Posts Tagged change management
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
– Henry Ford, US industrialist and pioneer of the assembly-line production method (1863-1947)
Tuckman’s generic model of group development (proposed in 1965) suggests that, for a team to grow from a group of individuals to a performing team, 4 stages are necessary and inevitable: forming, storming, norming and performing. An ultimate phase (added in 1977), adjourning, closes the team development cycle. Being able to identify the current maturity stage of your teams will help you to deploy the relevant approach and strategies to develop them to the next stage till they reach a maximal performance level.
Based on his research into the theory of group dynamics, Bruce Tuckman has proposed a model of group development that asserts that, for a team to grow, to handle and solve issues and to perform optimally, it will go through 4 stages called Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing. Following this last stage of high team maturity, it is very probable that the surrounding environment will bring new challenges requiring to transform the structure in place. The team development cycle will then be closed by an ultimate stage called Adjourning and a new cycle can start in order to build the new team that can tackle those changes.
Obviously, as a leader, it is your responsibility:
to understand in which stage your team operates,
to design the relevant strategies to develop your team till the Performing stage,
to follow-up on the execution of those strategies (including working on the necessary adjustments when and where required).
In the following paragraphs, you will find a description for each stage of the Tuckman’s model and, more importantly, a list of recommendations to help you manage your team within each stage. It is also strongly suggested to couple those recommendations with the use of the PDCA method in order to prevent from getting stuck at a given development stage, thanks to continuous incremental improvement efforts.
- Forming stage
- In this first stage, the team is brought together. At that stage the team is more to be seen as a group of individuals than a real team.
- Each individual will look at understanding his new environment (role, mission, challenges…) and will spend time getting to know his colleagues, avoiding conflict and building new relationships.
- Because the relationship between each team members is usually not yet established at this stage (unless some employees were already working together previously), everybody will strive doing his best to achieve the tasks at hands in an independent manner.
- As a pre-requisite to the team constitution, the manager in charge of building the team must of course be clear on the goals for his team, the role it will play in the overall department mission and/or company strategy. In other words why is the team being built in a first place and what is it expected to achieve?
- Then, the manager will have to be able to assess the progress of his newly-created team and identify how it performs against the objectives: this requires the definition of relevant metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that will serve as a dashboard. The manager must keep in mind that KPIs are only a tool to measure the progress; it cannot replace himself as the “pilot” in charge of the team and KPIs cannot be considered as objectives as such but are only a measure of the success in accomplishing the mission.
- In parallel to a clear mission statement and metrics, the manager must reflect on the values and attitudes that he wants to promote within the team (encompassing but not limited to the corporate values, if existing). Which behaviours will be supported in the team and what are the ones to be banned?
- On top of the above points, developing a common culture within the team will also require the manager to think about the “language” to use (vocabulary specific to the team / job /product), as well as the supporting practices and structure required to achieve the goals.
- Ideally, the recruitment of talents for the team should not start before the manager has a precise idea of the above points. Moreover, once the team is formed, establishing a Team Charter summarizing the above points and sharing it with the team members is a possible means to set initial expectations. Running frequent team meetings is also key to set the right direction from the beginning.
- The Forming stage is also the phase when the manager should spend quality time with each team member to understand who they are, to identify what makes them ticking, to see how they react to various situations and how they start interacting with their colleagues, peers, customers, providers… Getting to know personally each team member will help design appropriate individual objectives and team goals. It will also be of a great support during the Storming phase to adjust the leadership styles depending on the employee.
- A “leader control” leadership style is usually more appropriate for this discovery stage. It is though important to give space to employees to know each other and to voice their first concerns if any.
- Storming stage
- In a second phase, once the team members have got accustomed to their new manager, colleagues and work, the popping challenges or issues faced by the team will bring competing ideas or views on how to tackle them. In other words, every team member will try to position himself in the team, sometimes creating conflicts or raising divergences on how to handle the various situations at stake (from interaction and team rules definition, to management style expectation or also methods and practices to use by the team).
