Welcome to the December edition of Afiniti’s Business Change newsletter. We discuss how to Make Change Stick through taking people on a change journey throughout a programme.
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Afiniti is an award winning business change consultancy that delivers change with a people focus, producing sustainable changes in behaviour, mind-sets and working practices.
Learning Awards 2015
We’re delighted to have been shortlisted for External Learning Solution of the Year in the Learning Awards 2015, held by the Learning and Performance Institute. We’re nominated for our work delivering change to 1,500 people across 40 locations with Network Rail on its NROL3 programme. NROL3 is a business critical system, essential in the planning and delivery of maintenance materials, around the network. Network Rail and Afiniti will attend the Awards on 5 February 2015. Read about our other success with Awards here.
TAQA receives a certificate of commendation for employee engagement
We are delighted that our client TAQA has been highly commended for employee engagement at the CorpComms Awards 2014 for work on helping its newly acquired oil platform and its people change hands and stay productive. They enlisted Afiniti’s support to help deliver the change to the people on the Harding platform.
In this month’s in depth article, we look at how to take people on a journey throughout a business change programme.
The Change Journey
Most business change impacts people and it’s often up to the people to take the business forward.
There’s a destination and a route when it comes to business change and that’s why we call it a change ‘journey’. We may be unclear on the details and diversions along the way, but we know that to reap the benefits, we must bring people along.
Getting more benefits from an investment in change will come from people taking the organisation into its future state.
Change isn’t easy for anybody. Those managing and delivering the programme must make sure people are involved and engaged throughout and have the right skills to be able to adopt the new behaviours.
It’s easy to understand why people are resistant and varying levels of resistance are an inevitable part of the change journey. Anticipating resistance and planning around it is crucial and will connect people with the programme even if they do not show full buy-in at any given point.
If people are not sure of the benefits of the change or don’t understand it properly there’s bound to be strong resistance.
We find that often resistance occurs at the levels within an organisation where people use the technology or processes that are changing, to carry out their every day tasks.
Here the old ways of working are part of an informal network and culture that can be very hard to replace. People feel a level of ownership and have a sense of security in what they know. Add to that the familiarity and comfort of existing arrangements and you can see why every programme encounters resistance.
Knowing and understanding existing working practices and informal networks means you can support people throughout the programme through communication and learning support.
There are many of ways of gathering this insight quickly and efficiently, such as one to one interviews, attending team meetings, hosting focus groups, as well as just keeping your eyes to the ground.
It is important to discover who the key people are early and get to know them. They may not necessarily be integral to your project, but they’ll be the experienced and well connected people with a wide network that you’ll need to tap into.
Plan around your people
You wouldn’t plan a road trip without knowing who’s in the car. So to plan a change journey we need to get to know who’s coming.
The best change projects begin with understanding the impact for those involved. How do they see their role now? What do they look forward to at work each day? And how have they dealt with change in the past?
We asked these kinds of questions of frontline workers at an infrastructure client. The client is introducing major change. Its people need to collaborate in new ways and apply their skills in a different technological environment.
To bring them on the journey we had to understand their values – not what’s on the company intranet but the tacit rules that govern each team.
For example, when transitioning an oil platform, we began by interviewing personnel offshore on the platform, prior to transition, to establish their current culture, ways of working, software used etc. We also interviewed key onshore staff, such as project managers etc. responsible for various aspects of the implementation to get to the “to be” position.
When we learned about informal structures of power and influence, it was easier to identify the most relevant communications agendas – we even found a fax would be more powerful than email! So the investment in face to face interviews paid off in terms of confident planning.
A gap analysis will provide knowledge of people’s needs throughout change – the skills and engagement they need when moving from the world of one company to another – this produces a targeted programme of change management, learning and communications, appropriate to the needs of the audience.
Build and share your vision
They say you should start your change communications with “Why”. People need to know the reasons for change before they’ll buy in to it. Capture this in a way that speaks to everyone. For example, “We need this new technology to keep ahead of the industry, and here’s the evidence to prove it…”
Behind every technology change is a true driver of change. We only invest in technology when it supports the organisation’s strategic direction, and this all becomes part of the story of change.
This approach helped a national transport client begin a major tech-based change. The organisation has introduced many new technologies over the last 100 years, each with huge impacts. We helped them piece together the story of their development since the 19th century and this put the 21st century changes in the context of historical innovation.
The vision of the future state became clearer – from sponsors to frontline workers, people could see the change as their story’s next chapter, even though not all of them were delighted by it.
Make an impact
If change is a journey, the engagement campaign is the business’s vehicle. We want people to see it, recognise what it stands for and, ideally, jump on board.
This campaign also conveys your vision. Creativity is essential and depending on your stakeholder’s working practices, you can use a wide array of channels to get your message across.
A client in the transport industry was significantly changing the way they were structured, so they were more focussed on delivering what their customers need.
We created a brand new identity which not only brought this to life but gave them a reminder of the various parts of their new operating model, the services they provided and where individual teams fit in. This was applied to all the communications collateral to reinforce their new way of working and the need to focus on the needs of their customer.
Exploring and learning
A vital part of the change journey is allowing people the space to explore and learn via practice and hands on experience. Give them the opportunity to voice their opinions on new ways of working and experiment themselves. We’ve seen branded learning areas, where there was support on hand to help build confidence, work well.
The journey will probably need to be broken up in chunks that are achievable, each one with different things to do, look out for or collect. You won’t be able to do everything at once. And you’ll need to give the right amount of encouragement, motivation and reward for completing each stage of the journey.
Change is constant in businesses now. Don’t let your project be one of those that doesn’t realise the potential business benefits because people somehow got left behind on the journey.
Consultant Sebastian May gives his tips for getting long term sustainable commitment to change from people in a business.
Afiniti consultant Kirsten Walker gives her tips for going beyond a tick box approach to measuring and improving performance.