Managing workplace change through team building
“Change is the only constant in life,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. In recent years, this is a truth that has become increasingly real for the legal profession. Digital disruption, rising customer expectations and pressure on fees were already reshaping traditional norms before the pandemic forced sweeping and rapid change and showed it was possible.
Today, change can take many forms, such as adapting to changing economic or political drivers, responding to changing regulatory or market challenges, implementing new internal systems, or response to a “black swan” event. Suppose change is a normal and natural feature of today’s legal landscape. How can law firms and legal professionals best manage it, transforming it from a threat to an opportunity and maximizing the chances of success for change initiatives?
Assess your team’s appetite for workplace change
There is a feeling that Covid-19 has changed the rules of engagement, in terms of managing change, but whether the change is permanent remains to be seen. As companies stalled, no set playbooks or official guidelines covered the new ways of working, suddenly imposed on everyone. Rather than carefully planning change and leading it from the top, people just had to adapt, try new things, and see what worked.
This creativity was liberating and opened the door to accomplishments that might not have happened otherwise or that would have taken much longer to materialize, such as implementing new technologies or working differently. From now on, this new state of mind could mix with traditional approaches: mix experimentation with rigour. Ideally, the idea that everyone is involved in bringing about change will lead to a more collaborative culture of learning and sharing ideas, advice, and improved practices over the long term.
After a prolonged episode as physically, emotionally and mentally draining as the pandemic, the first thing to do is to assess the resilience of your organization and whether your staff has the energy and appetite to undertake a major change initiative.
“If there is a platform on fire, obviously you have to act. If not, ask yourself: why do this now? says Caroline White-Robinson, Head of Business Development and Learning & Development at Shoosmiths. “If you’re doing a ‘one-time survey’ (to gauge employee sentiment and drive engagement), don’t just ask questions about work; consider what is happening in people’s lives. Understand your people, not just your organizational needs.
Cultural Considerations for Business Change
This strategy is important because any major change initiative requires energy, investment and enthusiasm from everyone involved. If you decide to embark on this type of project, one of the biggest challenges is getting people on board and ensuring the right culture exists to embrace change. This means articulating the need and the vision for change, then getting staff to support it personally, for example, because they can see how it will make their job easier. Addressing issues such as the impact of change on perceived status, sense of certainty, sense of autonomy, relationships, and ideas about fairness in the workplace (called the SCARF model) can effectively address concerns and reassure people of the benefits.
“We often assume that people are like chess pieces that we can move, but sometimes they react in unexpected ways,” says Ian Rodwell, Head of Customer Insights and Learning at Linklaters. Offering “carrots” can help generate buy-in, but check that the incentives encourage good behavior or develop valuable contributions. Likewise, be careful with “sticks”: putting something in context to explain why someone should do something is probably more effective than simply forcing them to do it.
High-level support for the change initiative is vital, but so is the presence of champions on the ground, either in a centralized project team or through individuals acting as sponsors within groups. existing. Whoever is leading the charge needs to have credibility so that people know they have their best interests at heart. Resource allocations should ensure that those responsible for driving the change can focus on and prioritize it. Otherwise, it could be derailed by day-to-day operational necessities. It is also important to ensure that the middle frames do not experience too much pressure from above and resistance from below.
Create a roadmap for team alignment
Before you begin, be clear about what needs to change and why. This mapping process is much more difficult than it looks. Too often, insufficient consideration is given to the need for change, the problem it will solve, the understanding of the issues at stake, and the value such change brings. Once you know the “why”, you can focus on the “how”.
There are many different change management models. “The danger is that people take one approach and apply it to every initiative,” Rodwell warns. “It’s always contextual: some things work in some scenarios but not in others.” Having the right framework and the right processes is essential to ensure that the inputs produce the desired results.
“Think about the end goal and then you can figure out what the journey is like,” says Helen Lowe, head of legal operations at easyJet. “In the legal profession, it’s not necessarily about making a ‘big bang’ change. It’s easy to think that a shiny new technology will make a difference, but this industry has traditionally been averse to risk and change. Take baby steps. But keep up the pace. It’s fine to let the pioneers go first and fail quickly, but don’t fall too far behind the leading edge.
Post-Covid, the rationale and pathways for change are more nuanced than ever. People can be more open-minded and adaptable, but keep the personal and professional pressures of staff in mind and balance them with the business imperatives of the company. It’s about making the right changes for the right reasons and using the right structures to get the best results. It’s a big challenge, even in the best of times.
Tips for a Successful Change Management Program Through Team Engagement
- Carefully assess the need and appetite for change.
- Clearly communicate the rationale and vision for the change to minimize resistance.
- Engage people early, so they become ambassadors, not detractors.
- Put in place the right structures to get the right results.
- Make sure everyone is working as a team towards a common goal.
- Allocate resources to prioritize change.
- Set expectations and maintain momentum.
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