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Afiniti Profile: Nick Smith, Business Change Director

With over 30 years’ consulting and industry experience under his belt, there’s much to learn from Nick Smith, Business Change Director at Afiniti, so we sat down for a chat and I asked Nick some questions about his career to date.

How did you get into consulting?

“I got into consulting in 1985 – a very long time ago! Before consulting I worked for a major IT supplier in a pretty focused role. I felt I wanted a role which would stretch me in areas that I really enjoyed, such as problem solving and solution building, and consultancy gave me the opportunity to do just that.

“I’ve worked in a range of different consulting settings over the years, from the ‘Big Four’ to smaller niche firms, and I’ve been a Business Change Director with Afiniti for five years now. I’ve also had breaks from consulting where I’ve gone back to industry, as I believe that part of being a good consultant comes from experience of working on the other side – spending time experiencing first-hand the operational and strategic challenges and opportunities that our clients face.”

Which project most stands out to you and why?

“My first major consulting project, around 30 years ago was with an IT vendor looking to transform their sales and marketing approach from being product-based to a more consultative way of working.

“The Marketing lead chose not to target his spend on promotion, but recognised the importance of investing in the people aspect of change. As such, we planned and delivered three-day change workshops to over 300 marketing and sales professionals. Now this was a really innovative way of thinking back then, and it taught me a really important lesson: to truly embed change and make it stick, you need to take people on the change journey – to merely change the systems and processes really isn’t enough.

“Another important lesson I learned from this project was around collaboration and client centricity. The client engaged not just my organisation, but another two consultancies also. I found that the ability to collaborate and keep the client at the heart varied widely among the firms. What stood out for me as we collaborated was that being generous-spirited and open to working in different and / or new ways always yielded the best outcome not only for the client, but the consultancies too.”

What other important lessons have you learned over the years?

“I’m also persuaded that a client who stretches you in terms of your capability and who wants to learn with you, rather than looking to be dependent on you or constantly finding fault, is going to get a better outcome. And, on the flip side, any consultant who feels they need their client to be less smart than they are, or to completely depend on them is going to find themselves in trouble – you’re not going to innovate, grow together and form a true partnership that way.”

What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for business in the coming years, and why is change management so important to these?

“For those of us working in business change and change management, culture becomes very important and equipping people to be ‘able’ to change and adapt becomes vital too.”

“I’d highlight a couple of factors in play at the moment which could impact across industries and sectors. First we’ve got Brexit creating great uncertainty, and second we’ve got a lot of people retiring and exiting the workforce with millennials coming in to take their place. Millennials have different expectations of the workplace, and the implicit contract between them and their employers will be much more fluid.

“If you put these together, then it’s really important to understand that what matters for organisations isn’t necessarily ‘what’ people are doing but ‘how’ they are able to do it. So a workforce that is able to reskill rapidly, displaying versatility and flexibility in order to respond to new situations seems to me to be more important than being good at any one thing. So, equipping people for change is absolutely fundamental. For those of us working in business change and change management, culture becomes very important and equipping people to be ‘able’ to change and adapt becomes vital too.”

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

“It’s certainly the client work that I enjoy most – seeing the client execute and deliver, and realise their business outcomes, knowing that we made a significant contribution to doing that – that’s what I find most exciting.”

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick delve into Nick’s career, if you’d like to learn more about Nick’s, and indeed Afiniti’s approach and experience of business change, then do get in touch!

 

We frequently post ideas and tips on: change management, learning and communications, PMO/CMO, employee engagement and culture.

Subscribe here to start receiving a monthly roundup email from our blog and our Quarterly Business Change Digest, written by the change experts at Afiniti.

 

February Business Change Digest

In this edition:

SPOTLIGHT

What is organisational culture, and why does it matter?

AFINITI NEWS

We’ve been ranked among the UK’s leading management consultants by the FT.

AFINITI CULTURE CHANGE SPRING EVENT

Following the success of our autumn event we’re re-running our culture change event in April.

AFINITI INSIGHTS

The latest from the Afiniti Insights Blog.

