“Fruitful friction” may sound counterintuitive, but I always try to focus on the positive. I feel there can be productive outcomes from situations that are fraught with friction. Once you are aware of what is causing the resistance, you can make modifications to ensure that your messaging addresses the concerns of various stakeholders.
When initially deploying a strategic meetings management program, it is not unusual to encounter friction from a number of sources:
- Members of the meeting team, who may not like the changes to their job or their new responsibilities
- "Occasional planners," who enjoy planning as a diversion from their usual job responsibilities
- "Power planners," who are sophisticated and feel they do not need any support
- Suppliers who fear negative changes in their relationship with you
Friction between departments or individuals is unfortunate, but not unusual during times of change. People like the status quo; change feels threatening. They want to know how the new processes and procedures will affect them, so to ease the resistance, you need to dispel concerns, communicate implications, and share benefits quickly.
Change the Mood
Here are four proven success strategies for reducing friction:
Take the time to explain the value proposition for implementing the SMMP: cost savings, risk avoidance, and proven procurement practices. Once people understand the benefits, they are more apt to accept your SMM program. Be sure to clearly articulate the “What's In It For Me." For occasional planners, the WIIFM is that they will no longer have to negotiate complicated hotels contracts. They can still travel on site inspections and plan the meeting, but they don't need to be involved in the contracting process.
Be sure your own team is on board with the SMM plan. They may be especially resistant, thinking these changes may dramatically change their existing roles. Take the time to explain the benefits of the new program, and how it will affect their jobs. Be open and honest, provide a road map, and ask them for additional ideas and solutions.
Conduct periodic focus group sessions that include the occasional and power planners in your organization while you are in the design stage of your program. Listen to their concerns and make a concerted effort to address those issues in order to reduce anxiety and increase adoption. Be sure to consistently communicate progress and SMMP successes.
If you are a supplier, embrace new processes and procedures, avoid being seen as a barrier to success. Be proactive! Ask what you can do to help implementation and adoption. If you have best practices that you can share with your client, do it! Demonstrate that you are a strong partner and that you take the relationship seriously.