Failed Team Efforts Boil Down to Resistance and Fears

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 18, 2010

In a survey conducted by the Association for Quality and Participation (AQP), managers were asked why teams fail.  The number one answer cited was the insufficient training of teams.  Number two was resistance from supervisors and mid-level managers.  Supervisors resist team efforts because they:

Fear Job Loss.  Supervisors may fear that the new “team-based organization” is really aimed at eliminating at least one level of management and allowing the organization to save big bucks.

Are Skeptical.  They seriously question whether the new structure will work, or work better than the current regime.

Fear Demotion.  Supervisors who were moving up the career ladder are now called “facilitators” or “team leaders.”  Their new career path is unclear and untested.

Can’t Boss.  Unwilling or unable to give up their perceived power as “the boss,” they won’t or can’t encourage team participation.

Lack Role Clarity.  The new role and responsibilities are not clearly defined.  Not only are they clueless, but their former subordinates are unclear of the new relationship.  As a result, the roles don’t really change – just the titles.

Fear Less Pay.  They are uncertain how the change will affect their bottom line – how much money they bring home.

When implementing a team-based structure, the organization must deal with all these fears.  The most important issue centers around the job.  Will they or won’t they have a job in the new structure?  When restructuring, consider the widest range of options:

No Job Loss.  Assure them that no one will lose their job.  Supervisors will receive the necessary training and support to make the transition to assume new roles and responsibilities.

Option to Leave.  Interview managers and supervisors.  Allow those who do not want to make the transition to leave the organization with a severance package.

Gradual Transition.  Make a strategic decision to gradually introduce the team structure to the organization   –usually by focusing on one business unit first.  Move “ready” people into key roles on the team.  Create one great unit before concentrating on another unit or the entire organization.

Change Jobs.  Interview managers and supervisors.  Select the best suited for the new structure and give others a choice between another job within the company or a severance package.

Cut ‘Em Loose.  Once you have exhausted every opportunity to change the people from within, change the people by letting them work elsewhere.

They key to overcoming resistance as well as launching a successful team-based organization is to constantly communicate, provide team skills and opportunities for all to get involved:

Design New Role.  Invite them to participate in designing the new roles and responsibilities.  People have more ownership and commitment to those things they help design.

Clarify New Role.  Make sure they understand the purpose, logic, and benefits of moving to a team-based structure.  Clarify their role and allow the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback on their progress.

Train.  Provide training on basic team skills such as facilitation, coaching, etc.  Use behavioral techniques, role playing, and simulations.

Coach.  Provide individual coaching sessions for those who are having difficulty in transitioning.

Visit Others.  Have them visit other successful team-based organizations to observe the new structure in action and to discuss their new roles.

Go To Conferences.  Let them attend conferences to hear the experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly – we learn from others’ mistakes as well as successes) of others who have walked in their shoes.

Peer Meetings.  Provide opportunities for them to meet with their peers to share their concerns and ideas.

Keep in mind that transitioning to a team-based organization is a continuous learning experience.  It’s not a one-time deal.  The organization must regularly communicate, train, provide feedback opportunities, redefine and improve the roles/structure.

Question:  Are you resisting your team’s efforts?

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