Published 25th Sept, 2013 on Linked In. Below is the full text or to go to Linked In:
At the last Morgan McKinley strategy breakfast on productivity, speakers Alistair Stuart and Tim Morse both agreed people are key to sustainable outcomes. What does this mean for complex, front line heavy businesses?
It’s terrific to see change delivered successfully into call centre and operations teams. There’s just no ‘noise’. The business and project team pulls together. We get timely Senior Leadership sign offs. People Leaders are advocates and the front line feel ownership of customer handling. Where there are issues, they are predicted and mitigation plans developed. On implementation, service levels are maintained and the project team is supported to solve any unexpected delivery issues. The change is sustained.
When things don’t go well it can mean wild card issues raised at the ‘Go Live’ meetings. Even before that, delays occur in securing operational change windows. Sign offs don’t stick leading to significant remediation. At the end of the day, customer experience may be impacted and people burnt. Worst, suboptimal take up and usage rates mean the benefits of the business case are not realised.
To answer the question ‘what do we do to create a best practice change experience’ we just have to look around at some successful deliveries to be inspired. Here’s eight key actions of a great change leader.
We know that when people are active in contributing to decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt and sustain new ways (Lewin, 1944). Look around. Very often, purpose built teams are set up to deliver on a project or programme. If you’re part of a project team you’re easily perceived as an outsider. It should be no surprise that end users occasionally feel imposed upon. You’ll also have noted that people are delighted when you’re successfully fitting in.
People leaders and Leaders of Leaders in these businesses have often reached ‘unconscious competence’ whereas newcomers (often project team members) are often ‘unconsciously incompetent’. Here we have conditions where they don’t know what to tell you and you don’t know what to ask! Working together to develop visuals of how things fit together is a powerful approach . Visuals bring knowledge to consciousness and help reach strong alignment on requirements so that people get what they really need to do a great job.
No one likes being asked for feedback without guidelines only to be told that it’s too late to ‘choose the colour’. You will have noticed that people like structure and feeling confident. Using group walkthroughs, visuals and checklists helps communicate decisions that have been made, when and by whom. It’s a powerful approach to driving up confidence levels and gaining consensus.
As we’ve all seen, debates over vocab can hijack timelines. Should it be client or customer? Should it be happy or glad? You’ll have noticed that when impacted People Leaders understand the change deliverable production process they are better able to give what is needed from them and when. A transparent process and clear guidelines develops capability to lead change within a business. In other words, continuous improvement for change implementation process.
There is an old tale about two men building a wall. When asked “what are you doing?”, the first replied, “Building a wall”, while the second answered, “Making a home for a family.” Effective enablement is centred on the employee and their future, not just ploughing in business and customer benefits. Even for the smallest changes it’s valid to ask yourself ‘How will the change affect their performance in front of their peers?’
At some point in the past, project people were able to know all the content to be delivered, and we were the experts in the business’ eyes. Today we can’t possibly hold all the information required to successfully land a change. End users may know a whole lot more than us about how things will work in the cold light of day. Reinvent your unique contribution and be prepared to feel vulnerable.
Excellence means doing the very best possible with what is in your hand while remaining flexible to accepting others’ viewpoints of success. It does not mean perfectionism and intolerance. It means continually making small course corrections and adjustments so that deliverables are fit for purpose.
What are your views? Do you have any further tips to success? To join the discussion:
Hiring in these businesses is heavy on relationship focused people who care a great deal about how they get on with other people. In this way, we may relate to educator Rita Pierson who in her TED Talk Education presentation Every Kid needs a Champion said, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. Equally, they like people who like them.