- Team members will confront their ideas and opinions, using the relationships they have built in the Forming phase. This confrontation can be painful, especially for conflict-averse people, and even destructive for the team if not handled carefully by the manager in charge.
- In the same way, this phase may come as a large source of stress for the manager in charge.
- If not properly handled by the manager, the team may never leave this stage…
- Although a “Leader control” leadership style is more appropriate in this phase in order to keep things under control, the manager should also encourage the exchange of ideas in a constructive manner, arbitrating objectively each situation and focusing on what is required to be achieved by the team. Prohibited behaviours as defined in the Forming phase must be quickly reprimanded if surging.
- Respect of the diversity in opinions and tolerance between team members is what will help the manager to get the best suggestions on the way to move forward while supporting the creation of the necessary bound within the team. For that purpose, the manager should focus on creating relevant team objectives that will foster collaboration (goals that require the unique knowledge and expertise of each single team members to be achieved), identifying possible quick wins.
- In the same way, progress on the individuals objectives should be closely followed up through one-on-one meetings and goals should be adjusted to support both the employee’s personal development and the team’s one.
- As an example, having the individual team members working as a team on the revision of the Team Charter to improve it based on the first observations is an activity that can help fostering a greater team spirit when well-controlled by the manager. A consultative decision-making style works the best for this type of team member synchronization exercise.
- Norming stage
- If well handled, the result of a constructive Storming phase should naturally bring the team to a state where each team member is clear on their accountabilities, working methods, and way of interacting with each other.
- The culture of the team has normally been embodied and the team members as well as their managers are fully synchronized, working in the same direction and focusing on delivering on the team objectives.
- At that stage, the manager of the team should put some more efforts on developing further every single employee through personalized plan.
- Because the team is more mature, the manager can adopt an “employee control” leadership style, giving more space for the employees to improve the team further by themselves. For that purpose, the decision-making process within the team can progressively move toward a majority vote or consensus approach for organization-related matters.
- Nonetheless, because the team is perfectly synchronized, the risk is to see the development of an over-consensus attitude aiming at keeping harmony at any price. Therefore, in this phase, the manager must still stimulate healthy debates and exchange of opinions (even if divergent) so that action plans to develop the team further can be created. Without that, the Performing stage may never be reached. Similarly too much uncertainty or poorly controlled conflicts during the Norming phase (for example due to high pressure conditions) may bring the team back in Storming…
- Performing stage
- The team has reached the ultimate stage of maturity (actually very few teams will reach that stage); it can run independently with minimum supervision or input from the manager. Team members are fully competent and know perfectly how to handle routine; they can also tackle unexpected situations falling in the scope of the team responsibility.
- As an image of a performing team, let’s get a refresh of what is a professional team handling a pit stop in Formula 1.
- The last duty for the manager in charge of the team will be to prepare for the future… If he is promoted thanks to his success in developing the team up to its highest maturity stage, it is then his responsibility to find the best successor and help the transition. If he stays as the head of the team, he needs to anticipate what may come and disrupt the current equilibrium (new technology, new mission, new product, new business landscape, new management…)
- In both cases (a new manager or a disruptive context), the team will go through its last stage, adjourning, because the new conditions or environment will call for a revised structure starting again a new team development cycle at the Forming stage…
- exercise 1: Look at the various teams and departments within your company; in which stage of the Tuckman’s model are they now?
- exercise 2: When you had started in your current role, in which development stage of the Tuckman’s model was your team operating? In which phase is it now? Which actions have you taken to navigate the team from one stage to the other?
- exercise 3: Considering your current team, which further actions can you take to lead them to the Performing stage? In case your team has already reached the Performing stage, how are you preparing the future?
