The Journey of Change

Captivating the Wider Organization

Episode Three

In the previous episode, we looked at the importance of “Building Belief” in the organization as we embarked on the change journey. We then looked at the first real challenge encountered along the way, that of “Getting into Action.” Where do we go from here?

Despite overcoming the first major challenge of “Getting into Action”, uncertainty remains a companion on the journey to better performance. At this point, there may be a growing sense of the difficulty of the road ahead and we hear things like “this is too much work,” “we don't have time to do this,” “I'm not sure this plan is the right one,” or “there is too much involved in this.” As discussed in Episode two, the instinct can often be for us to treat this as resistance to change, which quickly becomes something to be managed away. It is instinctually disheartening for people to hear fear, uncertainty and doubt set in, just as a change effort is getting under way. Reticence and trepidation from people in the organization are indicative of deeper, and typically valid, concerns. If we are going to generate wide-spread involvement and support from the organization, we need to find a way to speak to the underlying values and competing commitments that may be threatened by the change program. For example:

Framing the change journey in a way that resonates with the values of the organization will help pique the interest of others. Empathy, creativity, flexibility and persistence are required in order to identify, and tap into, people's values and motives so that momentum can build as we set out to Captivate the Wider Organization.

Until now, efforts have likely concentrated on small pockets of people or particular groups to build the momentum to get started. We must now capitalize on this momentum by involving and engaging a wider population of the organization. Why involve and engage others? Because the model of small groups secluding themselves (say, in a “war room”) to develop solutions and then communicate decisions to others doesn't work very well. Certainly not when it comes to transformation improvement efforts that require the hearts, heads and hands of just about everyone in the organization. As Kim Erwin says in her video Communicating the New, "Co-construction, conversation and collaboration is communication. (And) The communication and the creation process are the SAME process."

We need to co-create and construct change with people, not for them.

To captivate the wider organization, we create opportunities for people to work together to define what the future might look like. Interventions such as mobilizing cross-functional teams, developing team charters, collaborative implementation planning and testing new ideas, create the opportunities for people to share insights and perspectives on how to change. Kicking off new ways of tracking performance, implementing new meeting effectiveness and process improvement tools, removing easy to address process pain points, implementing identified quick wins and launching team problem solving, are all integral to collaboratively designing the future. This will generate ownership of the journey, increase buy-in and drive the organization into action. This also helps create a sense of unity in the change effort as teams find commonality in the tools and processes being used across the various improvement areas.

Leadership's role is to heavily promote the change vision, demonstrate unwavering commitment to the change journey, create access to the required resources and remove any immediate pain points impeding mobilization. They also have a role to play to create an environment where it is safe to experiment and try new things, such as changing meeting structures or participants, or making process changes.

The Canadian business unit of a large independent energy company was just transitioning out of the "mobilization" stage of their enterprise-wide business transformation program. The program team was about to engage a wider set of operational stakeholders in the operations and maintenance functions at their sites in Northern Alberta. The senior leadership team recognized that their journey to operational excellence would never, really, have an end point. As one sponsor said, "There is no there when it comes to continuous improvement." They understood that a transformation effort like this requires people who have a deep connection to creating a unique operating culture, have contributed to developing a vision of what better will look like and are working together on a set of practical improvements to how work gets done. One of the plant leaders told us afterwards, "People need to see themselves in the vision for the business. It can't be remote. It has to speak to what they do on a day to day basis. They have to have line of sight to how they can contribute. The best way of doing that is to involve them in the process from the start."

Often people can feel like change is happening when you are mobilizing teams, running workshops, defining charters, envisioning the future, etc. These are things that, while necessary, can have the unfortunate side effect of serving as a substitute for making real change happen. Progress is often described by people closest to the change effort in terms of the number of people engaged, the number (and duration) of workshops held, the number of ideas generated and the number of plans developed. Alternatively, a more realistic measure of change may lie in how engaged people are in implementing the change. Not everyone needs to be at the highest level of engagement, but the question is, are we continually increasing the level of engagement. Employee Engagement Pyramid by Loyaltyworks.

Employee Engagement Pyramid By Loyaltyworks

Just ahead sits the “Knowing-Doing” challenge for the organization.

While people may be excited about the identified opportunities, making the shift from what they did before to something different, causes fear and insecurity. Such fears may stem from lack of clarity on what to do differently or how to actually make the change happen. Perhaps people may not yet believe that making a change is necessary or required. Most often, the fears holding us back from crossing the knowing-doing gap, are closely linked to the need to learn new skills.

To cross this “Knowing-Doing” gap, it is critical to demonstrate that a tangible change can be made to how the organization works in order to increase the change effort's momentum. People need to see that it is possible to make a positive change. The longer it takes to move from planning and preparation to taking action, the longer it will take to post a “win” on the board to show others that their efforts are making a difference.

Crossing the “Knowing-Doing” gap requires the courage to just start. We need to find a wedge for the program - a specific area where a meaningful improvement, a "first result", can be realized that shows the organization what is possible. First results have very high organizational impact, often directly attributed to the bottom line, and they require dedicated time, resources and energy to realize. They are not as easy to implement as quick wins. This may be something like reducing maintenance backlog or cycle time, reducing number of work orders, or filling a hiring gap. Once the first result has been found, we can apply the right level of resourcing (often the majority of the resources) to achieve it. And once the first result has been achieved, the team can move on to the next improvement area, gaining the confidence to pursue multiple results in parallel. This is how progress starts. As Theresa Amabile writes about the power of small wins:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important thing is making progress in meaningful work.”

Additionally, demonstrating new skills and adopting a more directive approach are critical to helping others cross the Knowing-Doing Gap. This is especially important to help others muster the courage to try new skills and feel safe, while also being a bit exposed as they are learning. We can do this by introducing simple new tools across all teams and role modeling how to use them. This makes the transition much less intimidating as all of us are learning together. For example, as the change program gets started and new teams are mobilized, team leaders may know that they will be required to chair a team meeting, though this may be a skill that they have never even tried. Role modeling how to do this, watching others give it a try, getting encouragement from others in the same situation and from those with experience in this area, can all make crossing the Knowing-Doing gap easier.

During this time it is important to demonstrate evidence of effectiveness, as this builds confidence that positive change is happening.

Join us next week as we continue to explore this journey of change and begin discussing "Breaking the Status Quo."

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.