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Managing Change in Geographically Dispersed Teams

Many of the change projects that we work on have teams and customers who are not based in the same location. More often than not the teams are spread across the state or the country. This is the reality of today’s businesses. It adds complexity but with good change management skills, change can be delivered successfully regardless of location.

Here are 4 key elements that we have found to be especially important to geographically dispersed teams when implementing change:

1. Be clear on the purpose of change

– Have a collective understanding of why you’re doing this project and what you are aiming to achieve.

– Ensure everyone understands the real reason why you’re making this change. Be ‘real’ and authentic, but keep it framed around the benefits.

– Visualise the change together with your team, and how it will look on-the-ground. When your whole team visualises what success looks like, it makes the end point less abstract and everyone can more easily see the possibility of achieving success. This is motivating and focuses the team on what is important.

2. Cultivate a ‘community’ feeling in your team

– In strong communities, there is trust, belonging and agreed ways of working. There is a firm sense of ‘us’ within communities but at the same time everyone understands their role and why they are valued

– Research and experience have shown that a strong community feeling will result in improved team cohesion and reduced inter-team conflict, better well-being and resilience and improved team and organisational performance.

– Take time to build trust in the team, listen and respond accordingly. Having trust means you have set of confident expectations.

– We regularly use co-design approaches, involving customers and team members in creating the change, to build trust, belonging and commitment.

– A feeling of belonging creates commitment and pride in the team.

– Demonstrate care – tap into how people are feeling and thinking about the change.

– Celebrate together, taking the time and effort to acknowledge achievements.

3. Communicate

– Communicate often and use a variety of channels. Nothing beats face-to-face communication but this won’t always be possible. Back up with Phone, Skype, Email and other communication tools to ensure that everyone knows what is going on and involved.

– How information is communicated is more important than what is communicated.  No one is more influential on communication than you, your team’s immediate manager.  Do not abdicate your change communications to a change team.  They can help with messages, but you are the deliverer.

– Communication needs to be two-way, encouraging feedback and interaction to drive a feeling of teamwork.

4. Effective Change Leaders

– An effective change leader will do all of the above, promoting a feeling of ‘us’ throughout the project. It is leadership that drives collective change with everyone working towards the same outcome. 

– As a leader, behave and speak in the same way that you would like your team members to.  Reflect the change that you are seeking and bring your team along with you.

– As a team member, being a ‘first follower’ is a crucial role in supporting the leader and creating a movement of change. This entertaining video shares leadership lessons of a ‘lone nut’ dancing guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ3