Quick summary

  1. Identify the team structure you need
  2. Avoid the pitfalls of restructuring
  3. Choose Thought Leaders to Coach Others
  4. Empower Your Change Management Team

Change is scary, especially when it can affect the outcome of your whole business. Perhaps you need to restructure. Maybe you’re going digital. Either way, you need a team to manage the change to help ensure the transition’s success. And with it, you’ll need to understand and enable the people power of your business fully.

Here’s how to build an effective change management team:

Identify the Team Structure You Need

You’ve probably heard of Kotter’s 8-step process, which provides a framework for change management that gradually accelerates a team’s momentum until the change is instituted. Kotter’s Accelerate revision of the process focuses on empowering all members of a team by distributing authority among them. 

One way you can put Kotter’s Accelerate process into action is by offering a non-hierarchical, open messaging system. Rather than requiring communications to go up or down the “email chain,” you can use a tool such as Brief, which allows easy, decentralized communication among all members of the team. 

Another option for team structure is Prosci’s ADKAR model, which is more hierarchical but places the change management team at the nexus of executive leadership, support, and supervisors. In this framework, the change management team serves as the “coach” for the rest of the team.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Restructuring

Progress for the sake of progress never works, so if you’re considering a major change, be sure you’re communicating your vision and needs to your people, and build a change management team to facilitate the transition. If you feel the need to restructure, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why do I feel this need?
  2. Do my current team members fill their roles as described, or could they be moved into better roles?
  3. Will the change potentially drive away my best talent?

I was once part of a new team that had only been formed a few years prior. As an original member of the team, my role grew as more people joined our ranks. Unfortunately, we had a bad apple in the midst. He became impossible to work with and threw wrenches into our well-oiled machine. While we tried to resolve the issue internally, upper management decided that the problem was the team structure, rather than admitting we had a problem employee. In response, they obliterated the team by “restructuring” — they changed my role, eliminated several positions, and split the rest of the team into two. There was no change management team for this process, no one to communicate steps, no acknowledgment of our people power. We literally showed up to work and learned that people had been let go, our office location changed, and our entire workflow was being micromanaged. Needless to say, I and several others resigned. It wasn’t that change wouldn’t have been welcome — it’s that the change was so badly handled, it made us wary of continuing to work in such a volatile environment. A change management team would have helped us feel valued and empowered.

Choose Thought Leaders to Coach Others

As I mentioned, the change management team can serve as a coach for others. You want people who can influence others and model the behavior you want to see. You want people who can inspire others to action. 

Your change management team should include representatives of the different domains of your work. If you have designers, writers, and techs working for you, don’t stack the team with the sassy designers and ignore the introverted writers: look for people who demonstrate the ability to understand others, whether or not they’re charismatic. Understanding people is the key to influencing them. 

You also want people on the change management team who have a sense of organizational structure. An employee who asks for the organizational chart on the first day of employment is likely a candidate even if they aren’t an extrovert. An employee who refuses to use the project management system is likely NOT a candidate, but you might want to listen to their feedback to see if a new project management system is warranted.

Empower Your Change Management Team 

Don’t leave your employees hanging: an effective change management team knows what’s going on and has the tools they need to liaise among all members of your team. Again, having a powerful yet uncomplicated messaging tool can be a huge help. Email tends to be hierarchical yet messy: your employees drown in messages that are unhelpfully divided by threads. With a unified messaging system, employees can easily communicate and get answers from each other, which facilitates thought leadership. Bonus points if the messaging system also handles task assignment. 

Wrapping up

Building a robust and empowered change management team doesn’t have to be daunting. Understand the people power you already have and give them the tools to influence each other. Choose team members — even introverted ones — who have a great understanding of systems and give them the authority to liaise among the different teams to communicate your vision and the steps needed for lasting, effective change.

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