Avoiding Silos when Delivering Change

What happens in your organisation when a change is implemented; particularly a change involving both system and process?

Typically, a project will be initiated; representatives from the core business and IT will liaise to design the solution. External developer resource may be engaged to create a bespoke system.  So change is quite a costly business, involving multiple stakeholders and a high level of risk.

When it comes to the implementation of the change however, how do you know you have “finished”?  Ask IT, and they will probably reply “when the system is implemented”.  Many representatives from the business would give a similar answer.

Yet organisations do not go to all this time, expense and risk just to implement “a new system”.  The new system is implemented to meet a business need, to provide tangible business benefit.

However, business benefits will only be fully realised if the recipients of the change, i.e. the end users of the new system and process, are taken on the change journey.

Firstly, the change needs to be planned via effective project management to ensure the change is delivered to time, cost and quality.

Secondly, the recipients of the change need to be involved in that journey from the start, via engaging Communications to inform them what is happening, when, why and how it will affect them.  This involves engaging with end users and the project team to really get to know the business and understand the need for change.

Thirdly, engaging and innovative Learning solutions, both classroom and digital are required, to ensure that the recipients of the change fully understand it; not only the what, but the why and the how, so they are fully engaged with the change and are enthusiastic about adopting it.

Finally, all of these elements are underpinned by consistent Brand to give the change impact and get the key messages across.

This is what Afiniti does; we integrate the key people elements of Change; Project Management, Communications, Learning and Brand.  We do not view these elements as separate silos, as is often the case within projects, but components of the Business Change whole, always focused on the business benefits from change.

This integration of the key people elements of business change is the key to uniting different stakeholders behind a common goal.  It encourages IT for example to see the business benefits, rather than just technology implementation and is the most effective way of achieving the intended benefits from change.

Are you delivering change with a focus on the business benefits you want to achieve and how well do you deliver change to people?


Additional resources: 

Change readiness assessment – see  the gaps  in your ability to deliver successful change


Uncovering the secret change network

There’s no denying the power of the change network in accelerating and embedding change. But are you sure you know how to map and measure influencers? Here are some quick pointers.

Communications professionals and change managers have long known the power of using a network of change agents. Champions or advocates can help to facilitate and embed change, especially in large, complex organisations.

However, many change programmes may still be missing opportunities to uncover sources of real insight and influence – the well-connected ‘go-to people’ in an organisation – just because they may not sit in the expected place in the company’s hierarchy.

Recent research say informal and personal networks can be as critical as formal ones, and that someone’s influence does not necessarily correspond to their seniority. The authors of a 2013 paper for Harvard Business Review, studying 68 change initiatives in the NHS, discovered these ‘two types of workplace’. The first is the traditional formal hierarchy:

formal change network

If we were in the process of setting up a formal change agent network, or simply analysing stakeholders for our project, it may be tempting to focus on the top two levels as the most influential. However, if as the study does, we look at the same people in their Informal Network, the picture’s different:

informal change network

Because Josh is well-connected and sought out for advice he becomes much more influential than his seniors in the organisation. In fact, HBR’s study found that people at any level who wished to exert influence as change agents should be key to the organisation’s informal network. [1]

We found this when we helped a firm in the rail industry introduce iPhone technology to over 10,000 front-line maintenance workers.

One of the keys to the project’s success was in securing the support at local level of a network of systems support managers and team administrators, stretching from Inverness to Plymouth. They had the right know-how to help us logistically, the relationships with line managers to encourage great attendance at training sessions and, crucially, the credibility amongst the local workforce to explain why the change was happening and what it meant.

Once we’d tapped into and grown this network we could work with them effectively over three deployment waves in two years, saving everyone involved time and effort – their input was invaluable.

Of course, leaders drive change, and employees want to hear from them during uncertain times, but equally we shouldn’t resist the logic that tells us people trust and talk to the colleagues they work most closely with.

From a business change perspective we need our stakeholder analysis, mapping and ongoing employee engagement activities to uncover and nurture such potentially rich advocates, rather than risk ignoring them because they are less ‘influential’ in the traditional hierarchy.

The networks I’ve referred to here aren’t ‘secret’ but they may not be obvious or formal, especially during the initial planning stage of the project when stakeholder analysis is traditionally done.

We need to harness or build networks that look beyond job roles and functions as well as beyond the centre of an organisation, (where, incidentally, we in our project teams often find ourselves sitting). And we need to be unafraid to keep looking during the life of the project; as new ‘influencers’ are uncovered we need to be able to respond and change tactics accordingly.

