How To Take A Team Through Change

Team members need to be informed and educated about the reasons for making changes. This helps people to see how the changes can benefit them.

When informing, educating and communicating with the workforce, managers need to focus on the indirect and direct benefits of change. Improvements in the organisation’s profitability, sustainability and competitiveness can all benefit employees indirectly by creating greater job security as a result of, for example:

  • reduced costs
  • increased efficiency
  • new technology
  • the organisation’s improved image and reputation

The direct benefits for the workforce, such as increased motivation, career development opportunities and improved morale, can come from, for example:

  • adequate training and support before and during implementation
  • expansion of organisational opportunities
  • redesigned job descriptions

When informing and educating people, having good communication is at the heart. It can be a very complex process trying to share the right amount of information with the right people at the right time, and managers need to be aware of the needs and expectations of each team member.

Good leadership is about influencing people. Leaders are innovative and they inspire and motivate others to give their help and support to accomplish a common task, or develop new ideas. They focus on people and set new directions for a group to follow.

For example, the manager needs to:

  • discuss concerns and plans openly
  • listen to people’s comments and feedback
  • show good leadership skills – e.g. to inspire trust and commitment from the team; to ‘sell’ the new ideas to the team and the rest of the organisation
  • encourage team members to use their own leadership skills – e.g. letting them lead the group to probe deeply into ideas; delegating part of the development of new ideas or a mini project
  • offer mentoring, coaching or counselling – e.g. when people are having particular difficulties

Managers also need to facilitate and organise adequate resources to support team members and others, including:

  • human resources – e.g. recruiting new staff; retraining existing staff; changing shift patterns; arranging for agency staff to cover absences and short-term staff shortages
  • physical resources – e.g. setting up and monitoring the supply chain of materials; arranging premises; reorganising current workplace accommodation; implementing quality controls; developing H&S risk assessments for new procedures
  • finance – e.g. setting and monitoring budgets; reviewing costs

A strong sense of teamwork can be a factor when encouraging participation and involvement with action plans. Team members can have a great sense of pride from being associated with a successful and innovative team, and this might be enhanced by competitiveness between teams that inspires the individuals to try harder.

Teams can also unite if they have a strong sense of competition to outperform competitors and make sure that their organisation’s changes and innovations are put to good use.

To help bind a team or organisation together, and make them strive for new ideas and opportunities, managers can encourage team members to have, for example:

  • shared values and visions
  • a shared commitment to quality and future developments
  • clearly defined tasks or goals

Before, during and after the implementation of change, managers need to use established, open and transparent channels and procedures for:

  • sharing information and ideas
  • negotiating
  • making agreements between different interested parties

People need to feel that their views count and that they can take an active role during negotiations, and when making agreements.

Having identified the need for change, when negotiating and agreeing to different stages in the action plan, the points that need to be considered include:

  • team members’ needs and expectations
  • aligning different objectives
  • defining a sequence of steps – e.g. agreeing timescales; setting budgets; resource management
  • training and development
  • strategies to deal with likely problems and resistance
  • finance and resources to support the implementation of change
  • developing measurement systems to check progress
  • consolidation after change has been introduced

Within the organisation structure, and to support the leadership skills of the manager, there need to be processes to reward and recognise ideas and suggestions from the team. Team members and others are more likely to participate and share their ideas if:

  • they feel that they are being taken seriously
  • credit is given to the appropriate individuals and teams
  • ideas are praised, even if they are not fully used
  • they are encouraged to think of even more ideas, and to keep an eye out for other opportunities for development and improvement

People need to feel confident that their ideas will be valued. They need to feel secure and know that their careers are not at risk if they voice concerns or come up with new and innovative ideas.

Achieving an open and safe environment could include, for example:

  • a structure to channel ideas – e.g. workable ideas that come from mind-map exercises, spidergrams, lists and brainstorming at team meetings, that the manager then takes to senior management
  • suggestion boxes and incentive schemes – as an alternative route to the decision-makers
  • organisational support of open discussions – e.g. to challenge assumptions, break old thought patterns and consider new ideas
  • procedures and policies to review problems from other perspectives – e.g. customer surveys, secret shoppers, employee appraisals, social media and customer forums
  • organisational support of innovation – to encourage people to create a positive atmosphere and think of new ideas
  • allowing time for the research and development of ideas

Good Luck!

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