When I decided to take a job working in Mexico, I thought moving would be the hardest part. Two years later and although I still have things at home in Maryland – sorry Mom & Dad – relocating a department has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Throughout this experience, I've become a better leader, listener, and woman.
Me in the Middle with the Rest of Facility's Leadership Team
Before you take the leap to relocate a department, start a new department, or hire someone else to do it I wanted to share some key lessons that can help the transition happen successfully for the company and the change agent.
1. Put the people first.
When I was first hired, I had no idea what I was hired for. I knew I would be leading a new department but I didn't know I would be taking people's jobs from them and giving those jobs to someone else. Talk about a shocker.
When you are the one hiring someone for such a delicate matter, you help to build trust when the person coming in understands what they are up against. I was initially met with a great deal of hostility when I started and I had no idea why. If I had known that going into it, I think I would have been able to prepare myself emotionally for what I would face.
If you're lucky enough to be made aware of what you have to do, you should start to build those relationships as much as possible. People may purposefully not teach you things in an effort to protect their position, and you have to build connections with the people who are willing to teach you so that you can get your job done. I can promise you that a person not teaching you something will not be a good excuse for you to know nothing – your manager will still expect results.
Lastly, once you meet your new team focus on getting to know them. Although that was my intention when I first relocated, the pressure of getting immediate results really distracted me. I recommend building time to connect with your team into your schedule to make sure it is not an element you pass over. I ended up having to win the team back over which wasn't easy, so I recommend establishing that trust and relationship up front. Focus on their personal goals and then help them reach them - it's that easy.
2. Make standard work a priority.
Standard work is a must when leading any department. My department's training time is about two to three weeks because of it. Fortunately, I've only had one wave of turnover to go through, but it makes hiring easy and helps new individuals become more self-reliant.
The one thing I had to add to my standard work plan is to give the team responsibility for standard work, a bonus point if they are interested in quality in the future, and have them set up a follow-up plan. You need to spend your time managing and leading people, not documentation.
3. Provide and/or seek mentorship.
I didn't have too many people to talk to about what I was going through in relocating a department, or maybe I did but no one ever asked or offered their advice either.
Two years later, I found out several others had been through relocating a department which led me to wonder why no one set me up with a mentor to get through the process. The mentor should serve as support, a roadmap, and an outlet for new change agents in the company.
Relocating a department is never easy, but with the right precautions in place, you can remove some of the pain points for future change agents in your organization and increase engagement in your company.
Gabriella Payne increases engagement in teams and communities through inspiration and strategic development. She works with universities, athletic groups, and corporations to help students and recent graduates transform their futures through strategy development workshops. She is also an advocate for healthy relationships and teaches a series called "See It Coming".