Change management is a tough gig. It’s even more complex with teams because there are different ways team members can react, all of them valid. The manager’s job is to anticipate and make the change the happen for everyone in the team, not just the high performers and for those who thrive on change. It has to be involve everyone. Ideally, by the time you’re finished, the team can be the champions of change and an example for others in the organisation.
How do team members respond to change?
Basically there are four ways people can respond to change. The first is the group that thrives on change. This is the mob that’s not afraid of challenging the status quo and they like it when new products and procedures are introduced. They tend to be results-focused. Then you have the people who aren’t really bothered by it. They don’t care one way or the other and just go along with it. A lot of them are optimistic and forward-looking. The third group is made up of those who resist change. They are not against it per se, it just doesn’t come easily to them and they need time to think it through and get used to it. They’ll put up with it but they don’t want anything forced on them. And finally, there are the ones who are the most concerned about change which they fear would disrupt what’s been achieved and the processes that seem to be working okay. They tend to be the ones who are the most careful and cautious in the group. From my experience, they also tend to be the deepest thinkers in the group.
Handling the different viewpoints.
The manager has to take a proactive role here and bring team members together in regular meetings. What’s important here is to discuss why the change is necessary. It’s important to keep the tone positive and totally focused on the outcome. You can’t do it by just talking things like poor sales figures or the competitive market. It needs to be an open and honest discussion about threats and opportunities for all team members and create a shared understanding. These meetings would have to involve letting everyone raise concerns and ask questions. If they have misgivings, invite them to suggest alternative ways to implement the change. During these meetings, you have to identify all the potential issues and barriers. Resistance is usually inevitable so it’s incumbent on the manager to meet with employees individually to identify issues and concerns. These need to be addressed.
It is important to identify the key influencers and thought leaders in the team and work with them to support the change. Quite often, they are not in positions of power but they have greater ability to influence than team leaders. Create a coalition with them to drive the change forward.
These are not influencers but they are the ones who are important for the team because they have rare skills. It is important to focus on them too to bring them on board.
Now that you have everyone on board, set the metrics for measuring the success of the change. Design the metrics with the team. The more ownership they have, they more successful the change.
Change management attempts will fail unless you have an action guide that sets out what needs to be done. Use this guide for your next project and let us know how you end up.