Vision of Change,” must make it a daily activity and incorporate it into all phases of the firm’s activities and clearly communicate goals.

Jim Collins in “Good to Great” states, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” In hiring new employees, this means hiring to fit the culture, and this task is more difficult with legacy/current employees. From our first meeting with our team, it was obvious who was excited about the new direction and anxious to embark on a new adventure. Those who grumbled and spoke of negative consequences left little doubt as to their future with our firm. We’ve purposely given them some time to see if they can catch fire and embrace the change that is happening; however, we expect that we will shortly have some turnover and we’ve identified others from outside who will bring new energy and excitement to the changes we are implementing.

Years ago, I heard someone say, “the only constant is change,” and that certainly describes my career. To implement change in our organizations, we must have ongoing communication, cast our vision and make it part of daily life, as well as establish a culture that embraces and thrives on constant change.