Make Change, Minimize Distractions

What's Your Problem?

Who

Karen Bredfeldt (karen.bredfeldt@usaa.com), regional pride adviser (mountain states), USAA.

What's your problem?

"My mission is to help improve quality and productivity at our regional office in Colorado Springs — to help make the future even better than the past. The challenge is to make that change without harming the present."

Tell me about it

"Change is disruptive — that's the point! But this company prides itself on exceptional day-to-day execution. We used to approach this problem with a containment strategy: To insulate our people and our customers from daily disruptions, we'd create small teams of managers and change specialists. But that caused new problems. Front-line people became confused. Rumors grew rampant."

What's your solution?

"Tag Teams. These are made up of people who volunteer to join the core group that's designing and managing an initiative. Tag Team members attend all of the group's major meetings and take responsibility for communicating news about change to their home departments.

"Tag Teams provide a reality check. The people on these teams are customer-service reps. Their bottom-line concern is, How will this initiative affect customers? And as advocates for their colleagues, they tend to ask hard-nosed questions. They also make sure that the company addresses issues that breed fear and insecurity: redesigned jobs, new managers, new functional areas.

"After meetings, Tag Team members are back on the job. This proximity to colleagues allows for lots of informal communication. Involvement, not containment, is the way to minimize disruption."

Cathy Olofson (cathyo@channel1.com) is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. USAA, a financial-services giant based in San Antonio, Texas, has 3 million customers and employs 18,500 people.

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