Managing Major Changes In Your Dynasty League
Change is hard. We accept the status quo, even if we see flaws in the way things are. Trying to enact change can cause anxiety, fear of the unknown, or interpersonal strife. This is true in all walks of life, fantasy leagues included. Leagues that have been around for a while will inevitably evolve, but unfortunately the process is rarely painless. Leagues might move to a new site, implement new rules, add or remove teams, or close loopholes, and making changes to your fantasy league can lead to long arguments or hurt feelings. When managed incorrectly, little changes can blow up into huge problems that threaten to destabilize the entire league.
Fantasy leagues are microcosms of the same sort of group dynamics we all interact with daily. There are fields of study dedicated to change management, and how to disrupt organizations or cultures without destroying them. If you’re a commissioner trying to coordinate or manage a change to your league, or if you’re in a league currently going through changes and things aren’t running smoothly, the field of change management can provide some strategies to help improve your league without your attempts blowing up in your face. As Winston Churchill once said- “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”
Even if your league allows for major decisions to be made unilaterally by the commissioner, or by a small group of managers, it’s always important to ensure everyone in the league is given adequate opportunity to buy in to any change. If they don’t buy in on a change, other managers in your league might feel resentful, deceived, or distrustful of the league’s future.
Within the world of corporate change management there are many methodologies and strategies discussed. Without getting too theoretical, I’ve outlined some common concepts and best practices for proposing a change in your league. The concepts can be broadly applied to any change that impacts a majority or all of the managers.
Understand the Value of the Change You’re Pursuing
It’s not enough to know the problem, you have to know how the solution you’re pursuing will bring value. In the case of switching sites, everyone in your league may agree that the old site doesn’t meet the full needs of the league, but this doesn’t mean the proposed new site is the best solution. Research the options, solicit opinions from other managers, and propose a solution only after you find the one that provides the most (or best) value back to your league.
Make a Case for the Change
Don’t assume everyone will be amenable to your solution just because they all agree on the problem. Propose your change as if you’re trying to sell it. Highlight the benefits, be prepared to discuss any risks or concerns, and avoid getting defensive during any discussion or debate. You may propose moving to a new site because it offers a deeper player pool or better tracking options for minors or reserves. Others in the league might counter that the current way your league is performing those tasks isn’t easy, but it gets the job done and it’s been that way for years so why change now? Be prepared to address these concerns in a way that shows you hear the other side and you’re not ignoring them. A great way to do this is to use the trick parents use when dealing with a frustrated young child– get them to voice their concern, repeat it back to them to show you heard, and then present your proposed solution again. Which brings us to the next point:
Be Confident and Credible
Back up your claims that the change you’ve proposed is the right one. Share the results of any research. If you aren’t sure your change is really going to solve the problem, others will pick up on that right away. Maybe you’re changing sites but the new site you’re moving to has features you don’t yet fully understand. If you don’t know something, own up to it and point out what you do know and how you’ll be prepared to assist with any issues during the transition. You need to be able to speak with authority to justify why you’re rocking the boat.
Communicate the Need
You know what the problem is, and you think everyone else knows the problem too. But there may be subtle differences of opinion or assumptions you and others are making that get in the way of getting stuff done. Make sure you can articulate the specific problem you’re solving or need you’re filling, and present it in a way that everyone can see and understand. If you want to move sites, explain the specific reasons why this is required by pointing to real examples of problems with the current site. Maybe someone drafted a minor leaguer who wasn’t in the player pool at the time, or the rosters or scoring settings can’t be fully managed by the current site and require personal attention. Using examples that everyone can remember will reinforce why the change is needed.
Present Your Research
It’s important to show the work you did leading up to the decision, which means it’s important to do that work. If you want to move sites, poll users of the sites your considering for their opinions. Find facts that underscore not just why a change is required, but why the change you’re proposing is the best one.
Address Everyone’s Role
Fantasy leagues are made up of diverse personalities working in competition with each other toward the same goal of a league championship. This often means the league doesn’t operate as a single unit with the same goal of having fun together. Forcing a change down the throat of competitors is a great way to have them all turn against you. When making the case for the change, make sure you outline exactly what everyone’s role will be. Will they be required to vote on a decision? If you’re moving sites, will they need to check their rosters for accuracy after the initial import and, if so, what’s the deadline? Give clear, simple instructions. If anyone has a special role, call it out. For instance, if you need to track one response from each team make sure you indicate how teams with co-owners should respond.
Prepare for the Unexpected
You’ve done the research and made your case. Now what will you do when something blows up in your face? Maybe one team decides the change is too much and quits right before the season starts. Maybe you get set up in a new site and find out that the available settings don’t match exactly what you’re trying to do. Whatever the issue, understand that issues always occur and this doesn’t reflect on the correctness of the initial decision. When making a change, make sure you’ve got resources to support you and help problem solve when need arises. This could be the support department at the site your league is set up with, another commissioner in your league, other owners, or people from other leagues.
Don’t expect changes in your league to follow the Ron Popeil method of “set it and forget it.” Check in with managers after the change to see how things are going. Keep checking in throughout the season to ensure any issues found can come to the surface. Keep open lines of communication, and watch things very closely in the weeks and months immediately following any major change to ensure you’re doing as much as possible to keep everyone happy (within reason).
Following the concepts listed above won’t mean every change you make is free from debate or disagreement. It will mean you’ve supported your decisions and can justify them as required, while also ensuring everyone else in your league gets an opportunity to be heard. All of these concepts are soft skills that are best learned through lots of practice. Don’t expect changes to smooth out overnight. Keep your head up if you fail, and keep trying as long as you really believe in the change you want to make.
Is your league pursuing any major changes this off-season? If so, how’s it going? Let us know in the comments.