You’ve read the literature on management skills and change team theory, and you know that putting your front-line people to work on your organization’s challenges is known to be an effective change management process. But something is happening to your change teams. Or, rather, something is NOT happening: You’re not getting any results. Why is that?
It’s possible that you are sabotaging your change teams. And it’s likely that you don’t have the first clue how. Let’s look at some of the reasons why change teams stagnate or fail.
• You know from your Abraham Maslow that elevating employees from the lower levels of the motivational pyramid stimulates productive creativity. But if you don’t see beyond that theory to the people behind it, then you’re probably not respecting your people’s talents. Listen to their ideas! And don’t make the mistake of assigning the highest-ranking person as the head of a team. In fact, don’t assign any head; if you've created a change team, let them work that out themselves. Otherwise, you’re not really letting people shine.
• Empower your team members. You can do this by making certain each person has the time in his daily schedule to investigate the problem he or she is working on. Allocate time for reading research materials. No one feels good about participating in change management if he just doesn’t have the time to do a satisfactory job.
• On the other hand, your team won’t meet very often if the meetings are scheduled only when everyone can attend. A good standard is that the team can meet if 70-80 percent of its members can attend, and they should meet every two weeks. Tell anyone who has persistent difficulty in attending to let you know; perhaps you can relieve them of duties at the time of the meeting that interfere. After all, you put that person on the change team for a reason.
• You can teach them the Plan-Do-Study-Act model, but after that your job is to sit back and let them go through the process at their own rate. Don’t discourage their lists of suggestions even if you’re looking for quick solutions.
• Ask the team members how they will know they’ve succeeded with their task. Have them identify a goal. They can identify a successful result and quantify it. For example, teachers working with delinquent youths might identify 25 percent fewer behavioral events if new teachers are oriented more successfully.
• If you see the team developing into factions, it’s time to intervene. Talk with each faction independently, and ask individuals about their feelings and suggestions. Find out if they want to work as a whole, or if their fragmentation indicates the need for subteams. Perhaps by breaking up the team, each faction will resolve specified tasks more quickly.
How About a Brainstorm?
If the team continues to make no progress, try a brainstorming session. Ask each person to identify obstacles relating to the team’s goal. Write each obstacle on a large board at the front of the room. Then, on another board, ask everyone to suggest solutions. They can suggest whatever they want, no matter how expensive or outlandish or impossible it sounds. No one can criticize anyone else’s idea. Have some fun with it!
Then each person visits the front of the room and assigns three votes to the obstacles. If someone wants to assign all three votes to one obstacle, that’s acceptable. Everyone also has three votes to cast on the suggested solutions. When your votes are in, you have the three top obstacles and the three most popular solutions.
Ideas Will Happen!
Ideal change management processes result in quick ideas that you put into action, which can be evaluated for effectiveness and revamped as necessary. Once you’ve assembled an eclectic assortment of people at all levels of operations, you will see that happen as long as you respect both the people and the theory.