Group Thinking

As I mentioned in my last post, an individual can look at the decision to change as balancing an equation:

Desire+Opportunity+Reward > Effort+Barriers+Cost

But what if we are talking about a team managing change? A good leader will use the equation to take a look at both the Team (e.g., team, office, department) as a singular entity, as well as the smaller role groupings or individuals. Am I asking the CEO of a large company to consider each employee individually? Of course not. Though a good CEO will gather information on the impacts of the change on the different segments of their company. I’m talking about heads of departments and small businesses.


  • Desire: a group may not have a singular feeling, so it makes more sense to ask if there is a natural benefit to the Team? (Will it make the Team more effective?)

  • Opportunity: does the Team have the resources and time necessary to carry out and adjust to the change?

  • Reward: are there rewards that aren’t implicit to the change?

  • Effort: how much of the Team’s time and energy will go into doing the new thing and/or other adjustments?

  • Barriers: are there external forces that impede change? (For instance, are there other institutional processes won’t work well with the change?)

  • Cost: what is the Team sacrificing in order to do something different?

Individuals or Role Groups:

  • Desire: what are the levels of internalized sense of benefit of change for each role/person?

  • Opportunity: what are the different levels of resources available for accomplishing the change?

  • Reward: are there rewards? Implicit desire is a better motivator for effective change, but sometimes a token of appreciation for dealing with difficulty is welcome.

  • Effort: what are the different levels of effort and/or different levels of adjustment required? (For instance, one role uses new software extensively and has more to learn than one who rarely uses it.)

  • Barriers: what are external factors that impede change for each role/person? (For instance, the new software is coming online at the end of the fiscal year. This is going to be difficult for the accounting department.)

  • Cost: what are the levels of sacrifice by different roles/people?


Lack of Choice

Often in workplace settings the change has already been decided on by others with authority. This is often called "Change Management." What role does the Contemplation stage play in forgone conclusions?

Good leadership and good team communication are even more important. Communication should not start with “Because I said so.” To be effective in change management the conversation should start with the analysis of the facilitative and impeding factors. Then leadership and the team must address adjustments needed to balance the equation towards change:

  • Desire: Be explicit about the ways the change benefits the team, whether directly or through greater effectiveness for the larger company.

  • Opportunity: Be creative to find needed resources (including time) that are currently lacking.

  • Reward: Find ways to add tokens of appreciation for teams successfully implementing and integrating change.

  • Effort: Be creative to find ways to offset additional work.

  • Barriers: Identify and neutralize external impeding factors.

  • Cost: Be creative and find ways to mitigate some of the costs of change.



Members of a small, tight-knit, well-functioning department were told by their Vice President that there would be a reorganization effective in less than two weeks. Two of the team members would be moved under the direction of another major department.


  • Desire: No benefit to the effectiveness of the team addressed.

  • Opportunity: Fair, the change occurred during a month that regularly had lower workload.

  • Reward: None.

  • Effort: Moderate. The original Team will have to make workflow adjustments to compensate for lost teammates’ impact on projects and shared office tasks.

  • Barriers: Non-significant.

  • Cost: Loss of the supportive, well-functioning Team.


  • Desire: No sense of benefit for most of the people. One employee finally got his own office. As an introvert, this helped him improve his personal productivity by decreasing distractions.

  • Opportunity: Fair, the change occurred during a month when everyone had lower workload.

  • Reward: None.

  • Effort: Moderate to Significant. The change in department would require the two employees to adjust to a different workflow system, and to take time to move offices. The Office Manager and the Supervisor in the original Department had to take up the extra work on shared office tasks. The other four employees split the extra project work. No adjustment was made in anticipation of the following month’s increased project load.

  • Barriers: The two leaving the department will be in an office location 10 miles away. This impacts one of the employee’s commute and Day Care planning.

  • Cost: Loss of the supportive, well-functioning team.

A good leader will look at these factors and work with their employees to find ways to adjust the equation. In this situation, desire may not be possible, but addressing company-wide benefits of the change can’t hurt. There may be ways to increase other positive factors like adding a token of appreciation for successful transition. You can decrease negative factors. For instance, creating greater opportunities for cross department collaboration may reduce the sense of loss of the Team and increase effectiveness of the company. Also, anticipating solutions for the increase in workload on the original department.

This example is a combination of two real workplaces scenarios. Unfortunately, in the real scenarios, the leadership did not attend to change factors. The employees interpreted the management of the entire situation as callous and indicating a lack of basic respect for the employees. In the context of other management mistakes in both workplaces, their trust in upper management and their sense of security in their smaller teams decreased significantly. As a result, several of the employees started looking for new jobs, including one of the supervisors.


In conclusion, Change Management in a team or department needs to involve the whole team and the leadership, even at the thinking/motivation stage. Too often, Change Management is placed fully on the shoulders of the employees who have the least power to adjust their work environment. Further, Change Management is also often reactionary to a change that is already taking place. As I have just pointed out, a lot of important Change Management work happens at the very early stages. The next stage we will address is Preparation, when we make adjustments in the factors that we need to create change.