By considering the Tuckman’s model that divides the team development cycle in 5 stages: Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing – Adjourning and by identifying in which stage his team operates, the manager in charge can better define the type of strategy that is required to develop his team up to the highest level of maturity, synonym of high performance. While being clear on the objectives, values and KPIs during the norming stage, the manager needs to set the foundation to handle the difficult storming phase. Adapting to each individuals, promoting tolerance and open, constructive exchange of opinions while showing the direction as a leader should then allow the manager to move his team from the storming stage to the norming one. Having then all team members working aligned with the team mission should not prevent the manager to set higher expectations and identify areas of improvement to reach the performing stage. All team members have obviously an active role to play in moving the team to this high maturity stage. Finally, because most businesses and organizations are by nature volatile, subject to external moving conditions as well as internal change factors, the team will very probably need adjustment; it will be adjourned letting place to the creation of a new structure that will start a new cycle at the forming stage…
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
– Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known under his pen name Mark Twain, American author and humorist (1835-1910)
As part of the famous “Kaizen” (改善) practices introduced to Japan post World War II to help the country reconstruction, Deming advised among others a simple technique, the Shewhart cycle, more commonly called the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, in order to improve company processes in manufacturing, engineering and business management. Since then, the PDCA cycle (also called the Deming Wheel) has frequently been used as a management best practice to support the continuous improvement of systems and organizations. This post summarizes some recommendations for each phase of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): Continuous Improvement: the Deming Wheel (PDCA)
Because the performance of the companies we work for is highly dependent on the quality of their underlying systems (understand “system” here in its broad meaning of a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole, from a production chain to a sales process, an organization structure or a business strategy), changing those for the better becomes an obvious objective for any business leader.
Before initiating any PDCA cycle, there is a very first important step, sometimes referred as the “Observation” phase, which simply consists in identifying what already rolls with very little waste or friction in your organization, from what partially runs but could be optimized further, from what does not work at all. Beyond performing your own study or referring to external auditors for this phase, and because improving a system for a better performance should be everyone’s responsibility, at all level of the organization, the best place to start is often with your direct teams, peers, providers and customers. Here are two simple methods to engage your teams in such a discussion:
Run a risk exercise with your teams: ask each of your team member to list the three main risks that they may think of for the team / department / company by answering specifically to the four points below.
- What is the fact or else the specific condition at the origin of the risks?
- What are the consequences from this fact or conditions?
- What is the impact for the team / department / company
- What are the possible risk mitigation plans? (Usually, the more specific the answers to the first three questions are, the easier it is to identify mitigation action plans)
Here is a concrete example of risk exercise:
1. Fact or specific condition: the weekend support activities initiated 4 weeks ago for the release X are prepared individually by each implementation engineer on a customer-by-customer basis, without minimum notification timeframe being requested to the client.
- in the past 4 weeks, 5 change tasks lists out of 6 regarding Release X were prepared last minute (with less than 48h notice) and were not consistent across the team (4 different task lists out of 6), making it more complex and time-consuming for the four-eye check by the Service Desk,
- in total, 8 employees came on the weekend for those 6 changes in the past 4 weeks where it could have been performed by 5 engineers through scripting,
- 1 employee has been identified at risk because of too many weekend work activities.
3. Impact: high risk of operation mishandling implying potential reputational impact and client business loss and increased cost for weekend support and four-eye check, staff turnover due to repeated weekend activities
4. possible mitigation plan: implement a process of weekend work validation at the team level, involving senior staff and Service Desk to identify common framework and intervention and possible scripting activities
Ask each of your staff what they think they should start / keep / stop doing, why and how? In order to get to the bottom of your staff comments and answers, make sure to ask probing questions.
Moreover, while grasping the current situation of your company and listing the priority of what you want to improve first, make sure to understand as well the interdependency between each system you analyze: you may find some simple systems with very little interactions with other parts of your company but you may also discover complex core systems, systems of systems involving various subsystems and that are highly entrenched at all level of your organization. In the latter case, keep the following two basic points in mind:
- “Great” must not be the enemy of “Good”. If you tend to be perfectionist and face a complex system to improve, you may not be in a position to find the direct final perfect answer! And even if you do so, you may face difficulties in identifying where to start. Don’t freeze there… Even very complex systems can usually be divided in smaller subsystems; breakdown your issue in smaller problems that you can more easily grasp and tackle. The PDCA cycle is also thought to run iteratively to improve on the long run, in a continuous manner. Go for some small incremental steps and several iterations of the cycle to ease the approach of large complex systems. You will then become “Good” to become later “Great”! It will also give you the flexibility to modify your approach if needs be.
