Leading Change: How to prepare your team for change

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

How to prepare your team for change – what are the common challenges/issues that your team will encounter and how can they get beyond them

I am preparing to work with a couple of teams that are facing a year full of challenging and some very risky changes. Here are some the key things I am going to say to them to get them thinking.

Let your team know what’s going on. May sound obvious, but it is amazing how often people below the top level are out of the loop. Those folks need to feel the same sense of urgency that you do. If things are keeping you awake at night, they need to feel that restlessness as well.

Assess how good you really are at change. Take a look at how well you’ve led and managed changes in the past. Many organizations don’t debrief how major projects worked. No sports team would go into the next game without looking at what was working for them and what was not. If you want to keep the debrief simple (and simple is far better than a lengthy report with lots of slides that no one will read), try this tried-and-true framework. What worked? What didn’t? What needs to be changed next time? And make it a conversation, not a report. Too many places to hide in a report.

Give people a common language for change. There are many good frameworks for leading change out there. If you’ve got one you like – use it. Don’t go looking for something new. But if you are searching for a way to talk about change, then consider my Change without Migraines™ approach. I suggest you start with the free e-book, Introduction to Change without Migraines™.

Engage your team in thinking. Let them help create the direction and the plans for the changes. Don’t wait to pull them in. Recently I was working with an organization that was trying unsuccessfully to implement major enterprise resource planning (ERP). Trouble was, this new ERP system felt like a missive from corporate. Some had no idea why this was critical. And many questioned why senior leaders expected ERP to work this time. And they bristled knowing that they were expected to salute and go along. Avoid all that hassle, and let people be part of the process. I have friends who routinely conduct active hands-on planning meetings for 300 to 500 people, who are all in the same room at the same time.

Be sloppy. Getting people involved and engaged won’t be tidy. it will be difficult to predict how long a portion of a meeting should last. You can never tell how much enthusiasm — or revulsion – people will have. Planning  meetings that ask people to sit quietly and watch endless slides presented by an endless array of speakers is not involvement. I’m rusty on this, but I think those death by PowerPoint meetings may have been in Dante’s sixth circle of hell. . . And if people are engaged they will let you know what’s needed next.

I welcome your comments and additions. Good luck with major change this year.

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