February 2, 2023
In previous articles, I shared that there is a McKinsey report that states that 75 percent of the organisations that were listed at the time on the S&P would no longer exist by 2025 – they would either merge, be bought out or go bankrupt. This all means that organisations have to change and adapt or die. That is now less than 2 years away, so some organisations are now gone, some are struggling and some have adapted. With that said, organisations can no longer afford to get change wrong – they have to get it right and right now. And one way of doing this is to focus on people centric change.
With that said, I am not sure people/leaders/managers or organisations actually know what is people centric change – what it actually involves and entails – which is critical for change to not fail. I meet lots of leaders and they say that ‘people are our most important asset,’ and ‘culture change is absolutely critical,’ but do they really know what they mean when they say this? They do the talk but don’t do the walk.
I was working with a technology firm on a project that affected over 50,000 people across the UK. They shared with the team how when they delivered a similar project to a similar organisation how it did not go well and as a result, they were having to try to deploy the project for a third time, at great expense. Based on this, they said that the culture change of the project is the most important element in order to make this successful. They know the talk.
Now personally as a people centric change leader, this was music to my ears. I heard someone who was burned by only doing a technology drop and not incorporating the people centric principles and therefore did not want to make the same mistake again. But when they started to realise that in order to actually do a people centric change, it was going to take more time than they wanted to take on the project and involve more investment than they realised, it seemed the ‘culture change’ was not nearly as important as they stated and once again, whilst only saying they wanted a culture change, what they were actually willing to do was a technology drop. In other words, they were not willing to walk the talk.
In another situation, I was working with a number of different organisations who volunteered to actually use a variety of different tools with the mission of actually using a people centric change approach in their change programmes. They all declared how this was something they really wanted to do, but struggled to know how and they felt it was a high priority for them to actually make this work. Again, they know the talk.
Again, I thought brilliant – some organisations who are truly committed to implementing people centric change, so much so, they have volunteered to really make this happen. But again when they realised the amount of time and effort it would take to truly implement people centric change, things started to fall apart, under the guise of it is too difficult, too far out of the comfort zone. Unfortunately, they were not willing to walk the talk.
What I find so incredible is when these same individuals are going through a change personally, they constantly talk about the amount of time it takes to get things in the right place and so forth; and yet when it comes to other people, they are suppose to magically get it immediately, with no issue/challenge/thought at all?
People centric change is only as complicated as we are as people. If we decide to make something complicated or difficult, then it will invariably be complicated and difficult. Now this is not to say that if we decide something is simple, then it will be, but we will have a different mindset about it – we will see it as a challenge, rather than something that is too difficult. Doing the talk is not enough, when it comes to change, you also need the mindset and behaviours that underpin the walk behind the talk.
So to help and make people centric change simple, I have broken it down to it essential elements that everyone could follow – almost like a checklist (but not quite).
- Vision – need to have a vision, not just for now but for the future – preferably 10 years from now, so that you can build in the resilience and flexibility to deal with whatever complexity and uncertainty that may occur. You need to be able to tell people where you are going and why – are you going to Manchester or Bristol and why are you going there? The difference is stark and important to help people join you on your journey. Then you build your vision using horizon scanning and create short (1-3 year), medium (4-6 years) and long (7-9 years) goals. Personally I recommend doing this backwards because it is easier to identify what needs to happen just before you can achieve a goal. So you ask yourself, just before we can reach our vision what needs to happen immediately beforehand (long term); then what need to happen just before those can be achieved (medium term) and then what needs to happen just before that (short term). Then, and only then, can you ask yourself, what needs to happen today to get started.
- Holistic approach – use this to define the external and internal influencing factors. For external factors, you can use PESTLE or STEEP and for internal the organisational development approach (as defined in my book). You need to define, what are the politics outside and inside the organisation, what are the structures and governance, is there any legislation or policies or procedures that could have an impact, technology that is available externally and what is the internal technological capability, what teams/people are in place to help or hinder, what are the economic fluctuations, social norms and adjustments that are happening. On top of all that, what are the assumptions you are making as you start to list and analyse these factors?
- Stop, breath and listen – what do you notice is going on around you? How are people potentially feeling and thinking about life, much less about the organisation and potentially the change? What is going on with them at the moment and what could be happening in the near future that might have an impact on them and how they could feel about the change?
- ABChange Model – this helps you plan how you are going to lead people through the change, but only once you have bottomed all the above elements out because those elements helps you identify the type of change you are dealing with, which is the first step in using the ABChange model. Let me make this very clear – you do not decide the leadership style and then the type of change – you identify the type of change, which then determines the right leadership style you need to demonstrate.
- End person in mind – this is the person who is the furthest away from the decision making room. How might they be feeling about life and how might they perceive the change? Once you start to quantify this information, you can then start to plan your engagement, communication and training plans.
- Change network – need to create a network of change agents because change is not a one man band activity and this involves multiple levels within an organisation – must have an Executive Sponsor – someone who can guarantee the right resources will be in place to support the change. Then you must have a leadership coalition which is made up of all the senior leaders in the organisation, advocating the change, allocating resources and cascading messages. There then needs to be a group of change champions who are influencers spread across all the teams in the organisation and they need to have the permission to take time out of their day job to be a change champion. Then you need the managers and staff participating and engaging in the change – the upside is, if you have the other three levels in place, you will most likely have the final level in place without much more effort.
These six principles will create a people centric change. There is a caveat though – there is no short cut to putting these six principles in place. It does take time, it does take effort, it does take having some difficult and truthful conversations, but I think I can say with my hand on my heart – it will be worth it, if the vision is really what you really want to achieve as an organisation.
Jennifer Bryan is a published author, speaker and Director of Change and Leadership, who has worked with nearly 40 different organisations across multiple industries. She is also a Non Executive Board Member of the ACMP (Association of Change Management Professionals) UK Chapter. She believes in helping people – in whatever capacity she can – by making sure people are thought of first, last and throughout change projects and programmes. She has created a unique leading change framework, the ABChange Model, and uses her commercial insight to help lead people in change. Jennifer is author of Leading People in Change – A practical guide.