Planned organizational change is one way to focus the magnificent energy of an organization so it can be harnessed for the good of all persons involved. To harness all of this energy really requires a strong look at the relationships among the project’s key sponsors, targets, agents, and advocates. These relationships can be viewed as self-destructive, static, or synergistic. Self-destructive relationships consume more resources than they produce and the result of their joint effort is a net loss. Static relationships involve an even mix of unproductive, back-stabbing behavior and productive, team-oriented behavior. What is desirable is synergistic relationships where individuals work together to produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of their separate efforts.
Develop synergistic relationships
The two prerequisites for the development of synergy within a relationship: willingness and ability. Willingness stems from the sharing of common goals and interdependence. Ability is a combination of empowerment and participative management skills.
Empowered employees are those who provide true value to the organization, influencing the outcome of management’s decisions and actions. The antithesis of empowerment is victimization. Victims believe they are faced with a negative situation offering no alternatives. In actuality, most victims face alternatives they refuse to act on because they view them as too expensive. Empowerment represents both a person’s willingness to provide input to decision makers and an environment where that input is valued.
Empowerment doesn’t mean abandonment. Setting the context for change means understanding what employees do and do not know. When it comes to change, people don’t believe in a new direction because they suspend their disbelief. They believe because they are actually seeing behavior, action and results which lead them to conclude that the program works.
Without a concrete payoff, no organization is going to spend valuable time fostering good working relationships. Achieving synergy can make change work, and the payoff is a successful business in an ever-changing world. What gets managed, in harnessing the momentum of synergistic processes, is the human capacity to work as a team. Managing the energy unleashed through synergistic teamwork is as important as managing any other valuable resource. To successfully implement it, there are four approaches you must adopt: strategize, monitor and reinforce, remain team-focused and update continuously.
People working within synergistic relationships realize the value of planning action steps that are specific, measurable, and goal oriented with specific boundaries. Without such direction, you could not manage resources, determine priorities or ensure that individual activities are compatible. Although managers usually initiate these perimeters, they need to be ultimately decided upon with the input of the participants. Setting clear guidelines for what is expected, what is possible, and what is negotiable is absolutely essential in establishing the boundaries for empowerment.
2 Monitor and reinforce.
When making their moves, synergistic implementation teams must be able to oversee progress and offer solutions to any problems that develop. Caution must be taken not fall prey to an error commonly made in human relations—the belief that once a common goal is announced, all parties will perceive that goal in the same way and feel the same urgency to achieve it. To sustain your change, you must apply positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior and progress, as well as negative consequences for inappropriate behavior or lack of sufficient progress.
3 Remain team focused.
Working with a synergistic team demands that the group remain sensitive to the needs of the individuals within the team, the team as a group and the organization itself. It is not unusual for different levels of the organization to perceive and respond differently to an impending change. It may seem natural to you that those who are more competent at a task should move ahead faster than others. But that attitude fails to acknowledge that the change project’s progression was made possible because of the project’s original synergistic approach. Success is based on the ability of the team to synchronize its moves with each other so that the team gains the maximum benefit.
Unstable environments produce constantly changing variables. Reacting to these shifts in a manner that assist goal achievement requires a continuous updating of action plans. Sometimes people don’t need to change; plans do. When resistance surfaces, a synergistic team applauds the open dialogue and redesigns the plan as necessary. It is the people and the process which need to be upheld. The plan serves the people and the process. Listed below are some basic skills to help encourage and support synergy in that processing.
Five basic skills that help foster synergy.
- Establish prerequisites. Build the motivation (common goals and interdependence) and abilities (empowerment and participative management) that are the foundation for synergy (within the established and agreed upon boundaries).
- Support permeability. Help people express and be open to learning new ideas, perspectives, meanings, values, feelings, behaviors, and attitudes they would not otherwise accept or exchange.
- Encourage paradoxical thinking. Help people live through the frustration and confusion that occurs when they attempt to understand apparently contradictory ideas, viewpoints, feelings, or attitudes.
- Facilitate creativity. Teach people to value the integration of opposing views, causing a shift from “either/or” opposing relationships to “both/and” supportive relationships.
- Structure discipline. Use the new, mutually supported concepts to pursue specific objectives, assign task responsibility and stick to the schedule until the change is fully accomplished.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development