- “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer, poet, and pioneering aviator (1900 – 1944)
Following this first observation phase, you and your team now know what you want to improve and are all together ready to push the Deming Wheel on the Kaizen road, rolling through the four following phases: Plan, Do, Check and Act.
- Plan: Regular Project Management best practices can easily apply here. In a nutshell, our recommendation is to “go slow to go fast”! The more you prepare your project execution upfront, the less risk you have to fail and engage in expensive corrective actions in the “Act” phase. You will find below a non-exhaustive list of items you may want to check to help preparing your plan.
- write a simple one-liner mission statement that you can share easily
- specify clearly and precisely the desired outcome and related deliverables
- define the metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Measure of Success (MoS)
- identify a unique project owner, the project team, the related stakeholders and a potential sponsor
- precise the project milestones, beginning, end and dependencies
- list the required resources and means to ensure project completion (resource, technology, training…)
- in case of structural or organizational change, anticipate and remove resistance by ensuring project buy-in (through proper communication plan, proposing a pilot step, identification of quick wins…)
- Do: the success of your system improvement will rely as much on your planning as on the rigor of your execution. The key word here is to make sure that accountability around the various project tasks and activities is clearly defined.
- look at your task breakdown and ensure a single person is accountable for the execution, reporting to the project owner
- have the project owner running regular progress update review, asking for binary answer on the task execution for high-level progress overview (Is the task closed or open? If not closed, is it started?)
- update your sponsor and stakeholders on the project progress (and faced challenges) and seek for feedback in order to confirm the direction (especially in volatile project environment), share the feedbacks with the project team and explore blocking issues for alternative solutions
- communicate project updates accordingly to remove further resistance to change
- Check: This analysis phase consists in studying the obtained result. Have the goals and objectives been met? If not why? What are the root causes? This phase usually encompasses the below activities.
- compare obtained results and project outputs against the initial specifications and project MoS defined in the “Plan” phase to evaluate the project performance
- identify deviation from the plan, success and failures and their related root cause (the 5-Why technique can be used here to help getting to the root cause of an item in parallel to asking penetrating questions)
- run the lessons learned from the “Plan” and “Do” phases making sure to highlight possible improvement areas for future cycle iterations
- Act: Based on the outputs of the “Check” phase, you should be able to easily identify what to adjust in order to get closer to the expect results defined in the “Plan” phase and to deduct the related possible corrective actions. You are then ready to start a new iteration of the PDCA cycle. But before that, also make sure to close this cycle by communicating your achievements to your sponsor, stakeholders and any other parties involved in this project as well as by providing the project team with feedbacks on their performance and by describing the next expected steps for the coming cycle (whether the same team will get involved or not in the next cycle).
- exercise 1: Run the risk exercise described in the “Observation” phase by yourself. Then run it as well with your direct reports. Are they common items raised by yourself and by your staff? Which priority would you set for each of the risk (High/Medium/Low)?
- exercise 2: Run the “start/keep/stop doing” exercise described in the “Observation” phase by yourself and then with your direct reports. Answer the same questions as the ones from exercise 1.
- exercise 3: Pick one high priority item from exercise 1 or exercise 2 and prepare on paper the “Plan” phase of the PDCA cycle. Which difficulties have you encountered? How would you overcome those difficulties, should you start the PDCA cycle in reality?
In order to improve the performance of a company, it is a common practice to improve its underlying structure, processes and other system components using a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) approach. Once areas of improvement have been selected and prioritized through a preliminary “Observation” phase, the PDCA technique (also known as Deming Wheel) promotes a continuous improvement approach by running iteratively through a 4-stage cycle. First, The “Plan” phase of the cycle allows to define precise goals and measures of success while requiring as well to bring all risks and dependencies upfront for a greater efficiency in execution. Then, the “Do” phase is the place for project execution, reinforced by clearly defined ownership and accountability for each activity. The “Check” phase is the time of analysis, focusing on analyzing the difference between the obtained results and the initial objectives as well as the related root cause. Finally, the “Act” phase proposes to define the corrective actions and possible adjustments based on the “Check” phase outputs and closes the cycle while preparing for the next cycle iteration. Embedding this very simple PDCA method in your company practises will help to initiate the virtuous circle of continuous improvement through small, tangible, incremental steps, leading to enhanced performance with each single iteration.
