How to prepare your team for change

By Dr Allison Carter, CA Today

9 January 2010

Research highlights effective collective coping strategies

A couple of thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “The only thing that is constant is change.”

He thought of change as being central to the universe, and his words still ring true when looking at today’s workplaces.

With organisations in constant flux, the need to adapt and operate with agility and responsiveness to change has never been greater.

Previous change studies have focused on individuals and organisations. Teams, which most often underpin organisational capability, have been left out in the cold.

The Institute for Employment Studies, with The Henley Forum of Henley Business School, has conducted significant research into this understudied workforce area.

In our research, 228 people from nine teams within five large organisations spanning four countries provided us with survey responses, and we found that some teams see themselves as more “change-ready” and “change-capable” than others.

What those teams do for themselves is a powerful enabler: change-capable teams are proactive in co-creating conditions to implement change locally.

Here’s a checklist to make sure your team is ready and capable to embrace change:

  • Create a sense of community: Helping team members feel connected means they feel part of the process.
  • Develop a safe, trusting team climate: Reassure staff that their views and concerns will be heard and issues discussed openly. This helps people feel they have some influence over the way change happens locally.
  • Be mindful of each other: Pay attention to what’s changing day to day. Tackle problems before they become disasters. Continuously look out for others in case someone struggles.
  • Develop team self-confidence: A positive belief in self-management ability helps people cope and feel resilient.
  • Learn how change works: It’s common sense but understanding the mechanics of change makes it easier to cope with the process of change.
  • Constant learning: Create opportunities to share learning, even when under pressure.
  • Reflect on previous experience: Invaluable lessons can spring from positive change experiences – or mistakes.

Heraclitus may have identified the power of change – but it takes a thoughtful leader to make sure that everyone is ready for it. And that’s where research, analysis and consultancy play a key role.


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