 

Spotlight by Nick Smith

What is organisational Culture, and why does it matter? The second in our three-part blog series on culture change.

In the previous blog in this series we highlighted five reasons why organisations should pay more attention to culture in change initiatives.  But what do we actually mean by culture – or, perhaps more usefully, how can we think about culture in a way that lets us address it?

So, culture – what is it?

Frankly, we’ve yet to come across a definition we really like.  Some just plainly don’t seem to work: for example, ‘the set of processes in an organization that affects the total motivation of its people’.  Are there some processes that don’t affect motivation one way or the other?  Is culture really reducible to processes – so that identical processes would drive identical cultures in different organisations?  We don’t think so.

Other definitions seem to get closer: ‘Culture is the organization’s immune system’ and ‘Culture is how organizations ‘do things’’ say Michael Watkins and Robbie Katanga respectively.  The idea of toxic organisational culture as an auto-immune disease is attractive, but cultural immunologies and immunologists seem few and far between.  And, what are the metrics for ‘how’ organisations ‘do things’: does that actually come down to fine levels of ‘what’ organisations do, in any case?

The quest for a definition that satisfies ultimately seems misguided. At Afiniti we agree that culture is something to do with the ‘feel’ of an organisation, underpinning the motivations of its people and ultimately the performance of the business. We concluded that it was more important to know how to ‘shift’ a particular culture than to be able to define organisational culture per se.  We looked around for models, and in Edgar Schien’s work, and in its application by other organisations, we found something that resonated and offered real potential as an actionable framework.

In summary, we’re working with a framework of four interacting levers:

Afiniti 4 levers of organisational culture

  • Core values: these are the mostly unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions at the heart of the organisation’s culture.
  • Promoted values: in contrast, these are the values an organisation claims to hold or temporarily promotes, but which have not yet truly become a part of its culture. We think of these as descriptions of how the organisation wants to be.
  • Artefacts: these are what we can observe – including organisational structures, processes and systems, office layout, dress codes, status symbols, rewards and recognition. As such, artefacts make a culture tangible.
  • Behaviours: these are not as visible as artefacts, but nevertheless are observable. As ‘the way we do things around here’, they both demonstrate and re-inforce an organisation’s culture.  When modelled by leaders and other influencers they can establish new norms.

 

The little things leaders do have far more impact than the big things they say.

 

The four ‘levers’ need to work together

Core values can develop and change slowly over time, but if promoted values are in serious conflict with them, a culture change initiative will almost certainly run into the sand.  If values are promoted in isolation of artefacts and behaviours they will become ‘shelfware’.  Changes to artefacts or behaviours with no aligned and explanatory promoted values can seem random and will confuse.  And if visible behaviours (especially leadership behaviours at all levels) don’t change to align with promoted values, then nobody will take the intended change seriously.  One of our mantras is that the little things leaders do have far more impact than the big things they say.

The advice we give to our clients is that to shift a culture means working with all four levers: recognising core values, and integrating activity involving the other three.

The final blog in this series will unpack some of the ‘how’ of working with the levers. 

As ever, we’d love to hear from you with your thoughts and experiences around the topics covered here, so send us a comment or an email – we’re always ready to talk ‘business change’!

 

Afiniti News

In the recent, inaugural, UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2018 report, published by Statista in partnership with the Financial Times, Afiniti has been ranked among the best in the UK.

Read the full article

 

Afiniti Culture Change Spring Event

Following the success of our culture change event  which we held last November in London, we’ll be re-running the event on Thursday 26 April.

The event, Does Culture Matter? And, do our organisational cultures enable or constrain business success? will explore and debate these critical questions in a forum where delegates can share their own experiences with like minded professionals while deepening their understanding of how to develop the culture their organisations want and need.

