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How to Transform Your Team's Mindset in the Modern Construction Management World

It can be challenging to convince your construction management team to embrace change. Discover helpful tips and strategies to transform a 1980’s mindset into a 21st-century attitude in the project management space.

The world is changing, and thanks to new technologies and new ways of thinking around productivity, workforces have more opportunities to connect and collaborate than ever before. Companies involved in the design and construction of large, complex construction management projects are becoming more efficient and more effective as a result.

Yet, for companies making the transition to this new way of doing business, it’s only natural for long-time staff members (even senior management) to want to stick with the way things have always been done. The status quo is comfortable. Change, on the other hand, can create fear, worry, stress and unease.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

As a result, it can be challenging to convince your team to embrace change. To learn how to transform a 1980’s mindset into a 21st-century attitude I’ve looked to three authors who specialize in change and provided my own advice as a seasoned consultant in the change management realm.

Brent Gleeson: Inform, engage and reward employees.

For Navy SEALS, the ability to collectively adapt to new scenarios and embrace change can be a matter of life or death. Navy SEAL and bestselling author Brent Gleeson revealed 8 steps for helping employees accept change, in a 2016 article in Forbes.

 “One of the most important roles a leader has is to drive necessary change and evangelize its importance. Obtaining buy-in and protecting the company culture are critical and this can only be done with clear and consistent communication and follow-through,” Gleeson said.

To achieve this, he outlined eight steps: 

  1. State the change.
  2. Listen to feedback.
  3. Acknowledge the feedback.
  4. Use emotional intelligence (empathy, understanding).
  5. Explain the why.
  6. Define clear roles.
  7. Provide training.
  8. Reward acceptance.

A number of noted change gurus have similar lists worth reading, including: Dr. John Kotter and Jeff Hiatt.

Mike Evans: Create urgency and encourage ownership.

According to Mike Evans[1] (an author, speaker and managing partner at QuestMark), it is difficult for employees to let go of what they have always known or believed. To successfully implement change, it is important to get a critical mass of employees to embrace a “heightened sense of urgency” around the need for change.

“Change occurs best when powered by passion and intrinsic motivation,” Evans said.

“When change is ‘pushed’ out on employees, most often they will push back. That is human nature. When employees do not see the reason or need for change, or understand the compelling business case, they often fear or resent change. Even worse, they may deliberately sabotage or derail change efforts.”

Evans stressed the need to avoid simply dictating change from the top down, and instead create urgency behind the need for change to gain buy in. This comes by engaging the mind and the heart. He said you can never over-communicate the opportunity or vision.

“A ‘want to’ culture trumps a ‘have to’ culture.”

Kurt Lewan: Unfreeze. Change. Refreeze.

While physicist and social scientist Kurt Lewan developed Lewan’s Change Management Model back in 1947, it still holds valuable lessons for organizations initiating change in the 21st Century.

Lewan based his model on the analogy of wanting to turn a block of ice into a cone of ice. This required three steps: unfreeze the block of the ice so it can be changed. Use a mold to give the resulting water a new shape, then refreeze to solidify the change.

Lewan believed that one cannot just jump blindly into change, but that it requires a well thought out process.

Unfreeze: At this stage it is important to develop a compelling case in favour of change in a way people can understand. Often, this will challenge an organization’s beliefs, values, assumptions, attitudes and behaviours. By creating a “controlled crisis” the organization can establish motivation for change. He felt this was the most difficult and stressful stage.

Change: Change begins as people overcome uncertainty and seek different ways to do things. People will need to know how change will benefit them (and not just the company). Change requires that you give people adequate time to adjust, and communicate clearly throughout.

Refreeze: Once the change is in place, it is important to solidify (institutionalize) the new way of doing things as standard operating practice. With stability comes comfort and confidence.

Foster a culture of trust and over-communicate change

I have spent a great number of years successfully coaching corporate executives through high-pressure changes in corporate strategy and staffing. From all this experience I can say with full assurance that change management takes leadership.  Unfortunately, too many managers assume that their teams will follow them, because they are the boss after all. However,  without a culture of trust, compliance occurs at best with resistance and heel dragging.

When it comes to change management, it’s not what you do that counts— it’s what you do before you do what you do that counts. Furthermore, change occurs often in line with a sigmoid curve. No matter what we do, there will be some pain involved. Without over-communication, this pain can be interpreted by followers as corporate death, leaving them wondering if the ship is sinking.  Let people know what to expect and lead them through difficult times.

Apply this advice as you embrace new construction management practices.

As you work to introduce collaborative construction management tools to your operations, this advice will help to ensure a smooth transition and increase acceptance. Once you’ve realized how much more efficiently you can work, you’ll wonder why you didn’t embrace this change sooner.

“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”– Max McKeown

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