It’s become apparent that there are major changes happening in our local and countrywide communities. But it is a good idea for us to keep in mind that changes happen all the time. Granted, sometimes it is more obvious than others. But change is always present.

The wonderful thing about change is that while it can lead to some negative outcomes, it just as often can lead to positive outcomes, or at least a learning experience.

So, what do we need to think about when introducing change to our own teams?

It is important that you, as the owner, manager, team leader, consider the following points before introducing change to your team:

  1. Think about what you are trying to accomplish.

a. Clearly define the issues with the way things ARE and how they WILL BE when the issues are solved.

2. Think about how the change will affect you.

a. It is a nasty situation when a team leader sees a new opportunity or an opportunity to try something that seems exciting at that onset but doesn’t think about how this will affect his/her personal managerial style or methods of communication.

b. If you do not understand the solution, it is not the time to introduce it yet – even if you have an expert on board to do the work. (Particularly true with tech)

Example: You decide that there are too many emails floating around and that by your team losing them, lines of communication are lost, etc. You believe the solution is to switch to a cloud-based system where people can work collaboratively and notes/comments are auto-saved combined with a bi-weekly face to face hour meeting. It is your belief that the tracking, as well as the team communication, will be more effective this way. Are you going to be at the meeting? Have you thought through the schedule? Are you going to stop sending 1,000 emails to  your team each month? If you are not willing/able to meet the demands of the new system you have chosen, you cannot expect much success in your team doing so either.

3. Think about how the change will affect your team.

a. Don’t just concern yourself with the obvious – think about the less obvious, personal or human impact.

Example: You decide that the file room is a disaster and you’ve come to the realization that having all that paper around is detrimental to the trees, a fire hazard, and taking up space that could be used more effectively. So you decide, after much consideration, to move to a Google Drive – a cloud-based filing system. You have thought through the obvious – what needs to be moved and what can be eliminated, who is going to do the work, what expert to contract with to lead the team through the transition. But did you think about the less obvious? For example, Ruth has been with your company for 20 years. She set up the original filing system in that room. She is seeing this change as a devaluation of her work to set it up, as well as the work she has done to maintain it. Plus, she believes that this change is the first step in her limited or terminated employment with you. Now, you may have no intention of terminating Ruth. In fact, one of the benefits of the change is that you can ask Ruth to spend more time on projects that are more important to the company. But Ruth doesn’t see it that way.

So now it’s time…

You have thought through pros and cons, done your research and you are ready to introduce the change to your team. What’s the best approach? Do you have a general meeting and introduce it to everyone all at once? Do you set one person in charge, meet with him/her and have them introduce it to everyone together?

If you want a successful transition, here is what I suggest. Make up your mind that change is hard and that it is worth the time it takes to implement it successfully. Then, take the following three steps:

  1. Personally call  your management team in for lunch. It always helps ease a transition by feeding the team and bringing them on board with your decision.

a. Make sure you make it clear from the start of the meeting that you are not asking for “if” information. Since you have already decided to make this change state that clearly in order to avoid misunderstanding. Set out your goals and the basic tenants of the change.

b. State the launch date clearly and effectively. Make it clear what each of them is responsible for, who to go to with questions, and that you trust that “We can accomplish this as a team.”

c. Ask for feedback in a specific fashion. It will help if your management team feels they have support and are being heard. Also, it helps to decrease rumors or gossip if there is a positive avenue for feedback. Make sure that this avenue of communication is properly maintained. No one likes to feel that the idea they put in the suggestion box is gathering cobwebs before someone looks at it. Even if someone makes a suggestion that cannot be implemented, provide a thank you for the contribution and an explanation for why the suggestion will not be implemented.

d. Ask for the team members’ trust.

e. There will be times that the change will be difficult or communication not at it’s best. Team members need to trust that you are leading them in a positive direction for the good of the team as a whole.

2. Personally call your entire team together. If you can manage it – depending on the size of your budget and the size of your team – once again make it a lunch meeting. Super-sized subs in a break room or pizza in your small shop will suffice. Just break the ice and take the time to communicate effectively.

a. Again, make it clear that this is not a meeting to discuss “if” we are making the change. We are. Make it clear, however, that you value their contribution and input. Set out your goals and the basic tenets of the change.

3. Do not bore everyone with the details of each department where it’s not necessary – provide an overview and especially the way the change will be coming about overall.

b. State the launch date clearly and effectively. Reiterate your belief that “We can accomplish this as a team”.

c. Again ask for feedback in a specific fashion. Make sure your managers are prepared to handle feedback and static effectively.

d. Assure the team that this is a process and that each member of the team will be respected throughout the transition.

4. The fourth and perhaps most important step is to set up individual meetings to encourage the system you are transitioning to. Check in with your managers and make sure that they are checking in with their team periodically. Have a strong reporting system and an even stronger project manager who is tasked with keeping the transition on pace.

Once you have accomplished this “launch” be sure to monitor your team and make adjustments when and if you see it necessary. Never get so stuck in your original idea that when a good idea comes along you are too inflexible to consider it. And do not hesitate to ask an expert outside of your team for input, or even to help implement and manage the new process or idea. With an open mind and open communication, you and your team can go forward with No Worries!

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