To register your interest for the event and for more information please click here

 

The latest from Afiniti insights blog


compelling communications

 

Compelling communications – the Key to Successful Business Change

 

birds

 

Culture Change Series: 5 Reasons Why Culture is Integral to Business Change

 

 

Change Management to Help You Win The Battle Against Shadow IT

 

 

 

Subscribe here to receive a monthly insights roundup and the quarterly Business Change Digest from the experts at Afiniti

Afiniti ranked among the UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2018

In the recent, inaugural, UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2018 report, published by Statista in partnership with the Financial Times, Afiniti has been ranked among the best in the UK.

With over 8,000 management consultancy firms in the UK, competition in the industry is fierce. Our ranking within this exclusive list of just 187 organisations puts us in the top 3% of management consultants in the UK. This is a huge achievement and testament to how Afiniti colleagues strive tirelessly to put our clients first and keep people at the heart of everything we do.

Recommendation from clients

The ranking was based on two elements, an expert survey of staff from management consultancies and a client survey of senior executives who have previously worked with consultancies – with clients able to recommend consultancies for particular services.  Afiniti was recommended for the work we’ve done within the Organisation and Change sector.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more about how Afiniti helps clients plan, execute and embed sustainable change and how we can help you with your change programmes, send us a message and we’ll get straight back to you.
We’re passionate about the ‘people’ aspect of change at Afiniti, and we regularly post blogs and insights to our website.  Take a look and sign up here to receive regular updates from our change experts.

Change management to help you win the battle against Shadow IT

Shadow IT has plagued IT teams for a while now and employees won’t stop using multiple apps any time soon.

Despite this, change management can help to mitigate and identify risks and help with introducing new technology.

It’s our experience that many companies are actually in the dark about how many apps their staff are using and therefore where the security risks lie. There’s also no real way of stopping employees seeking solutions of their own. After all, they are now working remotely from different devices, so using a variety of apps like Google apps presents a quick solution.

If these apps become entrenched as part of a team’s process – like Google forms for data collection and surveys on the move – then technology change involving implementation of an alternative encounters a difficulty in getting people to adopt another platform.

Many IT teams are now working with the business to ensure appropriate guidelines are in place to ensure company data is as protected as possible. However, change management practices can help the business and IT teams to work together to understand the user landscape and communicate the benefits of any applications and software that they want to be adopted, company-wide.

Discovery

Central to change management is knowing the employee landscape – how people work, team culture, and how this aligns to the business and IT strategy. Interviewing people and having ambassadors for technology change within teams can help IT keep their ears to the ground. For instance, when faced with Office 365 implementation, IT is prepared with the knowledge of the business it needs to persuade people to work in the new way, and where the advantages for teams might lie – all vital to an effective communication strategy. Discovery work will uncover how people are currently working and what they are using – all necessary preparation for introducing something new.

Take a look at our blog post, What Tools Do IT Managers Need to Successfully Manage Change? for other tips on integrating change management into your IT projects.

Communications with impact

Once IT knows how people will need to change to adopt new practices it can talk confidently about the comparative benefits of new technology. Crucially, it can also confidently address any areas of concern via communications. We’ve seen security top the bill of IT communications in recent times. High impact awareness campaigns rely on educating people and making it clear what IT policy is. Change management approaches to communication enforce this in a number of ways:

Identity, theme and vision – all made cohesive through a set of branding and core messaging

Use of a change network – the formalised structure of people who can convey the messages from IT within their teams is fundamental to reinforcing behaviours introduced by communication. From line managers setting a practical example, to business leaders confirming company-wide policy with the reasons behind them.

For more ideas on compelling communications take a look at our blog, Compelling Communications – the Key to Successful Business Change

Ongoing measurement

Change management requires that any new IT is measured for adoption and subsequent benefit to the business – as well as identifying shadow IT that poses a threat to business objectives of any change like Office 365 implementation, being achieved. Change management helps IT to align the transition to new technology with an eventual business goal, measuring lag and lead indicators along the way. Benefits realisation is about the end benefits, not deliverables or capability outcomes. A new system might go live successfully, on time, and without technical hitch, but if people continue to use their own applications instead of the new ones offered by the IT team and the business, have you really won the battle against shadow IT? Change management process helps to keep IT and the business focused on whether people have adopted the new to deliver the intended business benefit.

