Are you safe?

I recently conducted a two-day training class for business managers in the six-sigma methodology at a major university in which one of the participants stated that the least beneficial part of the course was having to create a project centered around an issue from their individual workplace. One of the participants responded that the project was their least valuable part of the course because his managers would never let him implement the project.

My first reaction along with the university staff was then why did he take the course? If you think about the reasons why this might be true you can come up with a number of responses that might fit the situation. Then I began reading Daniel Coyle’s book The Culture Code and my views changed.

Coyle suggests that the most successful teams operate when two factors are in place. First that the team belongs to something and second that there is minimal distance between team members in the workplace. So, if I go back to our seminar participant maybe the answer to why he felt that management would not let him implement the project is that he was lacking the feeling of being safe. Maybe he did not feel part of a “family” committed to resolving problems.  Maybe the members of his team were too distance from him in the workplace.

The impact on our cross-functional teams is of major consequence. It means that the belief that you must have certain skills or abilities may not be as important as the ability of the team to work as a close group of individuals rather than as separate entities. It means that our participant needs to assemble a group of individuals that have the ability to resolve issues but also can work as a close-knit group.

In order for our teams to succeed in implementing sustainable change management there is a critical need to bring a sense of being part of a close-knit group. One where the members work close enough that they feel like their fellow members are family. One where the members not only concern themselves with the matter at hand but on the feelings of their team members. One where the members make the case to management that there is a need for the problem resolution and that they are the ones to resolve it.

Another factor in this safety aspect of team work is that management has to remove the stigma that failure is not an option. The safety comes about in the knowing that if something does not work, the team is free to try something different to resolve the issue. I believe that our seminar participant suffered from this problem. He felt that management would not let him try to implement the project because management did not hold the belief that the team could resolve the problem in their view. The members of management were not close to the team members in trying to resolve the issues that confront their organization.

Take the steps to change the work environment so that your teams can feel safe in resolving issues. GO to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Daniel Coyle’s book and let’s change the work environment so that safe feeling is developed so you can fix the organizational problems by empowering your teams.

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