Changing Ways of Working

Many of us are wrestling with the extraordinary shift in our ways of working. After making big changes as COVID-19 first hit, we are now contemplating how organisations need to work going forward. How much time in the office? Where do we do our best work? How much face to face, if any, interaction is essential to getting the job done? Is the role of the office changing? Do we need different tools? Do we need to think differently? And really, all this coming together in one big question – How do we best support our people through the change to a ‘new normal’, which works best for our business?

Changes to ways of working in any context require careful thought to make them sustainable. Many agree that a 100% return to the office is not the way forward. However, we are all highly conscious of colleagues who do not have a choice, because their roles are front line, customer facing, operational, or related to critical services. Also, working from home is much more challenging for some than for others. Space may be cramped and noisy. Young children will need attention. If you are on your own, you may find yourself feeling lonely.

What we do not want is a “them and us” culture, where flexible working is regarded as a “perk” for those in a certain type of role, creating divisions and tensions. It is a delicate path to tread. Our challenge is to get all of this settled down to a new way of working which bests suits our businesses.

And of course, we are not just talking about agile working: accelerating digitalisation; increasing the emphasise on the online offering; re-orgs; front end customer-facing process changes; acceleration of some projects; disbanding and re-forming decision-making structures; greater integration between IT Services and functions. There is also an ongoing learning and development challenge – getting people familiar with how to share files, work digital whiteboards, hold workshops.

At Afiniti, we have many years’ experience helping organisations clarify and implement sustainable ways of working changes designed to achieve specific outcomes. Some of what we have learned, and some of what we have witnessed at our clients more recently, is summarised here into five key factors for successfully and sustainably embedding the changes you need to make:

Clear & Transparent

A key factor in achieving and sustaining ways of working changes is being clear what is being asked and why. This may sound obvious, but how many times have your ways of working been mentioned as an afterthought, and then not been followed up? It saves so much time and effort later, if the desired change is clearly defined, including the (honest) reasons. Ways of working changes will be far more successful, and far more likely to be sustained, if they are presented in a way which tells it as it is. No spin, no euphemisms, no missing stuff out because its uncomfortable. Only plain, straight forward language. In the context of coming out of COVID, there will naturally be a lot of uncertainty, so it will be really important to be specific about the end goal (the way we want to work), and why (why it’s good for you, and why it’s good for the business). It will be equally important to be honest about the uncertainty in the meantime. Let’s not try and control what we can’t.

Meaningful

What’s in it for me? This is often missed and can be a basic failure of “top-down” communication. When changes are defined without understanding the impact on each role, credibility is lost, engagement suffers, and the change doesn’t stick. So, why is it specifically good for me? How will my working life improve as a result? And if there is anything, I won’t be able to do, that I used to be able to do? Please be honest and tell me.

Intentional

This is the one that is most often the difference between success and failure. Changes to behaviour / working patterns will not be made or sustained, unless all the influencing levers are intentionally and fully addressed. This usually includes how people are led, measured, supported, influenced by peers, and rewarded. Put another way, ways of working changes don’t result from a directive, supported by a comms campaign. That’s important, but only a small part of what is required. If you want to change something, change something! Do not just talk about it, or simply set a new “policy”.

Measured

How will you know if you and your colleagues have been successful? Is it clear where you are starting from? Afiniti recently worked with a client planning to move to more agile ways of working (pre COVID) who spent time measuring current practices, so there was a clear baseline to move forward from. It was quite surprising how tricky it was to answer simple questions such as how many people on average are in the office each day, between which times, etc? However, this provided really important information for establishing a clear starting point, and surprising insights for determining priorities.

Sustained

One of the most common problems in implementing change is stopping too early. Ultimately, the intended benefits and outcomes are often eroded over time when people gradually creep back to the old ways of working. Keeping a strong focus on measurement and support networks for an extended period is critical to embedding changes and making it stick. At the end of the day, it’s a journey, and continuing to manage that journey reaps rewards not just to sustain the new model, but also to move it on and continually improve it.