Last Revision: 2015 March 28
“十人十色” (juu nin to iro) literally means “ten persons, ten colors” in Japanese or in other words “several men, several minds”
– Japanese proverb
How to sustain your team performance and company competitive edge in a fast-pace changing environment (propelled by technology innovations and globalization)? The secret simply resides in making sure that you on-board the right staff! But how do you define the “right staff”? You will learn in this post how to focus on three key components: the competency, the direction (read here motivation and company culture fit) and the diversity of your team members.
Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): 3 attributes to sustain team performance
Getting started by playing in the “Shape” industry…
Welcome to the “shape” industry!
The “shape” business is nothing fancy: the clients simply expect their providers to deliver in the shortest delay the largest possible monochromatic shape matching their order. For the past decade, the client demand has principally been for Square shapes with a few recent exceptions of requests for Rectangle shapes.
Let’s now have a look to four small-size companies competing in this “Shape” industry. Each company employs an equal number of staff, 7, represented in the figure below based on the following coding rule:
- the form of the staff represents its skill set / background / competency in producing a certain shape,
- the size of the staff shows its level of expertise for the given skill set / background / competency; in other words, the larger , the more expert the staff is,
- the color of the shape indicates the staff “direction” where “direction” is defined by the combination of the staff motivation and its fit to the company culture and values.
All four companies have put emphasis of developing a culture of cooperation and collaboration among their staff to maximize their opportunities of winning deals: the more the staff members associate their competency and expertise by cooperating together the larger the shape they can create.
Now that the four competitors and their teams have been introduced, back to business!
A first prospect, pretty traditional, approaches our four companies and requires for a Square shape. Keep in mind: not only time is of an essence to win the deal, but the shape has to be as large as possible and unicolored.
Between Company A, B , C and D, which one is the best positioned to win the deal? Put another way, which company will be able to leverage its staff competency and expertise to come with the largest possible unicolor square in the shortest delays? How fast was each company to answer the request for quote from the prospect? How big is the proposed shape for each company?
While Company A and D can very quickly deliver a unicolor square shape thanks to the competency and expertise of one of their team members only, obviously they will not be in a position to compete with Company C who can easily involve all his team members to create promptly a very large square… What about Company B? It took to the team leader and his members many discussions and debates to come up with a large square shape, but they have finally made it. Too late though, Company C had already won the deal!
A second prospect, attracted by the new trend in the “shape” product suite, is looking for a monochromatic Rectangle shape.
Well… Here again, competitive advantage goes to Company C who can quickly mobilize all his staff to provide a large rectangle shape. Company B is not too far behind though in preparing a sizeable rectangle shape. Company A and D had some unicolor rectangle proposals as well, but, unfortunately for them, nothing to compare with Company B and C in terms of size!
A third prospect already knocks at the door. The request is again for a classical Square shape. This time, capitalizing on the first prospect experience, Company B was able to deliver a Square shape in the same timeframe and size range as Company C. Up to the customer to finalize which company to pick based on other criteria (Sales experience, company reputation, add-on services, pricing…)! Unfortunately, Company A and D remain unable to provide larger square shapes and were not even invited to the request for quote process.
After many other regular orders for square shapes (and a few other demands for rectangles), the “shape” industry sees its landscape transforming… Inspired by a generation that is looking for new shapes that would better fit the world they live in, an avantgarde customer suddenly requires a Triangle shape! Soon after, another order comes in for a Trapezoid shape while another prospect would like a rhombus…
Going back to the same question: between Company A, B , C and D, which one is the best positioned to quickly offer those unicolor shapes in a large format without putting any specific extra-investment?
Obviously, only Company B can easily answer those emerging needs by leveraging the diversity of background, competencies and expertise of its staff through proper collaboration of the various team members. This took initially a bit of time and passionate discussions to answer these new requests but here is the result!
