Great expectations Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

When Greg Boyd’s ERG—Enterprise Resource Group merged with MIS Group in 2006, he became president of the rapidly growing combined group, going from 55 employees to 163. With that kind of growth, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated, but Boyd has successfully managed the growth at the $17 million software and information technology services provider.

Smart Business spoke with Boyd about how he uses communication to eliminate surprises and how he gets buyin at a company in flux.

Q: How do you successfully lead changes in an organization?

Change really revolves around people, process and technology. It’s setting the right expectations. Set the communication in place so everybody is on the same page to understand that. As long as they know what’s coming without surprises, I think you can manage change a lot better. It’s the surprises that people don’t like.

Some things happen that are unexpected, and obviously, you can’t control everything, but try to set those expectations as far ahead of time as you can, and prepare people that these things are happening. In our case, we did four acquisitions last year, so it’s a matter of communicating with the organization, ‘Look, these things are happening.

These things are going to happen in the future. It’s part of who we are as a company. It’s part of our growth strategy that there will be acquisitions, so that means there will be new people coming and there will be processes that are changing as a result of that.’

There’s always some chaos involved with change, so setting that expectation upfront is critical so that people aren’t just blind-sided by what’s going on. If you weren’t sharing those things ahead of time, then all of a sudden, out of the blue, you come in and say, ‘We just picked up 100 more people, and this is what’s going to happen to your job tomorrow.’ That catches people more off guard than being able to say, ‘This is coming; this is what’s happening.’ You can kind of be prepared for it, attitudewise, to deal with it.

Q: You mentioned that processes change, as well. How do you deal with those changes?

Each year, it’s like you’re a new company. That can frustrate people that aren’t expecting that, but when you’re an organization of 10 versus an organization of 50 versus an organization of 200, there’s just different systems and different processes that have to be in place to accommodate scaling an organization to the next level.

Sometimes, those things are almost harder because people are like, ‘This is how I do my job; this is how the system works,’ but when you have system changes going on continually to support the efforts and methodologies of the companies, those are hard things. All these changes are happening, and it’s affecting everyone, and trying to keep the airplane flying with the wings on fire. You’re trying to change the wings but keep the plane in the air so it doesn’t crash.

Q: How do you get buy-in for those changes and make sure people really understand them?

Communicate calmly and often. Communication and expectations are two big things to be focused on. It’s just setting the expectations so they know what’s coming, and if you’re going to miss deadlines or dates, make sure you communicate those so people at least have an idea what’s going on.

One of the things we started working on is, what are the top three things we should be working on? That starts at the top and works all the way through the organization, so everyone can stay focused on those things. Sometimes those priorities change depending on the direction we’re going. Sometimes crises do come up, and you have to change those priorities in the process.

There has to be communication all the way down to the employee level on a regular basis. Coaching is a big part of that and having metrics for everybody and objectives so they know what to expect — How am I being measured on my performance, and how am I performing? And being able to talk about those things on a regular basis.

That’s the time — when you’re having those discussions and you’re talking about the vision, and how does what I’m doing as an employee really impact the vision overall and this is what my contribution is to the organization. Once they make that tie-in, it goes from just being ‘in one ear, out the other’ to, ‘I’m really making a difference in the company.’

Ultimately, it gets down to communicating those things and having that collaboration and dialogue all the way down to the team level so people know their expectations and, ‘Have I met those expectations, what are my future expectations going to be, and how am I making a difference in the company?’

HOW TO REACH: MIS Group, www.misgroupusa.com (800) 454-0993