The above points only skim the surface on what is an important and current issue. As such, Afiniti will soon be publishing a range of insights that each focus on one of the five key factors above.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation with its business change challenges and opportunities drop us a line and we’ll get straight back to you.

 


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In It for the Long-Haul – Sustaining Change

One of the hardest parts of successful change is sustaining it beyond delivery. Investing in change should of course mean the whole process of change, through to benefit realisation and beyond. Change initiatives should give people what they need to be able to continue to build on the change after the initiative has finished.

So what can we do throughout a change initiative to give it its best chance of being sustained following delivery?


Listen. It’s tempting to get going and start delivering. We’re all used to working at pace. But every change in every organisation is of course different. Start listening at the beginning. Ask questions. Understand the organisational context. What might work in this particular organisation to make change stick? What’s worked here before, and what hasn’t? Understand the people involved and their experience. Apply lessons from previous initiatives. Adapt and flex as you go. Go beneath the surface.

Build internal capability. Organisations often bring external partners on board to have additional short-term resource to deliver change quickly. But working with external partners is an opportunity to grasp as much of their experience and knowledge as you can to prepare for future change. (Partners not willing to transfer knowledge may not be people you want to work with.) Build in regular opportunities for formal and informal knowledge transfer during delivery. Offer specific internal capability deliverables such as learning sessions and coaching if appropriate. Sit together. Share more. Use collaborative tooling.

Co-create and collaborate. Sustainable change isn’t a ‘done to’ process; it must be ‘done with’. People make change stick. Work together to develop and deliver the change. Expect external partners and senior stakeholders to model the change you desire. Bring in BAU colleagues who understand the culture and ways of working to develop the change. Try and test as you go. Build a toolkit and library of artefacts together for the future. Think ahead, what else might be needed once the change initiative has ended? Identify and deliver creative solutions. Make practical, relevant recommendations. Build trust and deliver with integrity.

Put people first. Organisations are their people. Enabling those people to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will improve your chances of successful change. Change and communication strategies and plans must be developed with employees at the forefront. What’s the art of the possible? How can we do things differently? How can we incentivise people to contribute as we go? How can we have fun and break the routine? How can we help people to work through the change themselves and establish ways of working that are sustainable and achievable long-term? Put in place a proactive plan to reach anyone who hasn’t been reached as part of the main change initiative.

Prepare for handover. Transitioning from change initiative to BAU is more than a library of artefacts, a handover meeting, and a lessons-learned log. It’s a process. Allow time. Plan a transition. Future-proof. Avoid people being isolated once the change initiative has ended. Bigger change initiatives might have a sustainability plan with people tasked with managing the transition. Empower continuing champions networks. Find out what they need. Once the change initiative has ended, keep looking at the lessons learned. Keep identifying case studies to demonstrate success. Celebrate, reward, and celebrate again.


As we all know, it takes a concerted effort to sustain change, change isn’t easy. Plus it’s important to look back to see if the change is being sustained. Fundamentally, why change if it’s not intended to be for the long-haul?

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Afiniti in Financial Times Report on UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2020

For a third year running, Afiniti has been named in the Financial Times special report ‘UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2020’ as one of the best UK management consultancies.

Published today (29 January 2020) by the Financial Times, in partnership with Statista, Afiniti has been listed as one of the top 30 organisations in the UK delivering ‘Organisation and Change’ consultancy to clients. Inclusion in the report is a public acknowledgement of Afiniti’s reputation and profile, with the list based on two surveys; one among peers (partners and executives from consultancies) and one among clients.

Corrina Jorgensen, Managing Partner at Afiniti commented:

“With only 200 consultancies from the longlist of 5000 making it onto the report, we’re enormously proud of our continued ranking within this exclusive group. With an even tougher ranking process this year, this is testament to our genuine, unwavering commitment to making a real difference for our clients, helping them to make change stick.”

The full list, and details of the survey’s methodology, is available on the Financial Times’ website.

If you‘d like to know how Afiniti could benefit change within your company, give us a call on: 08456080104 or email: enquiries@afiniti.co.uk

 

ENDS

 

Media Enquires

George Tresnan

Marketing Manager

George.tresnan@afiniti.co.uk

0845 608 0104

 

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Digital Transformation – Adoption Pull not Delivery Push?

