Getting Your Ducks in a Row as You Prepare for Organizational Change

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.

Warren Bennis (1925 – Present), American scholar, organizational consultant and author, pioneer of the field of Leadership studies

Ducks In A Row - Organizational Change 2013-12-02

Have you ever felt like a duck – meaning that above water, you are calm, cool and collected, while under the water your legs are paddling like crazy?

Bow Pose - Organizational Change 2013-12-02You know – like the first time you spoke before a large group, and you were so thankful that the podium blocked your knocking knees? Or, the first time you hosted the Thanksgiving meal for your extended family, and you were secretly praying throughout the whole meal that the turkey was fully cooked? Or, the first time you tried stand-up paddle board yoga, and you hoped that you would not fall into the water during Bow Pose?

With the new year upon us, leaders will be forming new teams to support the planned business goals.  Expect some of this underwater frenzy to happen to you and your teams as you gain your footing and understand the organizational changes underway. Be ready to lead through the early stages of team development (see infographic).



Your role as a leader is to help your team members relate to team and team’s relationship to organization. Help them answer the question ‘how does my role impact the overall objectives of the company?’

Tuckman - Organizational Change 2013-12-02

Infographic: Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development

In the FORM stage of team development:

  • Get acquainted with your team members and those stakeholders who will have a role in your team reaching its goals
  • Lead and / or participate in goal setting. Clarify values, explain the vision, set expectations. Orient team members to the behaviors and outcomes desired
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team members

In the STORM stage, the key is to develop methods, such as dialogue and consensus decision-making, for handling conflict and for defining the way forward.

  1. Get consensus on the current situation / problem / goal. Avoid getting into the solution right away. Ask what success will look like a year from now. Test assumptions about what needs to be accomplished. Then, use these initial discussions to bring people together around a compelling goal while leaving open how it will be achieved.
  2. Identify multiple solutions. Bring the team together to brainstorm ideas. Encourage all ideas without judgment or analysis. Assign cross-functional teams to assess solutions to help break down divisions while laying out the benefits and costs of each solution.
  3. Get quick wins. Take one or two of the ideas developed by the teams and implement them right away. These shared successes will build momentum for future collaboration.

Taking these steps will help your team to develop acceptance and commitment of the change and will help you increase your followers.

Need support in getting your ducks in a row as you and your teams prepare to support 2014 organizational goals? Let’s talk.

Also inspired by  “Could Your Organization Be Bipartisan? by Ron Ashkenas on the HBR Blog Network.

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Sandra Schwan

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