Managing Through Corporate Change
Although change is common, our research indicates that some types of change are easier to absorb than others. In fact, quite often, it’s not the change but the uncertainty it creates that can test a design team’s resilience.
One key factor in determining whether an in-house team embraces or rejects change is the manager. The example the team head sets as she welcomes – or resists – business developments sets the tone for the department.
The most successful managers are able to put change in context and actively lead their teams through it. To help the team members adjust more quickly – and with less stress – we’ve listed some strategies below, based on input from in-house leaders:
Explain the change. By explaining the impact that the impending changes will have on each team member and the group as a whole, managers can help their teams integrate new priorities and additional responsibilities with minimal confusion and anxiety. As one in-house designer said, “I want to know why things have changed and the reasoning behind them. This usually helps alleviate the stress related to change.”
Involve the team. While corporate creatives often feel their managers are effective at communicating change, many feel company leaders fall short in involving the team members in the planning and implementation process. Carlos Caciedo, the creative director at Wayne, N.J.-based GAF, North America’s largest manufacturer of residential and commercial roofing, says it’s vital to give an in-house team an opportunity to talk about how they’ll handle impending changes. “Share information, strategies and your knowledge and experience,” he advises. “Promote interaction, dialogue and education. We use brainstorming sessions to encourage ideas, and we also meet once a month to present relevant subjects.”
Caciedo, whose nine-person team includes web and video production, stresses the importance of fostering partnership and collaboration among team members. “Letting everybody know what the others are doing helps with change management. And having an open space where everybody sits increases awareness of what’s going on,” he says.
Get organized. Encouraging an in-house team to make full use of project management software and other organizational tools will help them more easily juggle competing assignments and tight deadlines. “You can have 100 projects and if they are organized, you can handle them,” says Meredith Fordham, manager of creative design for JAXPORT, the port of Jacksonville, Fla. “If there are piles all over your office and you can’t find anything, you’re sunk.”
Provide ongoing support. A corporate creative group will have less trouble integrating change if adequate support and guidance is provided throughout transition periods. Some tactics to ease the way through include:
- Ensure that your team has adequate resources to take on new duties.
- Provide additional training to prevent “trial-by-fire” pressure.
- Bring in interim support (i.e., freelancers) to “buy time” for staff when they must get up to speed on new procedures and duties.
Run interference. There will be times when the change imposed on a team will need to be cushioned, says Ivan Boden, creative director at ISO, a Jersey City, N.J.-based company that supplies data analytics to the insurance industry. “If you have to be an intermediary for your staff and an in-house client, do it so your staff can focus on their jobs. Encourage your team to be accessible and customer-service oriented. But as a manager, create an environment where they can get their work done without undue interference with design,” says Boden.