Further reading

Free online change readiness assessment

The best offline communication channels for your change programme

[1] Harvard Business Review, July 2013 – The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents https://hbr.org/2013/07/the-network-secrets-of-great-change-agents ]

Why is measuring internal communications often overlooked?

The value of measuring internal communications can’t be understated, particularly in times of change. So why the reluctance?

Many people feel they’ve been engaged to create a strategy and deliver it, and then that’s it.  Some may feel a slight uneasiness when approaching the measurement of their plan as it may uncover results they don’t want to see. Others may not see the value in it, or just plain forget!

Why is it important?

Useful measurement techniques including staff surveys, can track shifts in employee attitudes and behaviour which, in turn, can help determine strategy and improve future communication and change management. Effective communication can make employees feel secure and informed, resulting in higher satisfaction scores and levels of employee engagement.

Satisfied employees generate better customer relations and service, leading to higher profits.

internal communications measurement

In project management, measuring employee engagement with communications is vital to make sure that communications are supporting the achievement of the business objectives underpinning the project or programme.

The messages have to stick, to support the long terms behaviour change needed, so measuring understanding and the effectiveness of communications is vital.

Common hurdles  

Measurement is often seen as an afterthought, or occurs following a specific challenge around how well you are doing your job.

If it’s the latter, then it could mean a lengthy, sometime expensive, task which takes you away from doing what you’re supposed to be.

But it needn’t be like this.  Being able to measure and evaluate is more of a mind-set. If we are able to consider ‘is what I’m doing worthwhile?’ or ‘how can I make this better?’ for everything we do, then it can be ingrained into how we work.

Some communications channels are relatively easy to measure such as websites, or newsletters, but for others it may be time to get a little creative.

For instance, if you’ve organised a team briefing or presentation, don’t hand out feedback forms at the end as they will invariably not get filled out.  Try emailing just one question out to all attendees, such as ‘On a scale of one to ten, how informed do you feel about…?’ or ‘On a scale of one to ten, how committed are you to…’  All the attendees will need to do is to respond with one number.  Surely everyone has time to do that.

If the value of what you’re doing can’t be measured then it’s worth thinking of another way of doing it.

So what are my tips?

  • Avoid survey fatigue– annual surveys have their place, but regular pulse and temperature checks can easily annoy your audience, particularly if nothing is done as a result of the feedback received.
  • Talk to people– anecdotal feedback can be undervalued, but often provides great insight.
  • Make the time – don’t see it as ‘something extra’; plan some proper time to analyse your data and draw conclusions.
  • Say thank you – respond to those who’ve taken the time to tell you their views.  You don’t want them thinking that their feedback has disappeared down some black hole never to be found again.
  • Take action – do something with it; and tell your audience what you’ve done.  They’ll be more likely to give it again in the future.

Effective measurement can bring enormous value to internal communicators if done well.

Let me know what you think, and good luck.


Further resources:

Downloadable internal communications channel guide

Are your people ready for change? A quick online change readiness assessment with tailored recommendations

How falling oil prices can boost employee engagement

It may come as a surprise but the streamlining going on in the North Sea oil industry is giving people the opportunity to engage with their work like never before.

The pressure is now on to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The alternative is job losses which obviously everyone wants to avoid.

Enter creative employee engagement: Employees coming up with ideas and doing what they can to save the company money and increase efficiency. From the very small, no more disposable coffee cups – something that the line manager can sign off; to the important stuff that gives the employee a direct line to leadership.

Add to that you can keep reminding people visually around the business of the impact and extent their savings are having. Reminding people of the outcomes of their efforts is motivating and can drive further ambition to make improvements. And it really works. We’ve seen companies generate exciting levels of cost savings by enlisting the support and contributions of their own people.

In this way streamlining and cost saving may not result in the dreaded lay-offs or at least help to minimise them. And the uncertainty that employees feel when money is tight? That can give way to a war time like comradery and a renewed sense of purpose!

How can we give people back control over the situation – empower them to make a difference and have a say in how the business fights back? We give them the airspace and encouragement to be really involved and listened to, giving them ownership over the solution.

Actions speak louder than words and it must be really satisfying for employees to see the impact of their ideas on the business. If your company is struggling with the uncertainty and negativity around profit decline why not give it a go?


Find out more:

Creative engagement at TAQA

Change readiness assessment

Engagement & Communications consultancy