In the first and second blogs of this series on how Business Change needs to adapt to be effective for digital transformation, we set out an agenda based on the ways in which digital transformation is different, and made a case for treating it as culture change not systems implementation. Both blogs stressed that what Afiniti is about is adopting different ways of working and changed behaviours, not really about getting people to use technology per se.  But what do we mean by adopting; what is it; and how does focusing on adoption inform Business Change activity and planning?  That’s what this blog is about.

We talk about adoption in many different domains.  Adopting a child is both a legal event, but also (I’d suggest) a process of settling into a new pattern of family – for adoptive parent(s) and adopted child(ren). But we also talk about adopting new identities, nationalities and behaviours; we speak of new processes and systems being adopted; and we even refer to individuals and groups adopting things such as fashions, chants / songs, or postures. What can we learn from this? Perhaps it’s that adoption is a journey undertaken as much as a single event,

If one of the things that distinguishes digital transformation from other change journeys is that the use of the tool(s) it provides can be optional (see our first blog), then successful adoption of new ways of working enabled by digital tools is surely a process involving both breadth and depth.  Breadth – what proportion of the group / organisation has taken on new ways of working by using the tool(s); and depth, to what extent (for how much of what they do) have they changed what they do by using the tool(s) – perhaps even how much of the potential for improvement have they unlocked.  And if our goal is the adoption of new ways of working, enabled by the technology, then adoption cannot be anything but a process – and a process that begins with the tools being made available, not one that ends at that point.

What might a process view of adoption, one focused on increasing breadth and depth, mean for Business Change?

First, we’ve found that it means the Business Change activity after a technology ‘go live’ will be at least as important as, Business Change activity before any ‘go live’. And, since programmes tend to come to their end relatively quickly after ‘go live’, this in turn means that much of the most important Business Change activity will not be programme-driven but will have to be delivered as part of business-as-usual. Whilst many organisations are beginning to recognise this need we see few that have successfully risen to the challenge.

Second, if adoption is a process of broadening and deepening, it’s difficult to see how it can be ‘delivered’ – or ‘pushed’ at colleagues within an organisation. Rather, we at Afiniti find, adoption is better encouraged and stimulated by building pull – creating the desire at a grass roots level to seek out new tools and adopt new ways of working. This means creating a programme team and champion networks that are sufficiently in touch with how and where ways of working are changing to spot examples that will be attractive to others in the organisation, and which can therefore be used to build ‘pull’.

We’ll explore in the next blog how perspective persona-based engagement and a strong ‘champion’ network can be re-thought and cascaded to accelerate this pull.

For now, though, how does this square with your experience – does this model of adoption as a process of increasing breadth and depth make sense?

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Sustainability and Business Change

Ah sustainability.

The watchword of business across the globe, plastered across everything from boxes of tea and packets of salmon, to organisational goals statements and marketing materials. But really, the contexts in which this all-too-often used word is placed seems to vary greatly, covering a range of meaning from ecological safeguarding, to fair trading and ethical practices, through to simply meaning that a business will ensure that it survives in the long term.

However, we only have to look at the political discourse in today’s polarising and highly charged media environments to recognise that there is clearly a disconnect between the individuals’ view of what is sustainable and the overarching organisational corporate or governmental view of what is sustainable. In recognising this, we are presented with a challenge from a change perspective.

How do we enact sustainability, when really we don’t actually have a firm grip on what it means!

Triple bottom line theory, or TBL for short highlights these views somewhat, putting across that organisations no longer can simply acknowledge only the fiscal factors pertaining to their survival, but the wider societal and environmental impact practices as well.

This existential ‘triple threat’, is obviously a massive problem to attempt to get a handle on, and is something that many organisations don’t know where to begin. In some ways the ‘fear factor’ alone of what will happen when the implications of calculating the societal or environmental factors are considered weigh large, causing a strategic and operational paralysis that results in these vital changes not taking place at either the scale or speed that is required.

