April 17, 2023

Video: How do you navigate change successfully?

In a fast-paced startup, change is just part of the equation. But, oftentimes, being successful in these environments comes down to your ability to get comfortable with ambiguity. At least, that's what the product-led growth leaders on this video panel believe—and so do we!

Leaders can best serve their teams when they focus on communicating the why behind a change to make it less scary and more understandable. (And this is especially true if your company is on their journey to become more product-led.) Transparency of data, insights driving the change, and enabling people to ask questions can all play a huge role in facilitating alignment and understanding.

To create a sustainable company, it's crucial to align the entire team and work together towards driving change.  By working together, companies can create a culture of innovation and adaptability that can help overcome any challenges that may arise.

Our star-studded panel of PLG experts share their tips, tricks, and anecdotes for navigating change successfully in this video:

We've included the full transcript for you below:

David Apple:
When I think about change inside of a company, if you're in a startup that's fast-paced and fast moving, change is just part of the equation. We're often building the plane as we fly it. And so when we get new data or new information, that's going to shift and change what we do. And I think being successful in those environments often has a lot to do with your own ability to get comfortable with ambiguity as a starting point. I do think though that when you're making changes, it's important, particularly as somebody who's a leader, to really think about the communication around those changes. Not everyone has the same context that you do. And I think when people can understand the why behind a change, change is less scary than if a change is just dictated without any sort of context.

Getting at that why can be done several different ways. How do you give people transparency to the data that you see, the insights that are driving the change? How do you enable people to take a test and learn approach and find the right answer in light of the change? And then finally, how do you give people the opportunity to ask good questions? How do you really engage with them? And I think when you're changing that aspect of dialogue is really important. So all hand scenarios where people can ask great questions are a great way to do it. Posting something perhaps that can be sort of long-running and being archived about this change and this decision in this moment in time is also helpful for future references as well.

Tanya Littlefield:
So the example of organizational change that's led to growth that's top of mind is my experience at Notion. At Notion before I joined, which is about seven months ago, we had zero enterprise customers. The enterprise plan was really there just to justify the price of the team plan kind of. And so obviously it represented 0% of our revenue, and over the past seven months, it took a while to get things going of course and figure out our value proposition and stuff like that. But last quarter it represented about 10% of our growth. Culturally, I come from a product-led growth company type form before Notion, so I'm maybe extra cautious about the way I behave and the culture I'm trying to create in the sales team. So I'm very respectful of our engineer's time. I think that they're the team that's driving everything, our business, and therefore they should be kind of on the pedestal and not the sales team.

So we're more there to help them and make their job easier and better understand what features they should build for which customer, rather than us telling them, "Hey, you need to build this feature for us to be able to close this six or seven digit deal."

Joel Stevenson:
One of the things that makes it difficult to bring about change within either an organization or within your own user base is this belief that something's one way for a reason and has always been that way. I would say probably the best way to change that view is to test your way into change and growth. So, okay, this price point's always been the way it is, but what if we test 10% of the traffic getting something different? Does that work? If it does, you're going to have fewer people sort of objecting to that change because you actually have some data to back it up. Especially with what I do in engagement and retention, it's really about patterns and trends in moving large groups of folks through the application. And so we might have a hypothesis that if you get three or four people on an account, they're going to retain at a higher rate than somebody who just has two people on an account.

So I can say that and kind of shout it from the rooftops, and that might be correct. That might not be correct. People could have objections to that. But the second I qualify it with some data and say, "Actually, I've run a few tests on this. We've done some surveys on this. We've looked at our NPS and satisfaction and this has increased our retention by 15 points," I'm going to have a little bit of a less objection. And that data is going to really be kind of staying power.

Amanda Kleha:
I think what we've found is it starts with executive team alignment. And so to the extent that we're going to drive a change, if we don't have the entire executive team bought into that change and driving it effectively within other parts of the organization, it has no chance for success. And so I think we try to start there and make sure that we as a group all agree on whatever changes it are that we're making, and then each of the executives in their own way is going to go drive that change throughout their part of the organization. Growth is a thing that allows you to bring more profit into your company to pay more money, to give people career opportunities, to be able to tackle new and interesting and challenging problems. The flip side of it is, yeah, it can be hard to keep up. People can get burned out. You have to learn all these things. Every time you think you've accomplished something, then it's like, "Oh, well we haven't accomplished anything yet. There's these 50 other things that we have to go do to try to drive it further."

So that part can be hard and frustrating, but if you want to recruit technology workers, it's kind of hard to have a long-term sustainable company without some notion of growth and change.

Kelly Watkins:
I think that for us, for any high growth company, every six months feels different. And just because you're in a high growth company and therefore able to deal with change doesn't mean you love it. But I think one of the things that we do well is we're really transparent with everyone on the team about everything going on in the company. So Slack has certainly helped facilitate that transparency, but it's also about the exec team wanting to share what's going on. And I think feeling like you're in the know kind of helps with change because then you don't have to wonder if you're out of the loop on something. So that's one of the things I can think of that I think our employees appreciate it.

Margaret is a marketing advisor for B2B SaaS companies. Prior to founding her consulting practice, Margaret led marketing at OpenView and content at Appcues. Before that, she spent almost 4 years building and scaling content programs for InVision’s design community. She appreciates out-of-the-box creative ideas, practical executions, and Oxford commas.

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