 

Culture Change Series: 5 reasons why culture is integral to business change

How many change programmes integrate work on organisational culture?  We increasingly think ‘not enough’.

There are some obvious reasons why culture is a bit of a Cinderella at the Change Management ball.  It can be tricky to understand and work with; it’s seen as more than a little intangible; and its reach is far wider than that of most change programmes.  Beyond that, cultures do not often change quickly – change programmes come and go while cultures persist or change slowly.  But if Afiniti’s recent Culture Change event is anything to go by, those involved in leading change are increasingly recognising the importance of culture.  With bookings for our event coming in fast, followed by a waiting list of eager participants, we knew we were dealing with a topic of real concern.

So, why should organisations pay more attention to culture? Afiniti’s experience suggests there are at least five reasons.

1. The link between culture and performance

First, there are swathes of evidence that link organisational (and functional, and team) culture to performance.  Simple searches throw up research suggesting, for example:

  • Culture, by linking to our motivations – why we work – determines how well we work
  • Culture is a powerful route to sustainable competitive advantage because it’s difficult to copy
  • Surveys suggest the majority of managers and leaders see culture as more important than strategy or operating model.

2. Culture as an integral element of business strategy

Second, culture is (or really ought to be) an integral element of strategy.  It’s 30 years since Henry Mintzberg highlighted ‘Perspective’ – ‘an ingrained way of perceiving the world’ – as an important way of thinking about strategy, tying it to culture and collective mind (individuals united by common thinking and / or behaviour).  And if culture is integral to strategy, how can it not be taken into account by change managers?

3. Cultures are naturally fluid and change over time

Third, organisational cultures change and will continue to change over time whether or not leaders and change managers are intentional about it.  We don’t need to be experts in generational theory to recognise that as boomers leave the workplace in large numbers and Generations X, Y and Z reshape organisations, so working cultures will change with radically different expectations, priorities and attitudes to technology.  The question facing change leaders is how their actions will interact with ongoing cultural change: will change programmes merely be impacted by, or will they play a role in shaping cultures that are changing anyway.

4. Culture can affect readiness and capability for change

Fourth, Afiniti’s own work identified culture as one of six key change readiness ‘levers’.  We’ve found that some cultures are more ‘change-ready’ than others, more able and willing to embrace change.  We know that where organisations are more ‘change-ready’ across all six levers, of which culture is one, then change is more likely to land and is more likely to stick and deliver the benefits sought.  But, so often understanding of cultural readiness for change is no more than impressionistic – with little – if any, analysis, let alone structured responses to shape and evolve culture to become more change-ready over time. Learn more about your organisation’s capability and readiness for change by taking our Change Readiness Assessment.

5. It is possible to demystify culture

Finally, culture can matter in change programmes, to business and change leaders, because it doesn’t have to be a given.  There are ways of demystifying culture – making it more tangible, in order to plan and effect culture changes that work.  At our recent event we explored some of these models and approaches and a number of participants commented on how they ‘demystified’ culture and the ways in which it might be changed.  And if we can understand and shift something that impacts not just on the success of our change programmes but contributes to overall business performance, then why wouldn’t we be intentional about it?

This is the first of three blogs.  In the remaining two we’ll explore what we mean by culture – offering ways of thinking about and working with it – and flowing from that some ways to effect cultural change.  In the meantime, what do you think about the role that culture plays in change initiatives?  Have you worked with it?  Let us know what you think.

October Business Change Digest

In this edition:

SPOTLIGHT

Starting a business change programme? Avoid the common pitfall.

AFINITI NEWS

Jay Dixon joins the team as Business Change Director.

INSIGHTS ROUNDUP

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.

Read the full article.

Insights roundup: The latest from the Afiniti insights blog

 

If you’re thinking about cyber security, you should be thinking about behaviour change.

 

communications tools that last

 

Four ways to create communications tools that last.

 

 

Afiniti vBlog: Afiniti’s top tips for creating user-generated content.

 

 

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