A good example of this is the brave move by Puma to calculate environmental impact as part of its operating model (though it is worth noting they still have not included this in their annual profit-loss statements). Calculating the impact in 2015 as a whopping 145 million Euros per year. As a point of comparison, Puma’s 2018 net earnings were 187 million. Fear factor indeed.

Yet it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects rather than the implicit positives of getting things right. Organisational resilience is at its highest point when all variables are being considered.

Likewise the benefits of having a fully engaged and committed workforce is well understood. Disengagement costs alone potentially cost tens of thousands per disengaged employee, saving these costs in return for an investment in a truly open, meaningful program of work that benefits both employees and the business seems like a good trade to make.

As Ken Blanchard in his book on servant leadership says, look after your people, and they will look after your customers, which will look after your bottom line.

But let’s link in now to the change element. Clearly there’s a big piece to be considered here! Arguably this could be the biggest and most important change that organisations will need to make in this century to avoid the obvious repercussions stemming from social inequality & environmental destruction, but also technological disruptions, new business models and rising geopolitical uncertainty. In order to become truly resilient this needs a new way of viewing things, that requires looking beyond the box of the organisation and into the wider world in which that organisation sits.

So what do businesses need to look at to examine this in more depth?

The BSR (Business & Social Responsibility), a not-for-profit organisation, have an integrated framework that encompasses three main areas. The purpose of this article is not to cover their framework in depth, but at a glance, they are:

ACT – Creation of resilient business strategies, governance and management approaches that ensure the achievement of business goals.

ENABLE – Catalyze systemic progress by building mutually beneficial relationships and collaboration with stakeholders and partners across the entire value chain.

INFLUENCE – Promote policy frameworks that strengthen the relationship between commercial success and the achievement of a just and sustainable world.

These are useful pointers certainly, but this author’s view is that there is actually a wider issue at hand here. That of the inherent capability of the organisation to actually change, ie: their change readiness. This need exists not at a project level or simply a ‘piece’ of the business but a total sea change across all operating areas. The mind boggles at the cost, time and complexity that this change would require!

By this standard, organisations clearly aren’t ‘change ready’ in the majority of instances.

However, to make the impossible difficult, and the difficult manageable, we can break this down using the experiences we already have at our fingertips of what it takes to embed change across an organisation.

Underpinning this are the same change components which are utilised in effective change programs across the globe; people-focused culture shifts, proactive and meaningful communication and dialogue with key stakeholders, the establishment of effective learnings on how things should and could be done, and appropriately deployed technological mechanisms all ensure effective change management takes place not just at a project level but as a program and organisationally aligned initiative.

By looking at things in this way we can begin to gather an inkling of the step changes which can, and indeed must, take place over the coming years. Even small steps, when taken together can make big leaps forward! This is what good change management is about!

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Digital Transformation – Focus on culture, not using technology?

In our first blog on how Business Change around digital transformation should be different, we highlighted some of the ways in which Digital Transformation is distinct from other technology-enabled change, and set out an ‘agenda’ for the ways in which we think Business Change accordingly has to be different.  This second blog explores the first of these – the need to move from seeing this as ‘technology-enabled’ to a ‘culture change’.

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Digital transformation – transforming everything but business change?

Oh the (virtual) ink that’s been expended on what we think of as Digital Transformation over the past 20 years!  Understandably, given fast-paced and ever-morphing technology, what Digital Transformation means has changed over time too.

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Creating a great change communications strategy

Research and statistics show that communications strategy and planning is still an area that many organisations can make big improvements in. In fact, a 2018 research study and report by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co states that 60% of companies don’t have a long-term communication strategy!

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Afiniti Top 20 again for learning and performance solutions

Afiniti is excited to feature, for the second year running, in the Learning and Performance Institute’s (LPI’s) eBook of the Top 20 highest-performing learning providers 2019

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There’s more to Business Change than the business

Afiniti’s Change Readiness Assessment tool is built around six ‘levers’ that we see well developed in organisations that are change ready.  One of the levers outlines whether there are clearly understood business drivers for change.  That makes sense – we’re increasingly finding that those impacted by a forthcoming change want to understand not only what the change entails, but also why it’s being implemented at all.

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