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How To Introduce Teams Into Your Organization’s Culture Without a Mutiny

IntroduceTeamsWithoutMutinyOne of the most critical moments in creating a high performance team culture is the day you decide to let the whole organization hear your plan.  Up to that point, the changing of culture and embracing of a new way of doing something, whether teaming or anything else, has probably been a strategic discussion behind closed doors with little to no information leaving the room.

In those terms, that means you’ve got to do a lot of work with your organization and workers to get them on the same page as you.  Whether you plan to roll out roundtables, town halls, or a mass gathering of all your workers to begin to discuss the cultural shift here are a few things to remember:

  1. You’ve been talking teaming for weeks, months, maybe even years.  They haven’t.  This is perhaps the first time they’ve heard about it.  You have to sell the idea even though you’re already sold.  Go back to when you were first learning about teams and what it felt like.
  2. You may be at a point where you’re processing the information logically, but the people who are hearing about this for the first time are in an emotional state (fight or flight!).  What does it mean for my job?  What happens to my role in the company?  What if I don’t know how to work within teams?  These are questions racing through their brain as your introducing the change.
  3. Frame the discussion and messaging with ground rules (without sounding too parental).  If you’re using forums, roundtables or town hall meetings to hear comments and concerns make sure there are boundaries (i.e. what is negotiable, what isn’t negotiable, what will help move the conversation along, what will hinder us moving the conversation along, general professionalism, manners & etiquette).
  4. Kickoff the discussion(s) by expressing the value of this opportunity to talk about the future of the company or department together.  Emphasize that this is a discussion – an invitation to share thoughts, ideas, and concerns together.  Be positive and upbeat! Have your “case for change” ready to share with people to explain why things need to be different.
  5.  Make a clear statement of the purpose – why are we here talking for X minutes about the future of the organization and its culture?  What are we hoping to accomplish as we discuss the future?  When introducing change remember that the change isn’t negotiable, but the speed of the change is.
  6. Begin with simple, easy to answer questions to get the discussion started that center around their workplace, the things they know well and the issues they’ve expressed.  In other words, let them do a majority of the talking and have management be the listener.

Some ways to begin the discussion:

  • “We are very interested in bringing a high performance/engagement environment into this company where employees are more engaged in owning and deciding about their work.  How does that sound to you?  Do you think it would be very different from what you experience today?  In what ways?”
  • “Leadership especially has to make some significant changes in the way we function.  What could we do as leaders that would make a difference to you in your work environment?  Would you share some of the frustrations you experience with leadership – in a general way?  If you could pick one thing for us to change, what would it be?”
  • People feel best about their jobs when they 1) have the competency to do the job well, 2) they can make choices about their work, 3) the work feels meaningful and 4) they feel like they’re making progress.  Which of these elements need to be improved for you in your daily work?  What could we do to fix any of these? Is our company a place where you can be your best?  If so, how?  If not, why?
  • We’ve mentioned a lot of new things we plan to do to bring about a highly engaged/high performance workplace (e.g. Steering Team, Design Team, Communication Team, In-house Training Team, self-directed work teams).  Do you think these are good ways to proceed?  Is there more information that we need to share about these things?  Was there anything that concerned you?  Would any of you be interested in participating in these types of initiatives?

We hope these ideas are helpful for you.  I always feel that management should “under promise and over deliver” during any change initiative.  And in this case, its best if management does behaviors that are unexpected – like talk less and listen more, ask questions the employees really know how to answer, summarize the feedback into themes, and open the door to more sharing and communication.  Management must initiate the trust-building behaviors rather than suggest that employees need to be/do anything related to transparency and trust.  In other words, when management starts to be transparent, employees will be transparent back and a culture of inclusion and accountability will begin to form.


Beginning to think about teams as a way to encourage greater accountability, empowerment and engagement within your organization?  The first place to start is by picking up a copy of our best-selling Team-Building Tool Kit book by Deborah Mackin.

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