THE ROLE OF A CHANGE AGENT DURING AN ORGANIZATIONAL RESTRUCTURING
By Ruth Tearle.
An organizational restructuring is like a hurricane, that knocks down everyone in its path, leaving a trail of destruction behind it. Your role as a change agent is to help your clients (leaders, teams and individuals) to get up again. To dust themselves off, hold their heads up high, and begin afresh.
This is a time where leaders, teams and individuals need support in coping with the changes an restructure brings, and where a change agent can make a real difference.
This is not a time that leaders will ask for your help. But this is a time, where leaders, teams and individuals really need support in coping with the changes that an organization restructure brings, and where you in your role as a change agent, can make a real difference.
Here are 8 things you can do, during a restructuring.
1. Understand and cope with your own feelings, so you can support others.
Recognise that you too, may be going through a change. But instead of being insecure about what may or may not happen to you, recognise that an organizational restructure provides you with a wonderful opportunity for learning and experiencing real life change.
Go and buy yourself a notebook today. Every day, write down how you are feeling. Recognise how your feelings change during each stage of the organizational restructure - from the initial announcement, to the finalization of the new structures, to the time that people are feeling confident and happy working in the new structures. Record also what people do, and say during each phase. Every so often, look back at what you've written, and think about what new insights and compassion you have for people who are experiencing change or resisting change.
For today, think how you are feeling. Remember the change cycle. Ask yourself where you are now in the change cycle. Remind yourself of how you will progress emotionally through this change, before you 'bounce back' and 'become yourself again.' (If you haven't attended one of Change Designs change leader courses, buy yourself a copy of Mastering Personal Change and work through the exercises in it. Or as a leader, read Ride the Wild Tiger to understand the various stages you will go through.) Play the song "I got knocked down, but I got up again" to remind yourself of the quality of resilience.
2.Get our there, and listen.
Go and speak to staff in your department. Write down in your journal the feelings they are struggling to deal with, such as fear, anger, betrayal, and loss of confidence. Do this for your own learning.
Then, to help others. Stop the panic. Allow people to let off steam. Then gently remind them that this is simply a short detour in the journey of their lives. Help them to see this in perspective. Explain the change cycle to them, and remind them, that they will bounce back from this - stronger. Remind them of the power they do have within them no matter what happens to them. Give them articles to read that may help them such as "How to protect yourself during a merger" or how to face their worst fear "I have just been retrenched." Play them the song "I got knocked down, but I got up again."
3. Encourage your leader to talk - over a cappuccino.
This is a very difficult time for leaders. Not only do they have their own jobs to worry about, but they are also worried about their teams. As leaders, many have the awful job of having to tell people they care about, that they no longer have a job, or they won't get the job they want. Their staff keep asking them 'what is happening', but they themselves don't have all the information to give. They have to watch the team they have built so carefully, being destroyed. Most people forget that leaders also suffer sleepless nights during this time.
Go have a cappuccino with your leader or client, and encourage him or her to talk about what is worrying them right now. Listen, and take notes.
Where you can, provide him/her with practical tools to help them deal with what is worrying them. Remind them that as leaders, they are also human, and will also experience the same feelings as their staff. Suggest that as a leader, the most important thing to do, is to be honest with their teams. Tell them what they know. Tell them what they don't know. Tell them when they expect to know, what they don't know. And as leaders, they should never promise anything they don't have the power to deliver. Then share with them the same tools that you shared with staff. (See point 2 above.)
4. Find out what will happen when.
For most people, the worst part of an organizational restructure is the 'NOT KNOWING'. Not knowing when they will know one way or another, what will happen to them. See if you can find out the process and estimated time lines that will be followed for:
- Deciding on new structures at top levels.
- Formalizing and getting approval of the new structures.
- Communicating the new structures at top levels.
- Merging departments and divisions.
- Clarifying roles and structures at each subordinate level.
- Retrenching staff at different levels.
5. Find out what support will be provided by others.
Find out which other divisions will be providing support. e.g.
