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managing change:

Essential tips to make all New Year's Resolutions
become change for the better.

By Shari Barnes

"When my company decided to reengineer and initiate self-directed work teams at the same time, I felt like my daughter's favorite nursery story character, Henny Penny," says office manager Jennifer. "I wanted to run through the building yelling "The sky is falling."

If you're faced with a similar dilemma, don't despair. Like Jennifer, you can connect these two popular management concepts for a dynamic change in your organization. These steps will take you through the process:

You have to talk about change to make it happen. In the absence of information, people make up their own. "The grapevine in our business has a life of its own," says Jennifer. "I had to make sure I fed it accurate information." You can introduce change by holding town hall meetings, getting feedback from discussion groups, and sending flyers with time frames and outlines explaining what's about to happen.

Give your employees reasons for change. To lay the basis for a team concept, identify how their jobs will contribute to other employees' success. State how and what they do will add to the department's accomplishments and how the department will help organizational achievements.

"Directionless change is meaningless," says Jennifer, "you have to take a measurable approach to your most cherished processes and be willing to rip them apart." This task analysis model can be applied to any procedure: (1) flow chart activity; (2) identify loops and redundancies; (3) eliminate redundancies; (4) implement and test new flow; and (5) document new operation.

Keep it simple. Use the task analysis model in small chunks. Applying the model to an entire operation at one time is overwhelming and unworkable. Break a complex process into manageable portions.

"Your office's unique needs will dictate personalized coping tactics," says Jennifer, "but I discovered five methods that are fairly universal."

Outsource. Find tasks that are portable, time consuming and performed infrequently. "We shopped around and found a firm that would write and administer our affirmative action plan for 50% of what it cost us to do it internally," says Jennifer.

Access technology. Surf the Web and start a file of useful web addresses. Try e-mail to conduct business as an alternative to phone tag.

Hire temporary staff. Identify heavy workload periods and see if temporary staff can provide relief and save overtime pay. Use college interns who are eager to get experience and earn credit hours.

Develop cross-functional work teams. Some projects require the expertise of several different employees in a department. These informal groups provide the ideal foundation for cross-function work teams. A team has the advantage of bringing a variety of ideas and perspectives to a process and can turn an individual responsibility into a team responsibility.

Empower teams to make their own decisions. Once your teams are trained and working together, encourage them to become more results oriented by empowering them to make their own decisions. This can be an uncomfortable process on both sides. Team members may fear they don't have your support, and you may hesitate to let go of decision making. Give it enough time, and a comfort level will emerge as teams gain experience and you gain confidence in them.

"Re-engineering would be a snap on an unlimited budget," says Jennifer, "but I had a mandate to do more with less, so I discovered swap, borrow and dump."

Swap by trading skills with colleagues. Jennifer offered to present a performance management training program for a sister institution if their manager would train her employees on a new computer package. "I had already presented my workshop several times," she says, "so it was no extra work for me, and I didn't have to develop a program for the new software."

Borrow ideas from peers and professional organizations. Don't reinvent the proverbial wheel. Again, surf the net. See what's out there and develop contacts through online discussion groups.

Dump it if you don't use it. Ask yourself, "why are we doing this? Is it simply because we've always done it this way? Do we have to keep doing it? Could some other department do it better? What's the worst that would happen if we just stopped doing it?"

"My team put a lot of work into the reengineering process," says Jennifer, "and I was anxious to reward them." She suggests it's important to reward for the right things.

Progress. Reward progress, not just activity. People can look very busy, but they aren't necessarily going anywhere. Discourage the game of making the job fill the time. Encourage people who look for ways they can help others.

Cooperation. Reward working together. This trait is essential for teamwork. Motivate employees to move from "I" to "We."

Failing Less. Since humans learn from mistakes, create an atmosphere that allows for failure. But reward employees when their successes outweigh their failures.

Exceeding Expectations. Recognize those who exceed expected performance levels. Team compensation for a job well done is a good way to send a message that a group effort can pay off financially for everyone.

Solving Problems. Give credit for solving problems, not just identifying them.

Trying New Things. Encourage employees to try new things and turn failures into successes. If it hasn't worked in the past, it probably won't work in the future. Look for new ways of doing things.




Use MD/100 profiles to improve your knowledge of whom you are working with. Knowing individual behavioral tendencies can help you tailor communication and decisions with insight and accuracy.


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Sharon (Shari) Eurich Barnes is Director of Employee Relations for Texas Christian University. Complementing her human resource career, Ms. Barnes writes for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Working Mother, Women as Managers and Management Review. She also conducts private and court-ordered mediations.

In addition to hosting Books in Review on cable television, Ms. Barnes speaks on employment issues for professional associations and conferences.

Ms. Barnes received her Bachelor's degree from California Baptist University and Master's degree from Texas Christian University. Among other affiliations, she is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, American Society for Training and Development, American Association of University Women, Fort Worth Human Resource Association Board of Directors (past), College and University Personnel Association, Fort Worth Mayor's Committee for Disabled Persons, and Tarrant County Association of Mediators Board of Directors. Ms. Barnes has also been named to Who's Who Among American Women.

Comments and questions about this article: Shari Barnes.



The opinions expressed in articles by this author do not necessarily represent the opinions of MindData. These articles are provided as a means of informing you of current events and opinions that impact employers and the workplace.


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