Although one can easily argues that this illustration over simplifies the much more complex reality of a company and its environment, which conclusions can we draw here?
- If one or several of your team members do not possess the right competencies and expertise required to perform in your industry, your competitive advantage will drop without any doubt. (Look at Company A with experts in “Circle” shapes who can simply not perform in a business focusing on “straight-line” and “hard-angled” shapes)
- Formatted staff in terms of skill set, expertise and view points (like in Company C) will allow you to solve efficiently recurring identified challenges with minimum adaptation of your management style. Nonetheless, in front of unexpected requests or issues, you will very probably end-up clueless and lose your competitive edge, unless you invest extra-effort in rebuilding your teams.
- Comparing Company B to Company C results, it appears that only a diversity of profiles (experience, skills, background, opinion and ideas) within your team will give you the breadth and depth to both answer a standard business and tackle successfully upcoming challenges or emerging needs of your business at the same time (as long as they work in the same direction). No need to write that coming with new ideas and answering the new challenges involved heated discussions and passionate debates among the various team members of Company B… The ability to leverage each team members talent efficiently requires here a flexibility in your management style.
- Experience from Company D clearly reveals that, regardless of how skilled and talented your staff is, if its direction (motivation and behavior) does not converge with your company mission and culture, then your ability to execute and deliver on your business challenges will be strongly hurt. This is true even for one staff walking in the wrong direction. Look at the blue triangle staff: he is not motivated in his role or his motivation does not match any more with the company goals; he is not interested in working with his peers in providing the largest possible unicolor shape. Consider as well the red triangle staff: he has valuable skills and deep domain expertise but he is not willing to collaborate with his peers although it is a behavior largely encouraged by his company as a key value for success… Both will diminish the Company D ability to tackle new opportunities.
From theoretical lessons learned to a field application.
Unless your industry and market are completely static (find me one!), you need to focus your energy on building your teams in a way that will allow them to cope efficiently with any upcoming challenges; this is a key matter if you want to maximize your chance of success and sustain your performance on the long run.
Our recommendations and experiences here are :
Step 1: Identify
- Identify and express clearly your company mission, purpose, culture and values. In your team/department/company, which behaviors are to promote and which ones are to ban, for which goals?
- Identify the must-have and nice-to-have skills and competencies required in each role for a maximum performance.
- Identify for each of your staff if its skills match the ones expected for the role and, more importantly, if its direction converges or diverges from the company one.
Step 2: Adjust and/or filter out
- Focus first on your staff with a diverging direction, regardless of their expertise. Is it a simple punctual problem of motivation that makes them diverging? Or is it a deeper ongoing problem of motivation? In that case, you will need to assess directly the situation with the concerned staff and agree on an action plan to restore motivation. If no action plan looks possible, it is best to terminate the employee at that stage before this motivation issue leads to underperformance and potentially contaminates other team members. Or else is it a problem of fitting to the company culture and its promoted values (eg not being able to participate to constructive debates by highlighting one own’s ideas and point of view in a company defending values of staff discussion for problem-solving) ? If so, you will need here an open and honest discussion with your staff. In case of incompatibility with your company culture, it is then recommended to terminate the working relationship with your employee as soon as possible.
- Then focus on your converging team members with limited or insufficient proficiency. Assess the ability to learn in the expected area of expertise and to develop the necessary skills at a sufficient level to perform in their jobs. Build and agree on appropriate development plans (training, coaching, mentoring…) and follow-up through SMARTER goals.
- Do not forget to review the situation with your best performers as well, the ones aligned in terms of direction and with adequate competencies and expertise, in order to identify where and how to grow them further and to keep their motivation as high as possible.
Step 3: on-board and support diversity
- Now focus on the new staff you want to on-board within your team (be it through internal mobility or external recruitment). Take with you the information from step 1 on your company environment and promoted behaviors as well as the missing and required skills for your team.
- Source your candidate from the broadest possible range of sources and try to ensure a maximum variety in the candidate profile (gender, age, citizenship, past experience, education, culture…) with the expected skill set.
