One example of organizational change is the introduction and integration of a remote development team; another is the management of changing expectations and intra-company relations when more staff are added. Let’s take a look at how to find a change management strategy that works for you and your employees.
Regular, reliable, cross-organizational meetings
If your teams get used to you speaking with them regularly, it’s going to pay dividends further on down the line. This is because in a company that is progressing away from being a startup, or that has already passed that stage, you’ll find that whatever level of management you’re at, you’ll feel an increasing distance between you and the people working in your teams.
With a remote development team, that sense of distance can obviously feel wider, a result of the physical divide between your offices on top of the changes in a growing organization.
The solution is regular meetings that you and your teams know will happen at the same time every week. Your remote development team may initially seem lukewarm on the idea of meetings added on top of their regular workload, but as long as there is a clear aim and purpose to the meetings, you should feel the benefit in a more integrated company overall. It’s important that you encourage teams and individuals to participate fully in the meetings, and that there is a clear agenda for each session.
In growth-stage or scale-up companies, a sense of mystique can build around managers, particularly C-suite managers, and it’s not a good thing. It begins if people don’t see what you’re doing as a manager, and if you’re stuck in investor or finance meetings all day, for example, and unable to get out and talk to the developers, or to put in a call to your remote development team.
It’s a tricky situation, because you are working as hard as you can to keep the company profitable in the long term, and it might still be clear to everyone that you are all working towards a common goal. The developers might even be happy to get some space and work on complex projects without interruption. The fact is, though, that the organizational change here - the need for additional investment, and the growth merited by existing investment - needs a carefully considered change management strategy.
There isn’t a lot you can do about the whirl of meetings with people unrelated to your developers and other teams, but one possible way to manage the sense of drift from people you were once so close to might be to write a regular blog on the company intranet or a Slack channel, explaining what you are busy on, and how the work of everyone is helping contribute to the result everyone wants to see.
Another, perhaps less labor-intensive, idea is to set up an AMA (Ask Me Anything) channel on Slack. Don’t worry - you don’t need to answer every question individually - if you’re pushed for time, you can bunch them together, for example answering all the finance questions in one general answer, or all the engineering questions in another. As long as your employees feel their questions are being tackled in some way, it’s an efficient and useful way of keeping in touch with them.
Identify ‘change agents’ within teams
An effective change management strategy in a lot of growing organizations is to nominate representatives in each team to educate themselves fully in advance of changes being announced, and to then brief their teams about it. These people are sometimes called Change Agents, and can be incredibly effective, as people naturally would often rather listen to their colleagues than management when being briefed on complex changes to their working routine.
This is a strategy used by large consultancies such as EDS and Capgemini, and by corporations like Microsoft, but it can work equally well in a growth-stage enterprise too. Nominate one or two people per team to come together with other representatives in a workshop, and then get them to filter the feedback from that workshop down to their team. If there is a change that might be difficult to summarize for the first time in a top-down all-hands briefing, you might find that a little preparation of what is to be expected goes a long way.
Accept and encourage input for continuous improvement
Continuous improvement is the hallmark of a successful organization. When you’re a startup, it’s easy to accept and roll out suggestions: that’s what makes startups such enticing places to work, because when a good idea is thought up, it can be trialled and brought right into the product.
When a company starts growing, that’s no longer as easy as it was for a startup. There are too many people involved in each part of a company to make it efficient to experiment with improvements outside of an agreed process. This is where the idea of a continuous improvement program comes in.
If you use Jira, this is the perfect place to place improvement suggestions. It’s most likely already the tool your remote development team uses in order to log bugs, issues, and changes, and so it won’t cause a major upheaval if it’s used for the logging of suggestions to make your product or systems more effective in the long term.
A continuous improvement program ensures that you are consulting widely, and that you are involving fully the subject matter experts on your product - your developers - in decisions directly affecting your organization. It also creates a joined-up feedback loop, and improves the level of discussion around changes. Finally, as the name implies, continuous improvement implies that you, as a company, are unwilling to stand still and be overtaken by the competition.
If you want to formulate a change management strategy that works in the long term, talk to our experts in organizational change and in building remote development teams.