Have you ever dreamed of building your own house? I do…constantly… and if you are a little like me, do you also enjoy watching the many TV shows of people who do just that? What an inspiring change project that would be!
I know for sure that when the day does arrives and I fulfill my dream, that my lifelong passion in helping organisations change has equipped me with the knowledge with just where to start – on the principles that will help guide my design. I imagine myself sitting with my architect discussing such principles as ‘maximise natural light’ or ‘high energy efficiency with renewable energy sources’ or ‘contemporary and modern’. As I imagine what my house would look like in line with these principles, I envisage a bright, bold, beautiful home that I can’t wait to live in!
The same holds true when designing engaging change programmes in organisations. If you are clear on your principles and hold to them, then what you build and what is experienced will not only be aligned but you’ll also be far more likely to succeed. So why is it that most leaders and change managers pass over this first step and rush headlong into the detail of what change methodology to choose, or what tools or templates they will apply? Time to pause ….and think again.
Over the course of the next 6 weeks I plan to share six principles of change to help deliver change at pace in your organisation. In this post, you will find an introduction to all six so you will know the terrain we will be covering. I have lived these principles, for the past 8 yrs as a change leader and they have served me well – I hope they do the same for you.
- All change starts with self – the first and most important of all the principles – as Ghandi said ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. And yet too often I notice a disconnect between what a change team promotes, communicates and even trains others in what they must do and yet fail to practice themselves – they fail to practice what they preach and so lack credibility.
- Step by step – focus on the vital few things you can change now – in a rapidly changing business environment within a dynamically changing world, the time for multi-year planned change programmes seems out of date. What I find works better is a step by step approach that maximises learning as part of the process and adapts the change to stay in step with an ever-changing business and customer context. Small steps make a big difference.
- Focus on needs not just ‘wants’ – as Henry Ford said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!’ This was also a core belief of Steve Jobs – I would never have imagined or said I wanted an iPad or an iPhone and yet they now feature as essential parts of running my life and my business. As change leaders we need to look at the solutions that address needs, not just wants.
- People own what they create – a failure mode of many large organisations when confronted by the need for change is to mobilise central head office team to diagnose, design and ‘rollout’ a solution. A more effective approach is to engage directly with the people experiencing the pain of what needs to change and invite them to work with you to understand the root cause of the problem and devise solutions to address them. People are not simply involved, they feel engaged and empowered and the subsequent introduction of change goes far more smoothly.
- Strong sponsorship and key stakeholder engagement – during my decades of delivering change, all the studies I have ever read report the same finding – that the people aspects of projects are the most common factors associated with project failure. It’s not rocket science. Ultimately the perception of sponsors who fund a project and the key stakeholders with greatest power are the ones who determine a projects fate. Ignore them at your peril!
- Tie outcomes to business results – any change that’s initiated in an organisation should only exist to help the viability, health or performance of the business it seeks to serve. But how robust and aligned is the impact of your change to the key business drivers or KPIs? How will you know if your change is making things better or worse and how would you prove it?
As Einsten said ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler’ and so I encourage you to reflect on the simple principles that can guide your change practice – what could they be?
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Jacqui Alexander is an expert in business transformation with a proven track record of helping organisations align, deliver and improve their performance. She uses an innovative and blended approach that combines the practices of organisation development, continuous improvement and project management to improve ways of working.
Her approach is particularly impactful when shifts in mind-set, culture or ways of working are imperative for business success. She runs London-based consultancy, ChangePace Consulting Ltd.