HOW TO BRIDGE THE US & THEM GAP
Point 3 in the series My 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance
Do you sometimes feel the world is against you, and your team is constantly at loggerheads? Are your Managers struggling to make themselves understood, and the work place is becoming a fractious place to work?
When you’re developing your business it can feel there is no “normal”, as you go through constant states of flux, and you have to constantly introduce change to deliver your ever growing portfolio of services or products. This inevitably puts stresses and strains on even the toughest of us, and can start to divide the team as the pressure builds.
Point 3 to Perfecting Business Performance looks at how to bridge the gap if you feel the team are becoming divided in the Us and Them scenario.
Mind The Gap
The first, and most obvious solution is to avoid the situation in the first place. Divisions amongst teams inevitably arise when people don’t have a full understanding of what is going on, why and how it will affect them? In order to keep the whole team on board it’s essential to involve them in working out how the change can be implemented across the business and, at the very least, communicate changes that will affect people BEFORE you make them.
Peter de Jager in his Leadership Lessons for Implementing Change lays out a very simplistic approach which suggests involving your target audience (your managers and workers) by making it THEIR change, not YOUR change. He strongly advocates providing plenty of support throughout the planning and transition phases, and make sure you celebrate every small success along the way.
Prevention is Better than Cure
When people come together for the first time, or a new manager is introduced there is a period of acclimatization as the team members adjust to the environment. A new manager has to understand the individuals in the team, their motivation, sensitivities, strengths, and weaknesses. Some of you may be aware of Bruce Tuckmans’ scheme for group development of Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing, against which you can gauge and monitor where the team are in the process and try to move them forward to the Performing stage as painlessly as possible.
“Forming” is bringing a selected team together for specific purpose. The team may show anxiety and uncertainty, with members being cautious whilst wanting to be accepted by the group. This period prevents real work being achieved, but allows the group to form an understanding of each other and their task. The outcome should result in the team being organized and knowing who will be responsible for what, defining group rules and what their limitations or roles are.
This is the stage where conflict and competition may be at its greatest. One or some of the group may have stronger personalities and assert their opinions, whilst other less confident members stay within their comfort zone and tend to stay quiet. The group has an increased need for clarification. Questions about leadership, authority, structure and even rewards arise. These must be answered, and the team given the framework and focus required, otherwise the group remains stuck in this phase, and can’t move on.
As the team settles down and becomes a cohesive unit, morale improves, a sense of community is established, and the group becomes focused on their key objectives. Team members are flexible, interdependent and trust each other. Leadership will be respected, if not shared, and members are willing to adapt to the needs of the group. Communication will be flowing seamlessly and uninhibited as the team gains a sense of security.
This is the team working at it’s peak of productivity, and their overall objective is to complete their mission and fulfill their purpose. The group members show a unified, loyal and supportive front, and the team as a whole show competency and a high level of autonomy in decision making. Problem solving, experimentation and testing possible solutions all drive the team to working increasingly better as they strive to continuously improve.
Tuckman introduced a fifth element of ADJOURNING, which is more relevant to a project environment. The team will be debriefed and disbanded once the project has been successfully completed. In a normal work environment however, you would normally expect to see some fluctuation between storming, norming and performing on a permanent basis, as the work continually evolves.
Once you’ve initially facilitated your team through this process, you will notice less time is required to manage the detail, but the team will have no hesitation in approaching management when they reach barriers or need approval beyond their authority levels. In turn, this allows Managers to move forward on their own projects whilst still maintaining a level of proactive management over the day-to-day operations.
Bridge the Gap
If however, you’ve started experiencing conflict in the workplace and relations have become strained, there are ways to manage conflict effectively. It’s an uncomfortable experience, but one that has to be addressed if you want to avoid the situation escalating into a more costly disciplinary or, worse, end up in a tribunal hearing.
ACAS obviously recommend early resolution of conflict. The statistics reported in their 2015 report “Building Productivity in the UK” really drives home why it’s in the business’s best interests to avoid conflict or manage it through well-documented procedures and clearly established guidelines.
They cited that “an average 18 days of management time were spent on a disciplinary case and 14 on a grievance”. The Survey of Tribunal Applications found that “claims absorbed an average 5 days of employer time with legal costs of £3,000. The equivalent legal costs for the claimant were £2,000”. This really brings home the cost of dealing with conflict.
ACAS identified four markers of effective conflict management, which if implemented and monitored will significantly reduce the gap you may be experiencing between management and employees, and bring a whole new positive culture to your business:
- Organisations encourage a climate of informal and early conflict resolution, and regularly revisit their overall approach to reducing the likelihood of conflict.
- Managing conflict is a responsibility shared between line managers, HR, employees, employee representatives, and senior management.
- There are established, clearly understood and trusted procedures for handling disciplinary and grievance matters when more informal approaches haven’t worked.
- Organisations should review their culture when it comes to handling conflict, and keep an open mind to new approaches that offer win-win solutions.
Next Time …….
Point 4 of The 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance will expand on avoiding conflict, by ensuring you have crystal clear roles and responsibilities and how clear communication channels can improve business performance.
For further reading about some of the references in my blog, and to help you and your Managers, I can thoroughly recommend the following articles
Business Analyst Times – Leadership Lessons: Implementing Change – A 7 Phase Methodology – Phase 1 – Peter de Jager
Businessballs.com – Tuckman Forming Storming Norming Performing Model
YOUR NEXT STEPS TO GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
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