- During the screening process, remove any personal information to avoid being influenced by non-relevant details or other stereotype/association bias.
- During the interview process, of course, evaluate and confirm the competencies, skills and experience of the candidate, but spend even more time in qualifying whether the work behaviors and attitudes of the candidate would match your company culture, assess thoroughly the true motivation of the candidate to take-up a new role in company. Take time to explain how your company works and what its values are and check for the candidate’s specific feedback.
Step 4: Explore and Protect diversity
- Spend quality time with every new joiner and ask them for their candid feedbacks about your organization (process, methods…). What has surprised or shocked them when they had joined? What could be improved? What is working very well from their view? New joiners wear “external glasses” till their integration is over; you may learn a lot from them during this initial phase.
- Support constructive discussions within your teams and accept to be challenged as well as challenge your team members on status quo. Welcome disagreement on view points and conflicts as long as conclusions are drawn on how to move forward and final decisions are respected by all team members. Foster a culture where debates are encouraged as an healthy activity to progress and improve the company competitiveness and performance.
- When facing a challenge, solving a problem, changing a process, revamping your organization or working on any other important matter impacting your staff, be clear on the decision making process that you will adopt. Highlight what will be negotiable and what is not, explain how the final decision will be made (by majority vote within the team, by consensus between the team members, by the manager based on the team inputs, by the upper management…) and precise the expected involvement of your staff in this decision making process. When debating an important topic with your team, be the last one to give your opinion not to influence your team members in the expression of their own ideas.
- Make sure to keep the same spirit of open discussions within your team over time by adapting your management approach and leadership style to the individual and situation and by reassessing the situation on a regular basis starting from step 1…
- exercise 1: Answer the following questions in order to prepare your next open position.
- Are there any missing competencies or knowhow in your current team? Are there any profiles already over represented in the team? What are then the mandatory competencies, skills, experiences and background required for the position? What are the optional ones? Which trade-off are you ready to do in case of competing profiles?
- What are your company culture, values and missions? Which behaviors are encouraged and supported? Which ones are prohibited? How will you assess whether your candidate embraces those values as well?
- exercise 2:
- Assess your existing team members competency, motivation and company culture fit by positioning them in a similar matrix than the one displayed below
- Which actions and next steps will you take for each one of your staff? By who will you start?
- exercise 3: Think of the last unknown large issue faced by your team.
- Who was involved in finding the solution?
- Which decision-making process did you follow?
- Was the process communicated to your team members?
- Were you satisfied with the end result?
- What would you do differently next time?
In a constantly transforming environment, the management team has the key responsibility to build teams that will allow their companies to navigate those changes in a minimum of time and with a minimum of extra-investment. This requires to look closely at each staff to assess and validate three parameters: first, the staff competencies must be in adequacy with the role. Then, and more importantly than skills, the staff motivation must point to the same direction as the company goals and their attitudes at work must match the behaviors and values promoted by their company. And finally, the diversity of the team members must be capitalized on and protected against any ideological dictatorship. As a summary note, let’s quote an extract of “Good to Great” from Jim Collins: “The old adage “People are your most important asset” is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
Last Revision: 2015 March 28
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
– André Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947 (1869-1951)
Our societies constantly change, technology evolves at a fast pace, the market landscape our companies are engaged in undoubtedly transforms… In order to stay competitive, profit-driven companies have to adapt as well and dynamically adjust to their environment (market, competition…), implying sometimes some drastic changes in terms of organization and culture. Managers have then the difficult duty to support their teams navigating those changes, removing as much as possible the staff resistance in order to speed up the transformation for the better (assuming executive management take wise structural decisions for their companies and staff).
Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): Reduce Resistance to Organizational Change
Even for the better, changing often means getting out of the routine, sometimes getting out of a comfort zone and adapting to a new environment, a new context, a new way of doing things, which obviously requires a minimum of flexibility to the person experiencing the change.
