Managing Change

We’ve had a major organization structure change at our company this past week. Change is a scary word for people at work. The mere mention of organizational change creates anxiety in people. Will I be getting a new boss? New responsibilities? Have the company’s expectations of me changed?

There are over 14,000 books on Amazon written about the complex subject of organizational change. I’ll skip the “cheesy” prognoses from some of the best-sellers, and share three of biggest problems I am learning about.

Problem #1: Lost focus. Big changes are typically preceded by an extended period of planning. Call it the calm before the storm, but in business calm means complacency. While managers plan, who watches the hen-house?

It took us months to plan for the change to a matrix org structure. With the planning stages behind us, I’m finding that my team has lost focus.

I’m going to try: It’s time to refocus on standards and accountability. Specifically, my managers and I need to communicate standards for performance, remind associates what they are accountable for and show that we’re watching.

Problem #2: Understanding the change. I keep picturing a little boy sitting in a field tormenting butterflies on a hot summer day. The boy snatches one from its flight path, shakes it up in his hands, tosses it back into the air, and then laughs as it tries to find its way again. I think my management team is like a bunch of shaken butterflies trying to remember how to get back on track. But maybe we’re the cruel little boy, shaking up the associates and disrupting their ability to do what they do best – create happy customers.

They say repetition is the mother of all learning. It’s important that we talk our way through the change as a team. I think people understand new concepts by talking about them, sometimes over and over again.

I’m going to try: Each direction, especially ones that include change, needs to be clarified and communicated in a number of ways. The most effective directions have two parts: a description of the direction and an explanation of why it needs to get done. We need to communicate what the change means for the associates quickly so we can all get back to doing excellent work.

Problem #3: Where to start –– relationships or results? So you have a new assignment or a new team to manage. If you’re like most managers I’ve interviewed, your plan for first thirty days is to “meet the people.” I understand the logic behind this, but practically speaking will your company stop doing business while you go on this public relations tour? Neither will mine.

I find the struggle to achieve the perfect balance between results and relationships the most difficult aspect of management.

I’m going to try: The new manager PR tour needs to happen to some degree, but we can work on executing while shaking the hands of our new reports. Over the past week I’ve spent time getting to know my team AND spent time reviewing performance and goal setting with them.

Change can be scary, but our job is to manage the bumpy ride while the team adjusts. My goal for this year is executing and getting results. So don’t scream if things change at work. Communicate well and then dig in and get to work.