Managing Change in Organizations.
If change were an acronym, what would it be?
C.H.A.N.G.E.: Constant Havoc Amidst Needy Grumbling Employees
C.H.A.N.G.E.: Challenging, Hostile, And No-Good Edicts (from management)
C.H.A.N.G.E.: Corrosive Headaches Arriving and Not Going (away) Effectively
We might laugh because these are funny and we might laugh (wince?) because they touch a nerve. Even organizations and employees who claim to thrive on change reach their limits and, as a rule, we all struggle with the pace of rapid change.
Recently, an organization was faced with several changes occurring simultaneously: a change in leadership, a change in policy and practice, and a change in the manner peer teams work together. That final change was causing internal conflicts, office behavior issues, and other related challenges. The employees were struggling to be productive and stay focused. Many organizations find that employees shift their focus to the change and the challenges that come with change, and then find it difficult to return to work as usual.
I think we can all agree that organizational change happens, if not routinely, then certainly regularly. That being the case, then how can you help your own organization and teams on which you are a member manage that change emotionally and work through it in order to get to heightened productivity as soon as possible?
One strategy is to use a version of the Tuckman model to encourage your employees to work through their challenges with whatever change is occurring. Information on the Tuckman model is widely available should you want to know more, but in essence Tuckman outlined four critical stages, or phases, of change as follows.
In the first stage of change, Forming, the team (and individuals) learn about their opportunities and challenges and begin to tackle the change head-on. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated for the common good and are usually on their best behavior, but are typically very focused on themselves. At this stage, you may begin to see how individual team members respond to change in general and to specific pressure points.
In the second stage, Storming, the group hits the proverbial "wall." The individuals react in a variety of different ways to the change and emotions run high. Different solutions compete for consideration. The group may feel chaotic or dysfunctional in this phase. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the team members begin acting out or focusing on minutiae to evade real issues. Here’s the secret though: the storming stage is critical to the growth of the team. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. But every team – for every organizational change – will go through a storming phase before progressing and getting to the last two phases.
In the Norming phase, teams begin to work together naturally. Productivity begins to increase and team members agree to rules, professional behaviors, and working tools. Trust goes up and individual and collective motivation increases.
After time, teams should reach the Performing stage. High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for much external supervision. Team members have become interdependent.
If your organization is in the throes of change, consider this application of the Tuckman model to allow your team the space and the time to identify in which of the four phases they find themselves, and to define what the characteristics of each phase look like. One organization recently brainstormed what the four phases looked like for their organization, and came up with this list:
Feeling anxiety, relief, curiosity
Asking "who am I?"
Become aware of contrasting emotions
Different opinions/ways of doing things
Confusion and inconsistency
Silence and anger
Increased work load
New agreements about how to work
Resignation: time to move forward
Acceptance of change
Finding your role/place
Change is accepted/embraced
Well-oiled machine, synergy
Purposefully reaching out to others
Open communication and collaboration
This activity allowed the organization to openly discuss how each team member felt, and to process through the various stages and raise awareness. Try this for your team! And, let us know how it worked for you.