What support will HR provide to:
- Managers who have to retrench staff. (Training, counselling, tools)
- Staff members who are being retrenched. (e.g. career counselling workshops, access to career counsellors, CV writing, support in finding new jobs, access to financial advisors...)
6. Consider what support you as change agent can provide.
Look at practical tools, coaching, advice, articles, and emotional support that you can give to:
Leaders: To help them to:
- Prepare a detailed plan of action for all the different stages of the organizational restructure.
- Prepare for and handle retrenchment discussions.
- Prepare for and handle discussions around the new role and structure of the area.
- Handle the resistance they will get from teams and individuals.
- Deal with their feelings - e.g. after telling people face to face that they don't have a job anymore. After dealing with anger and accusations from people they care about, the loss they will feel for people that used to work in their areas, the breakdown of teams they have worked so hard in building.
- Help teams of survivors to deal with their feelings.
- Create a new focus for their team or department, that is in line with the organisation's strategy and new structure.
- Help teams to be innovative about finding ways to ensure that the restructuring exercise achieves the benefits that it was supposed to achieve.
- Merge departments if required.
- Build or rebuild teams and team spirit.
- Decide on new team roles.
- Clarify the new roles and define the skills/habits/knowledge required to perform these roles.
- Communicate these new roles to each team member. Help employees members to understand the new roles, and priorities.
- Help teams to see that an organizational restructure provides them with a unique opportunity to spring clean their roles, habits, processes and ways of doing things. An opportunity to get rid of frustrations in their jobs. All they need is some innovative thinking.
- Deal skillfully with resistance to change as people hear about their new roles. Do this in a way that rebuilds confidence and morale.
- Inspire their team, and provide them with a new sense of purpose.
- Train people in the new paradigms, skills and behaviors required for their new roles.
Those being retrenched in your area.
- Talk to them. Many people who have been retrenched say that the biggest hurt in a retrenchment is how people start talking to them. Often they are ignored. People stop taking their calls.
- Listen. Allow them to vent their sense of having been betrayed. Then gently remind them of the feelings they will have as they progress through the change cycle. Show them you care, but that it is still something they have to deal with themselves. Give them a gift to support them through this process. e.g. Mastering Personal Change.
- Check they have all the information about support being offered by HR.
- Direct them to articles and websites that will provide them with additional support. e.g. the article "I've just been retrenched."
- Give them gifts to inspire them after they leave the company .e.g. books and cards that deal with purpose and destiny. e.g. "Blackboards, Bubbles & Cappuccinos." or "Inspiration Bubbles Cards" or "Unleash the Magic within You" cards.
- Understand if they are feeling angry, and are unwilling to accept your help right now. This is part of the cycle of change. Simply give them their gifts and information, and say they can read it, whenever they feel ready.
- Keep in touch with them. Know that by leaving the company, they are often losing more than a job. They are losing their social circle, friends, status and self esteem too. The journey they are about to take will be a difficult one for them. One they will have to do on their own.
Individuals who become part of a new team.
- Talk to them. Remember that who remain are not feeling okay. Many have 'survivor's guilt'. Many are mourning the loss of their friends. They may not feel confident about their new roles or comfortable about working within new teams.
- Listen to them. Listen to their concerns. How they are feeling. Gently remind them where they are now in the change cycle. Show them how far they have progressed.
- Provide feedback to the leader. Then coach him/her to explain the journey the team will be taking over the next few months, and the support they can expect along the way. And to describe what his/her dream for the team is.
- Support the leader in whatever other change interventions are required in order to get the team inspired and confident about performing their new role. This could include role clarifications, coaching, training, practical tools, team building...
7. Offer your help.
Offer your help in whatever form, the leader can cope with. Whether it is allowing them space to talk, or providing them with helpful articles and tools, or facilitating workshops with their teams. As a change agent, this is the time to make a difference. This is a time of change!
8. Give a gift of self-confidence, inner strength & motivation.
- See our catalogue of inspirational gifts that you can give to help people regain their confidence, and motivation.
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