In 2002, Miller and Rollnick, professor of clinical psychology, attributes the resistance to change to four possible reasons:
- the lack of vision regarding the negative consequences of not changing: it is key to understand and to share openly the short/mid/long terms impacts of not changing to raise the staff awareness of the potential risks for the company and themselves of staying static (eg loss of market share implying lay-out…)
- the personal interest in not changing: because, by definition, changing is synonym of letting things go and in parallel taking new things up, this may result in a motivation gap or even in a personal image discrepancy for the concerned staff (what I’m now asked to do is no longer what I identify myself to, what I’m proud of…). Those gaps must be identified and worked on in order to help the employees to transit smoothly to their new responsibilities.
- the lack of vision about the benefit of changing: if the staff cannot get a clear representation of the benefit of changing, they will obviously be more reluctant to change. Why learning new methods or changing habits, colleagues, roles if one cannot imagine the expected added value? It is there important to help the employees to identify to the new structure by stating clearly the expected positive outputs of the change.
- the adequacy between the change hurdles and obstacles and the available resources for changing: even though one may fully understand what calls for a change, one may feel not capable to go through it. In other words, one needs to understand the expected difficulties while changing and at the same time one must be convinced of having enough resources (knowledge, time, support…) to overcome those challenges.
What does it teach to managers undergoing structural or organizational changes?
- communicating clearly and repeatedly to the team at every stage of the change on the four points above is crucial. Your staff must embody the reason motivating the change to adhere to the decision and to act pro-actively. Also make sure to communicate the metrics based on which the success of the change will be evaluated.
- communicating at the individual level is also strongly required. Concerns and reactions to change obviously differ from one person to the other: some may see opportunities to grow whereas other may consider it as a threat to their stability. Ask penetrating questions to understand what is at stake for each one of your employees and help them to formulate answers to the four questions. In other words, make sure to answer the question “so what?” for your staff: you need to make clear what the change will personally bring to the person experiencing it and also what it means for them / the team / the department / the company. You may look for the support of a “neutral” participant like the Human Resources team, an external consultant, another team leader not directly involved in the change in order to help identifying the difficulties for each individual and to help conveying your message through.
- not only you should over-communicate but it is also key to engage directly your peers, managers and teams by asking to share their concerns and ideas around the four points. Ask them for suggestions to help going through the change for themselves and the team, highlighting as well the interdependencies related to the change within the company and informing the other teams of the possible consequences.
- make sure to identify “quick wins” while implementing your change and act on those ones first. Then work on your “core wins” that you can identify using a simple Pareto distribution. Celebrate success in reaching your critical milestones. Keep in mind that there is nothing better than success in getting a change accepted…
- if further adjustments are required while undergoing the change, be honest and communicate around those, always focusing on the four points above and the related “so what” for your staff.
- exercise 1: in order to understand the possible resistance to change of your staff, ask the following questions and facilitate the thinking process by reformulating the answers.
- What are the short-term and mid-term benefits that you can expect from this change?
- Which drawbacks do you foresee in going through this change? According to you, how can they be attenuated or removed?
- In a short- and mid-term perspective, what are the benefits of not changing?
- What are the risks of not changing?
- From your point of view, do you feel capable undergoing this change or do you miss anything to support the transition?
- exercise 2: identify your “quick wins”. When undergoing a structural change, place your expected deliverables and outputs on a matrix distributed between the effort required (time, resource, money…) -classified in high/medium/low- and the expected impact to the organization -classified in high/medium/low-. Your “quick wins” are obviously the ones located in the quadrant “low effort” / “high impact” of your matrix.
In order to be the least disruptive possible and to maximize the staff commitment, structural and organizational changes need to be thoroughly worked on at both the individual and team levels by the manager in charge. First, answers to the four core questions: “negative consequence of not changing”, “interest in not changing”, “benefit of changing”, “adequate resource to support the change” must be clearly identified. Then, it is crucial to repeatedly communicate on those answers when undergoing the change, while fostering creative, collective thinking to overcome hurdles arising from the transition. Success of the change will equally depend on the manager’s discipline to lead it as on the staff buy-in and pro-active engagement to execute it…
Last Revision: 2015 March 28