Afiniti Insights

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.

So far, so good – hardly controversial.  But two things have given me pause for thought about this in the past few weeks.  First was a headline, and the accompanying story from Third Sector.  The headline ‘Oxfam prioritised its goals over its values, independent review finds’ sat over a story about how Oxfam’s prioritisation of programme goals over its core values and principles had led to them apologising to ‘staff and community members who have been harmed by Oxfam, its people; its leaders; its culture’.

The second thing was prompted by being at the Transport Times Scottish Transport Summit in Glasgow.  Here a wide range of speakers and panelists articulated and discussed visions for transport in Scotland – from national and local government, to transport operators across a range of modes, and including proven gurus in the field.  I felt that the conference attendees (including me) displayed a level of engagement, even excitement, that I don’t associate with most conferences.  And here’s the thing – they didn’t first and foremost talk about shorter journey times, about economic impact and help for businesses, or even primarily about commuting or passenger experience.  No, they spoke about reducing the social exclusion and sustained deprivation that lack of access to transport brings; about really reducing carbon footprint; about the kind of cities and towns that we want; and about joined up, connected communities.  Stating the obvious, I think this was not unconnected to the participant excitement.

So what?  Well what about our change initiatives?

Is it possible that we run into (or even create) more challenges than we need by focusing our change visioning and engagement on business purpose alone?

So what?  Well what about our change initiatives?  Is it possible that we run into (or even create) more challenges than we need by focusing our change visioning and engagement on business purpose alone?  Or more accurately, that we conceive of business purpose in ways that marginalise culture and values?  We think so.

So, what might we do?  Here’s some initial suggestions – you’ll have more
  • Recognise that every change will be a culture change: the behaviours we encourage and ‘artefacts’ we put in place will impact on organisational culture. So, let’s ensure that our change management approach incorporates work on culture (take a look at Afiniti’s three-part blog series on organisational culture).
  • Ensure that the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ element of winning hearts and minds reflects values or broader wellbeing as well as ‘the job becomes easier’ narrative.
  • As change leaders take the time to reflect on our own behaviours – do they reflect the kind of values that will draw our people into embracing change – or will they contribute to building impressions of our organisations as being concerned with little beyond the bottom line.

We suspect this is an aspect of change that will move up the agenda as we move forward.  What are your thoughts?

At Afiniti, we regularly work with clients to, amongst other things, define and develop sustainable organisational cultures.  If this is a topic you’ve been thinking about recently and you’d like some advice, or have any questions, get in touch, we’d be very happy to talk!

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