There are few words in the business world that spark more emotion when uttered than “change.” The word can make a confident person’s skin crawl from the perceived discomfort of the unknown.

The world’s most successful organizations, like Apple, Amazon, and Disney, have learned to leverage change to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Change has been used not only to cope with a new, more challenging market environment, but to push their businesses to new heights and market leadership.

It’s no coincidence that the most successful organizations are also the most technologically advanced in their industries. Technology has been used as a strategic advantage to drive innovation and market dominance. For their competitors, they’ve been forced to adjust or decline into non-existence. Evolve or die.

The waste industry is no different. Market leaders such as Waste Management and Advanced Disposal have separated their organizations from their competition by continually investing in new technology infrastructure to drive innovation. This has empowered their organizations to enter and dominate new markets while integrating an aggressive acquisition strategy.

In contrast, service companies in the middle and bottom tiers of the waste industry have been slow to change and embrace new technology. Despite the proof that new technology will improve their operational speed, profitability, customer acquisition, and retention, they continue to use old technology that is out of date. The primary reason for this refusal to invest in new technology is their fear of change.

To make certain your business does not fall behind and lose market share due to the fear of change, let’s discuss what your organization can do to embrace change and upgrade to new technology that will give your business a competitive advantage. The following 8 Steps for Transforming your Organization are from The Harvard Business Review.

Step 1: Establish a Sense of Urgency by reviewing your market and the competitive realities to identify crises and opportunities.

When you are running 100 MPH to provide service to your customers and put out fires, it’s difficult to slow down and find time to focus on growing your business. This step focuses on the importance of making time to work ON your business instead of IN your business so you can analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats within your marketplace, also known as running a SWOT analysis.

Without strategic planning, any business growth is difficult to sustain and scale profitably. You’ll be susceptible to lower margins and losing business to your leaner and more technologically advanced competitors. Here are a few examples of opportunities and crises that are currently occurring in the waste industry.

  • EPA e-Manifest system – Using this electronic system will soon be mandatory. If your organization is not ready to move from paper manifests to digital manifests, you’re going to face operational disruption and increased costs. Your risk increases every day as the EPA gets closer to requiring the use of e-Manifest.
  • Consumers Demanding New Technology – Your value has changed in the minds of your customers as they’ve been exposed to the latest in technology and innovation from other industries. The speed of your sales process is just as likely to win business as is price (Gartner). Speed is a competitive advantage, and often the business that gets their price quote to the prospect first wins their business. Also, customers want 24×7 online service. They want to be able to communicate with you and manage their account at any time of day using their smart phone, tablet, or computer. Organizations in the waste industry have a tremendous opportunity if they can provide 24×7 online service to their customers. Think of how you can use technology to create an amazing customer service experience like Amazon does. Doing this will give you a tremendous competitive advantage in the waste industry.

Step 2: Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition by assembling a team that has the power and technological savvy to lead and implement your change effort.

It takes a team effort to create success in business. The important part is having a diverse group that embraces technology and wants to provide the best possible customer service experience. It is this team that will be your champion of change. This step is about encouraging this team to work together to make your business the best of the best in your marketplace.

Your organization will want to have a cross section including sales, operations, and administrative teams. Also, you will want to scale at a few different levels of your organization, such as users, directors, and executives.

This diverse group will account for different points-of-view to help get buy-in from the overall organization.

Step 3: Create a Vision to help direct the change effort.

It is key that you do not over-complicate the vision or make it too vague. This step focuses on developing an overall strategy to achieve the vision.

A clear vision will directly reflect success. Unfortunately, many business software purchases lack a clear direction and strategy for how that software will be utilized to advance the organization. The new software either fails to be adopted by employees or it needs to be replaced as it doesn’t scale as the organization grows and changes.

Here is a clear vision based on the examples in Step 1.

  • The organizational goal is to move away from manual processes to a digital system. The business objective is to capture customer and service data to produce key documents, automate processes, and share information with your customers. This platform will be part of an integrated system that connects to your 3rd party systems, such as financial software, and outside vendors, such as the e-Manifest system. The outcome of implementing this new digital system will be improved customer retention, business growth, and a higher profit margin.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision at every opportunity to share the new vision and overall strategy.

It’s about providing continual visibility into the change process and vision. The coalition will provide support in this step. However, the executive who is leading this change initiative will need to take charge and lead the team. Every communication needs to promote the vision and the value it offers to reinforce buy-in.

Step 5: Empower others to Act on the Vision by encouraging risk-taking and brainstorming on non-traditional ideas while removing the obstacles that are blocking change.

A vision is a powerful tool. It will instill enthusiasm in some and skepticism from others. This step is about encouraging employees to add value and participate in the change. On the flip side, this step also stresses the importance of confronting obstacles and creating a plan to overcome them. Your company needs to protect and grow the vision for it to be successful. Be prepared to have tough conversations with skeptics and people in your company who fear change.

Step 6: Plan for and Create Short-term Wins by planning for and measuring performance improvements that prove the value of the vision.

The overall value of the vision will take time to achieve. For implementing a new software system, it can take up to three years to see the full value and a positive return on investment.

To keep momentum moving forward, an organization needs to focus on smaller milestones and reward employees for their participation. The long-term value is tracked along with the milestones.

Here are ideas from our example:

  • Based on the vision to digitize our waste management business, the key performance indicators would be revenue growth, customer churn rate, and cost savings.

Step 7: Consolidate Improvements and Produce More Change by using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies.

It comes down to understanding the pace of change that is appropriate for your business. A new software system can be implemented in phases that align to the entire vision.

Momentum can be used to identify other areas that require change in relation to the overall vision.

Here is an example:

  • To achieve our vision, our new software solution may be broken down into a specific roll-out plan. Implementing a CRM would be our first phase so we can collect customer, service, and financial data. Phase 2 would be to add an online Customer Portal to share documents and service details with our customers while allowing our customers to use the portal to request service and access their documents 24×7. An integration between CRM and financial software could be Phase 3.
  • During Phase 1 the CRM stores Profiles and Manifests in the system and connects to the EPA e-Manifest system.

Step 8: Institutionalize new Approaches by communicating the connection between new behaviors and corporate success.

Success is tied directly to a business’s corporate culture. There will be value achieved by adding software that aligns to the vision. However, the actual technology is only 20% of the equation. The remaining 80% is the culture that the organization creates and reinforces.

It’s about creating best practices, holding people accountable, and communicating how individual behaviors have a direct influence on the overall business success.

In summary, change, and in particular technological change, can be a scary idea for many organizations. It can be difficult to overlook short-term investment costs and implementation inconveniences for long-term gains.

With PegEx’s 130-years of combined experience in the waste industry, we are uniquely positioned to help your organization develop a strategic plan to overcome the “status quo” and innovate through the implementation of the PegEx Platform, our business management software that we developed specifically for the waste management and environmental services industries.

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