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Build a Recovery Team

The leader will not be able to affect a recovery alone. The leader must form a team to carry recovery forward. Recovery team-building is the first step in engaging employees in the recovery process. A checklist of key tasks is below:

Define needed roles. Establish the roles you will have on the recovery team. In addition to the leader, most recovery teams will need people in at least the following roles: finance expert, human resources expert, operations/program expert, and communications specialist. Governments with important connections to other governments may also need a specialist in intergovernmental relations. In addition to technical roles, look at balancing the team with individuals who are strong in planning,
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making things happen, empathy, and persuasion. Finally, consider the need for sub-teams. Perhaps one sub-team will be focused on bridging or immediate survival of the organization, while another is focused on longer-term, transformative strategies.

Identify potential participants. The leader must identify which senior managers can contribute to the recovery process. Those chosen for the team must be analytical, good communicators, and not change-adverse. They must be able to deal with the fact that cutbacks may be required and be able to think and plan from an organization-wide (rather than a departmental) perspective. They must also be able to take criticism and remain determined through the adversity they will encounter.

The team might also identify good analysts who are not senior managers to be fungible resources that the team can call upon as the need arises.

Also, identify those employees who are sitting on the fence and try to find a way to get them on board. Further, figure out who the fierce resisters are and acknowledge and account for their concern, but be ready to move on. Finally, be cautious about volunteers whose goal is really to protect turf or find reasons that change does not have to happen.  

Consider the role elected officials will have on the team. The level of elected official involvement will depend on the organizational culture and preferences of the board. For example, some organizations may have a well defined policy/administration separation such that a team composed of just staff would be a better fit. In this case, elected officials should still have a role in the process, as described on the elected officials page of this site. If it does fit the culture, elected officials can be good additions to the team because they have a sense for what is politically possible and have a special skill for championing solutions and shaping the debate in the public. Typically, only a few officials at most would be included to keep team size manageable. To encourage candid communication, team meetings should not be televised. If it is not possible to have elected officials on the team without maintaining candor, then consider a subcommittee approach where the staff recovery team works closely with a subcommittee of the board.

Make sure day-to-day operations are covered. Day-to-day services must be provided while the team does its work. Identify any risks to regular service delivery arising from focusing key staff on the recovery process and plan accordingly.

Consider the need for personnel replacements. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace personnel in order to form a solid team. Two such situations include instances of professional malpractice and perpetual denial of a declining financial position. Be careful that a replacement doesn’t poison attitudes about the recovery process. Try to make use of existing progressive discipline procedures to achieve your objectives.

Consider the need for legal advice.
For large and complex issues, legal expertise should be involved early. For example, opening labor agreements, clarifying the legal authority of officials within the government, or making changes to revenues that are governed by state law may call for engaging a legal advisor. A legal advisor defines the boundaries in which a strategy must be developed.

Back to Leadership Tasks in the Bridge Stage
Go on to Build Support for the Recovery