CRM Adoption 2020: A Holistic, Agile Approach

There are many best practices for CRM adoption as there are many different impacts to consider (structure, processes, systems, culture, mentality,…). This interesting discussion inspired me to recap my implementing experiences of the last decade and write down a holistic & transformative approach which kind of sprouted in parallel to the transformation I was experiencing myself in the last months. For this it is essential to elevate one`s perspective to the horizon meaning to the needs of the future, to the long term and sustainable success of a customer-oriented organization using a CRM tool to its full potential.

As a CRM consultant I realized in the last decade that the human factor is often neglected though it is the most critical point. The transformative aspect of implementations is hardly exploited - transformation in two aspects. Firstly real changing of behavior requires inner transformation of people and secondly advisors and executives clearly have an increasingly serious role model. Role model of change for future generations. In an increasingly turbulent world organizations do need to continuously adapt, re-evaluate business models and strategies, re-align organization and above all foster a learning culture. A strengthened learning culture enabling people to live to their full potential, make bigger leaps then the competitor and embrace the future by mature risk taking, intuitively created innovations, thinking outside the box and ultimately seeing the wider and higher context of things. Regarding CRM projects this means to combine project management with change leadership & transformational work.

The utmost critical point in CRM projects is adoption of the new tool. In my experience perfect adoption and I mean real usage to its fullest, still remains the exception. The reason does not lie in the technique but in the human factor, therefore only marginally manageable with rational and common project management methods. Unfortunately this fact is either completely denied or "whitewashed". In the last decades the focus in CRM implementation has been on hard facts (technique & rational) whereas soft facts (human behavior) have been disregarded. That is fatal as subtle forces inside people & systems are crucial for real profound change, for a change deeply anchored in heads & culture. Neglecting the human side resulted therefore often in implementation failures and absence of desired behavior modifications.

One has to become aware that CRM implementation requires a really vast change to how "we do sales", a vast change to deep rooted habitual behaviors. Sales people are used to working autonomously according to the motto: "my customer - my data". Hence you can imagine that it really is a huge step to share data and make formerly owned data transparent, especially for dealers. This creates tremendous fear of losing control, mostly unconsciously. This again creates resistance to change and to move out of one`s comfort zone. Both not always obvious to the outer world!

In many projects this resistance is not acknowledged at all and if it is acknowledged it is managed only superficially, often trying to heal symptoms (=putting in some data) rather than addressing the root, the real cause. The real cause of resistance lies in unconscious emotions, in the limbic system (which is the source of motivation), emotional and procedural memory, personal experience/ beliefs/ biography and individual perception/ cognition! The difficult point here is that great parts are lying in the sub-consciousness. That means real change in thinking and behaving (=adoption) presupposes awareness of these subtle, unconscious movements inside and requires ultimately to bring them into consciousness.
In my experience these psychological factors are totally neglected in projects as we are neither used to having and living emotions at work nor are we trained to use consciousness to reflect, to lead and to change. For decades we have been trained to deny and to suppress emotions. But: if you want to achieve real adoption and a sophisticated usage of a new tool, you really have to understand
1. Why people resist change understanding the related emotions. Fear of losing control is the most critical one but there are others as well.
2. That this change in behaving requires deep transformation of people. Change based on adopting just patterns might bring some superficial short term results but those will be meager compared to the gigantic effects a CRM tool could bring.
3. That this transformation requires real courage, sacrifice, real dedication, creativity & confidence. Sacrifice, motivation, confidence can never ever be managed or mandated but only be inspired by an energizing change leadership and a candid change culture based on responsibility & self-direction.

What does this mean for the future?
CRM projects will become really successful, in the long run successful, if project management is accompanied by appropriate change leadership & transformational work. This new approach is aimed to encourage people to embrace the new system and embrace the future. Leaders need to model behavior and transparency through consciousness. Meaning you have to combine change leadership with Conscious Learning, Emotional Intelligence and Personalities & Styles. 

Conscious Learning:
Bring consciousness to the project. Bring consciousness to your leading style. It is essential to understand that firstly there is a direct correlation between the inner life (thoughts, feelings, impulses, convictions, behaviors, motivation) and what happens outside. The external situation is an extension of the inner consciousness expressed in outer life. Secondly people are driven by forces inside - the more one is conscious about what is inside the more one is able to determine what's happening (resulting) outside.

It is still a common understanding that people are driven predominantly by cognition and rational arguments. But people do not change behavior only based on rational arguments. Say good bye to that illusion. If that would be the case, most of the CRM projects of the last decades would have been more than successful. Our reality looks different. I do observe mere exchange of CRM-tools, consulting services, project tools/ methods,…

Bring consciousness to your people. Help them to become aware of themselves, identifying inhibiting patterns and unconscious parts, transforming and evolving full potential & creativity. This might sound a bit complex and time-consuming, but BE SURE: consciousness is the very basis for growth, learning, un-learning/ adopting, changing,… and above all the prerequisite for coping with rapidly changing times. Companies of the future will no longer be able to afford using only a fraction of people`s true potential. Driving full throttle but with the brakes applied seems to reflect the past rational-driven decades which cannot be the vision of the future decades.

Emotional Intelligence:
Integrate emotions into work environments. All users in a CRM project are going through phases of emotions (fear, anger, depression, grief, acceptance). The more and better these emotions are perceived and brought to awareness the smoother the way to change. And please note that suppressing emotions takes a lot of energy and prevents you from living and achieving your real potential. The more you learn to live the emotions day by day the more energy is freed up to reach and use your full potential.

For CRM implementation this means Sales Managers, Vice Presidents, Leaders, Project Managers, Consultants they all will have to lead by example: not only in evolving emotional intelligence but also in transparency and authenticity in operating. 

Personalities & Styles:
Sales People are not sales machines, they are individuals with very different stories, backgrounds and views. Consequently it will be useful (in terms of quantitative profitability and long-term health of employees) to treat them as a "whole being" with specific strengths, weaknesses, feelings, experiences, behaviors and beliefs. Note that people react very differently not only within a change initiative but in general. They have a very specific, limited view of the world, a very specific perception of things, thus they will be reacting differently to changes and…adoptions. And thus they will be communicating and understanding "this new CRM world" through very specific glasses. Adoption will be brought to perfection if you take into account different personalities & styles!

Obviously competent CRM adoptions and other change initiatives include some other factors like proactive, empathetic communication methods, increased dialogue/ alignment between executives and subordinates, conflict management, anchored culture of change (based on trust, growth, empowerment & intrinsic motivation) but these will be automatically evolved if consciousness is sufficiently being granted.

Regarding the "Organization of the future" in general I recommend J. Kotter`s books, especially "Leading Change" and "Heart of Change". My favorite quotes are
       “…making a real contribution is pleasing to the soul…” and
       “…those people who encourages others to leap into the future and overcome natural fears and thus expand leadership capacity – these people provide a great service for the entire human community…”
It shows the visionary significance for our rapidly changing times. Mandating won`t work. It never works if you want to make people leap and bring outstanding results. That`s still driving full throttle with the brakes applied. “If it is not in Salesforce it does not exist” is like cutting off a part of reality & energy because it is still in our brains & hearts, lots of fuel and potential for tremendous growth. Highly needed growth! And growth is always based on consciousness seeing with the mind and with the heart.
“SEE – FEEL – CHANGE: The core of matter is about changing the behavior of people. Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people`s feeling” (J. Kotter).


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