Right-Size Your Team

People love change; it's the confusion that accompanies change that we fear

"You can change without getting better, but you can’t get better without changing." A department manager at one of the dealerships we’re working with said that as we held a manager’s meeting to discuss changes on the horizon for his dealership.

His dealership is experiencing the downsizing many of you are going through in these strange times. The first and most important revelation in the meeting was that downsizing is indeed change. It was determined that just shrinking wasn’t going to work; they couldn’t just cut back everyone’s hours, keep them all on the team and expect it to work.

We also discussed how his front line staff was resistant to change. "They’re questioning everything we’re proposing," one manager said. "They don’t wanna go along with the new program, and we’re looking at a mutiny."

Conventional wisdom says the following:

  • People resist change
  • Change is hard
  • People need to be driven in order to effect change

However, I completely disagree with that convention; I believe that people love to grow and they love to change. We meet them at the parts and accessories counter trying to make their bikes cooler. That’s a change. We meet them at the apparel counter trying to look cooler while riding their bikes. That too is change. We meet them at the service counter trying to make their bikes better. Yup, you guessed it, another change! Last, we meet them on the showroom looking for something that will make life a little cooler. That’s big change.

If we’re going to meet a customer’s agenda for visiting the dealership, we’ve got to minimize their confusion by answering questions about availability, affordability, etc. That’s what we do all day long. It’s our job! We understand the changes they want to make. We help them understand the changes they want to make. Then we ask them to make the change.

Regardless of what conventional wisdom says, reason and logic say that:

  • People love change.
  • Change often brings confusion.
  • People aren’t resistant to change; they’re resistant to the confusion that often accompanies change.

So, minimize confusion and you’ll fuel change.

How does all that theory apply at the dealership? They needed to cut payroll so they realized they’d need to cross-train someone. Instead of just grabbing someone from behind the parts counter and showing them how to write an RO, they started by looking at the job descriptions. Combining tasks became a way of finding efficiencies needed for the downsizing.

During a 20-group meeting the dealer heard an idea about combining the service advisor position with the parts counter people. His 20-group partner had created an entirely new position after noticing the traffic flow at the service counter was directly opposite the traffic at the parts counter. Parts people were busiest in the middle of the day while service people were busiest at the beginning and the end of the day. You might check that at your store, too.

So now the project of creating the new position begins. But what are they doing to minimize confusion?

They’re taking job descriptions for both positions and combining them into one. These are job descriptions that the team is already familiar with and embrace completely, so there’s essentially nothing new to learn.

The service manager and P&A manager took both job descriptions to their respective teams and asked pointed questions about what each of them would need to learn in order to take on new tasks, and they did it right from the list.

After doing so, they have a specific list of things to train each person on to make the transition to the new position as seamless as possible.

The next challenge to address, beyond creating and training the newpositions, is the schedule. That’s gotta change too. They’re currently looking at how to successfully roll out the new scheduling to the entire team so as to eliminate (or at least minimize) confusion. If the whole team gets it, the whole team will embrace it, right? So just like with the job descriptions, they’re using the current schedule and asking the team what they’d need in order to cover the floor. I’m thinking that it’ll work.

What are the results of this change? At this point it looks like they may be able to consolidate seven positions into four. If they’re right, the result will be an overall reduction in payroll of nearly $100,000! They also have a full-time warranty administrator whose duties will be consolidated into the new position, which they believe will also reduce the workload on the administrative staff. More savings? Stay tuned.

But before I sign off, let me plop my disclaimer right in the middle of the page. Please note that I did not say these moves will "eliminate confusion." I hope they will "minimize confusion." Whatever you do to make changes, don’t try to hit a home run by eliminating any and all things confusing. It ain’t gonna happen. Do your best to minimize it, and then take your swing.


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