One indisputable fact for almost all of us is that change is hard.  It can be even harder for teams composed of people with many different problem-solving styles and diverse backgrounds. So how do you drive change with teams? 

One sure way is to find really important problems that are really vital to the organization.  Before you even contemplate making change a priority, here are three vital steps that need to be checked off before getting started:

  1. Get your best people on it, then engage your teams right from the start with a pre-consult: what are we really trying to do? How does it align with organizational goals? Who are the real owners of the problem – how do we make sure they are accountable? 
  2. Equip the team with a collaborative process for solving complex problems and teach them the skills, including the training that is needed.  Make sure the “super owners” are there and responsible for the outcome.  You can’t delegate important stuff, you can let the team get going but if you are the super owner then they have to report to you – how are we doing? 
  3. And finally, you can’t purchase innovative collaboration at the top by hiring a high priced external consulting firm.  A good leader is going to figure out how to engage people and teams working and aligned with the goals and mission at the top, not hoping magic will happen by some formula.

Large change projects are hard because what usually happens is there are people at high levels in the company who are willing to spend money to bring in outside “experts”.   Too often nothing happens because change has to come from within, down below – where the “real experts” do the heavy lifting. To be a real leader you can’t just hire a firm like McKinsey to come in and tell you what to do – that approach doesn’t work because people naturally resist top down changes.

If you really want to succeed, develop your people down below to drive change. Equip them with a strong business case for why it’s so important; provide a robust infrastructure to support those “super owners” responsible for change; and train people in the skills, tools and a creative process (we call this the “secret sauce”) to ensure everyone has ownership and knows they are an integral part of the team’s success. 

Last but not least, make sure you can measure the changes, before and after.  Use realistic, agreed upon metrics to give people achievable goals.