In this edition:
Starting a business change programme? Avoid the common pitfall.
Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director.
The latest from the Afiniti insights blog.
Spotlight by Anthony Edwards
You’re about to start your business change programme, but where’s your burning platform, and can you fight the fire?
Someone recently asked me ‘what’s the one key thing you would advise leaders embarking on a business change programme?’
This is a really big ask, There are so many elements to discuss and debate – each ‘change’ has different drivers, each industry its own nuances, and each company its own culture and all these elements play vital roles in shaping any programme.
Thinking about the past 15 years’ or so, and my experience helping clients in oil and gas, transport, logistics, pharmaceutical, and finance; There is one stand-out piece of universal wisdom I’d pass on to any client, which is to start at the beginning. It sounds obvious, but let me explain.
Start at the beginning, and take it step by step
In my experience many organisations find themselves starting their change programme by creating the vision and strategy, before they’ve sufficiently ‘set the stage’.
Planning a business change programme can feel incredibly daunting. Time and again leaders are under pressure and already behind the curve – budget approval came through later than anticipated and the programme is running behind schedule and not completely formed, but there’s pressure to plough-on regardless. It’s at this point that you need to take a step back and say ‘stop, let’s start from the beginning – together. Let’s set ourselves up for success.’
So what should you be doing before you start strategising?
Preparation really is the key when it comes to change, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of models and methods for building and leading change programmes – and we can use elements from many of them. One I return to time and again is Kotter’s 8-Step Process which breaks the job down into logical, and most importantly, sequential steps.
Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model for Successful Transformational Change
Source: Kotter and Cohen, The Heart of Change.
Step 1. Create a sense of urgency – Nail the ‘Why?’ and ‘Why now?’
For change to stick it really helps if the whole organisation accepts it and understands the drivers – especially if change has been attempted in the past and already had a number of false starts.
For this reason Kotter encourages us to start the change programme by creating a sense of urgency, so that we are not only focussing on the ‘why’ change, but also the ‘why change now?’
You need to develop a clear and compelling story – a way to articulate the common goal behind which everyone needs to align. The story needs to not only be socialised, but shouted from the rooftops, so everyone can understand why this change is taking place and get behind it. This sense of urgency, communicated by the leadership team, builds, spreads and fuels itself, and there you have what Kotter refers to as your burning platform.
It’s also worth noting that, at this stage it is crucial to sense check that your reason for change will be obviously compelling to everyone involved, not just the leadership team. It may seem crystal clear to senior leaders, but once you start communicating about the change, and you go two or three steps out into the business, the people may not have a clue what you’re talking about! A good question to ask is, if the story is not clear, does the responsibility for clarification lie with the reader or story teller?!
It’s equally important that all members of the leadership team can articulate this sense of urgency. People need to receive the same message whether they ask the project team or their own management hierarchy, It is your senior sponsors’ responsibility to ensure that they’re all aligned.
Step 2. Create a guiding coalition from across the organisation
You’ve created the sense of urgency and now you need to shape a team who can continue building the momentum and lead the change programme.
Consider who will be strong and effective at leading the change on a daily basis – you’ll need influential people around the table, from a variety of different backgrounds. These people will become key to embed the change later on.
Once you’ve formed your guiding coalition you need to check that the common goal is anchored in the benefit outcome – and that you’ll be able to measure your success against this. Then you’re in a position to start creating the vision and strategy for the change programme.
One last thing
So you’ve nailed the ‘why’ and you have your guiding coalition ready to get started on your business change programme. One final thing to consider:
Is the organisation currently ready and capable of change?
To be in the optimum position to be ready and receptive to change – your key business capabilities such as leadership, culture and competency should be functioning at a certain level. If any one of these is out of kilter, you’re not giving yourself the best chance for the programme to succeed.
Afiniti’s 6LeverTM change readiness assessment tool measures where you are now against six key capabilities and outlines any gaps which need to be addressed, and what needs to be done to accelerate change and make it sustainable.
Take the Change Readiness Assessment now and find out if your organisation is ready for change.
I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with ‘setting the stage’ for business change. Do you think there are any other pitfalls senior leaders should be mindful of when embarking on a business change programme?
Afiniti news: Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director
Previously a Managing Partner at James and Carmichael Consulting (JCC), Jay has over twelve years’ consulting experience under his belt, as well as a background in operations and supply chain management where he started his career after graduating from Leeds University .
Jay is settling in to working life at Afiniti, so it seemed a good time to sit down with him and have a chat about his career to date, his areas of specialism and what he’s enjoying working on so far at Afiniti.
Insights roundup: The latest from the Afiniti insights blog