7 Tips to Help Your Funeral Home Implement Change
Posted February 28, 2018
7 min read
“Unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization-whether a business, a university, or a hospital-will not survive,” argued Peter Drucker.
Drucker was a management consultant, educator, and author who is known as “the founder of modern management.” Drucker is also the person who coined the term “change leaders.” In doing so, he was referring to team members who are able to lead change, rather than simply react to it.
Drucker’s arguments are just as relevant today, as they were years ago: that, in business, we have to continually be willing and ready to shape and spur change…that is, if we want to be sustainable.
Among other arguments, Drucker also asserted that it was a leader’s job to “attempt to mold the future as far as possible toward the predicted shape of things to come,” he is quoted as saying. “The best way to predict your future is to create it,” he famously said.
You may agree that it’s time to spur change in your business. But just how do you get change to happen? Here are 7 lessons to keep in mind when your funeral home implements any form of change.
1. Be sure your team’s plan for how work gets done is made visible
One of the biggest recognitions you can make when implementing change in your funeral home: embrace how “people issues” are going to happen. After all, you are going to be asking for team members to change how work gets done. It’s natural for people to want to resist that kind of change at first (1).
To combat any early resistance, be sure you have a plan in place. The more your current way of working, and how that will change, is made visible, the more likely you will be able to systematically roll out the change. Instead of looking at each issue or scenario on a case-by-case basis, having a comprehensive, clear plan ahead of time helps to get a lot of the issues out of the way.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point: if you currently track all events with a physical whiteboard, on-site at your funeral home, take the time to write out how a digital whiteboard, accessible from any place, will change how people work. What can people expect with the new processes? What should people know before they are expected to adopt this new way of working? Creating a plan helps to iron out those critical details, which helps you prevent problems to begin with.
2. Gauge where your culture is at now
Now that your current way of getting work done, and the desired way to get work done is made clear and visible, gauge how people are feeling. What kind of culture does your funeral home have? How will that impact the values, behaviors, and perceptions as you roll out change?
3. Make sure change comes from the top
Nothing can stall change more than when leaders in a company don’t back the change effort itself. Be sure funeral home Presidents/owners are fully invested, engaged, and supportive in what you’re doing. Whether you realize it or not, team members will be taking cues to see how top leadership is responding. If top leadership isn’t showing support and direction for change, they’ll be doing a disservice to your change efforts (1).
4. Include key stakeholders throughout the company who are responsible for supporting change
Even though it is absolutely critical for top leadership to set the tone and support change initiatives, depending on how large your funeral home is, you may also want to consider having multiple people who are tasked with helping to implement change.
The aim: at every layer in the organization, you want someone in a position to be able to support the change. That’s someone who needs to know the vision, the steps to achieve change, and they need the resources to be able to help those around them to start to change their daily behaviors.
5. Share the “why” behind the desired change
An assumption can mistakenly be made that team members will immediately understand the rationale behind why you are asking them to change. Even if change is desperately needed (in your opinion), not all team members are going to realize the “why” behind the change efforts (1).
Be sure to share it with them. At the very least, they will respect you for being transparent with them. Team members may not fully embrace the desired change right away, but letting them know you’ve given a great deal of consideration to the change will help them to see a different perspective. Let them know, in specific ways, how the desired change will benefit them, their colleagues, the firm, and even families.
6. Make sure those in charge of implementing change have the authority to do it
A common problem can be when leaders are tasked with implementing change, but they don’t truly have the authority to implement it. The result: a great deal of stress put on a person who is responsible for a certain outcome, without the perceived capacity or ability to get it done!
This can happen when top management tells leaders to implement change, but then they provide them with very little support or authority to spur change.
To make sure you are supporting your leaders, be sure that your top management:
- Provides leaders with a compelling reason why they are the one(s) you are trusting to drive change;
- Chooses leaders who are able to set the tone right away with why, how, and when the changes will happening;
- Chooses leaders who have a history of seeing projects through, including projects where difficult or uncomfortable change was required;
- Gives leaders the tools and resources needed to use at their discretion to ensure change happens;
- Enables and equips chosen leaders to give candid feedback on how the cultural change is happening, and any issues that arising during the process.
This isn’t a one-time conversation or interaction to support those who you’ve chosen to lead the change. In fact, this is where top management can fall short in thinking they’ve actually given enough support to their leaders whom they’ve tasked with change. If anything, over-communicate and give more support than you think may be necessary during such a change initiative (1).
7. Connect with people individually along the way
Yes, mapping out systems and processes is going to help change efforts happen. But just as important is connecting with individual team members, one-on-one, to see how they are feeling (1). We spend so much time at our jobs that asking someone to change can be perceived as a big deal.
To combat that kind of stress, make sure you are clear with people. Connecting with them individually, make sure they know:
- How their work will change;
- What is expected of them during this time of change;
- How success will be measured (for them and for the entire funeral home).
If the change is seen as a radical one, this shouldn’t be rushed. Be sure to be candid, but also explicit so that people can’t misinterpret what you’re saying. At the end of the day, you’re likely implementing change so that you can better serve customers, and so that you can become a better, more profitable funeral home; if they can’t see that, then there could be a problem.
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