How to involve your team in process change
What to do when your team wants you to change a process without their input
Who came up with this plan? It makes no sense.
If you are an operations person and you are responsible for helping to define process and procedures for your organization, involve the people who will be impacted by any process.
Obvious, yes, but be forewarned. In fast moving companies, process adjustments are low on the priority list for everyone but you.
This is the dilemma.
You are on the hook for making things better. Your team has no time for you because they have to talk to customers, work with their teams, and build a product. They want things to be fixed. They want work to flow smoothly. They believe you know enough to get it done and if you are not careful, you will think you do too.
Don’t fall for the trap.
Unless you are amazing at mind reading, you absolutely must involve the operators in your ops plan. Without the input of your people two things will happen.
- They won’t understand it
- The won’t follow it.
It doesn’t matter how much you nailed the definition of the process, if you don’t give your team the time to weigh in on decisions you have made for them, it will blow up in your face.
Try this instead.
Do the heavy thinking on your own.
You were hired to do a job. To define process and to make life better for your team. Use your strengths to really think through the problem space. Shine your light into dark corners, map out what you think will be a reasonable solution. Put your ideas down on paper.
Anticipate questions, build empathy
Sit with your plan for a time period. Begin anticipating the questions that your team will ask you about your new approach. Write these done and make hypotheses about the answers.
Now it’s time to test the waters.
Take advantage of hallway conversations.
This doesn’t have to be planned, you just need to look for opportunities. Go to the watering holes (e.g. meetings) and grab one or two people as you are waiting for the next meeting to kick off.
It’s important to be very specific and clear in your question. Don’t start by saying something like, “hey, you know that intake process we use, what do you need?”. Instead, pull a scenario that you uncovered in your thinking team to ask about that instead, “you know when we fix a defect and it goes out in a release, how do you inform the support team that it’s been resolved?”.
Listen, take notes, say thank you. Don’t try to design anything in those moments. Just be curious.
You will know that you’ve had enough hallway conversations when you hear pain points recurring or the pieces fit nicely into the model you developed early. Now it’s time to start sharing some of you work.
Bring tiny increments with very specific questions to the team
This is the best part and it builds the most momentum and buy in.
Write down what you want to change, and why you think it needs to change.
Keep it to one page.
Host a meeting with the key stakeholders. Have them review your one page doc ahead of time. Come prepared to the meeting with a set of questions that you need further clarification on.
Do not show up and say, “what do you think?”
This puts all the pressure on them.
Start by reminding them that you have been having conversations about X process and you’ve put your ideas down on this page. Now you want to dive a little deeper with a few questions to make sure you have things right.
If you’ve had good lighter weight conversations, things should go pretty smooth. Unless, you have people on the team that don’t see eye to eye. This is good too. It helps others to see disconnects and it will round out your own thinking about the procedure.
Take any feedback you and begin to incorporate the change ideas into your plan and look for one tiny win that you can change right away. Go make that change and communicate it.
Communicate collectively and keep them informed along the way.
To this point you have been slowly pulling the team into the operational change and haven’t made a big meeting series that invades your team’s priorities. You have made them aware. You have gathered feedback. You have taken some action. Now you just need to rinse and repeat, but over communicate in whatever way works best for your team. It could be on slack or over email or at a daily standup. Just be sure to keep it light weight and be very acute in your question asking.
Make sure you don’t forget the goal.
The goal is not to implement the process or operations plan. The goal is to achieve some better desired end state. Frame every conversation you find yourself with that result. Speak it until your team is tired of hearing you say it. Keeping the goal at the forefront will not only keep you focused, but it’s also likely to simplify your path to get there.
Make sure you are involving the operators in your ops plan. Without the input of your people, they won’t understand and you change you make and they won’t follow it. To ease the priority dilemma and get them involved in the effort follows these steps to get the input you need:
- Do the heavy thinking on your own.
- Anticipate questions, build empathy
- Take advantage of hallway conversations.
- Bring tiny increments with very specific questions to the team
- Communicate collectively and keep them informed along the way.
- Make sure you don’t forget the goal.