Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Helping Teams Navigate the Maze of Change

I have conducted my "Navigating the Maze of Change!" program for hundreds of organizations. In this program, teams must cross an electronic maze, a checkerboard-like carpet where I have programmed one safe path that will get them across without triggering an alarm. Very similar to their changing work environments, there are many unknowns and risks involved as team members try to identify the safe path. Here are a few key lessons the participants discover about dealing with change and uncertainty that you can use to help your organization reach its goals:

1. Teams are more effective when everyone understands the plan. Almost without fail, teams step on the maze without having a shared plan. They tell me they did this because "time is money," but employees who don't understand the organization's strategies and lack confidence in decision-making are much more costly. How well informed is your group? Ask them!

2. People need support and trust to take reasonable risks.When someone triggers an alarm on the maze, most team members look disappointed, and some even walk away in frustration. How eager will someone be to try again after experiencing that reaction? If you desire employees to be creative and take reasonable risks, reward their positive behavior, NO MATTER WHAT THE RESULTS, and reassure the person that he or she is still a valued member of the team. If you don't reassure the person, their willingness to take risks and continue trying will certainly diminish.

3. View “failures” as valuable lessons for everyone.Stepping on unsafe squares on the maze and triggering the alarm is a necessity in order to discover the safe path to success. When failure is feared, it is avoided at all costs and kept secret when it occurs – only serving to harm the organization. A reporter once questioned Thomas Edison, “Mr. Edison, I heard you failed nearly a thousand times before inventing a light bulb that worked.” Edison replied, “I did not fail 1000 times. I learned 999 ways a light bulb will not work!” How does your organization view "failure"? Ask them!

4. Celebrate all success.When someone finally crosses my maze, the team typically gives a thunderous applause. But where was the applause for the person who made it only to the first row, the person who made it only to second row, and so on? We must reward all successes, for they make it possible for someone to make it all the way across. Who gets the recognition in your organization and how could it be improved? Again, ask! Oh, and listen closely, too.

PS: Visit our main website for lots more great teambuilding ideas, teambuilding games and teambuilding exercises that can help you and your team to be more successful: