Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start

We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, especially when making personal financial investments.  That’s why, in organisations, we write business cases to prove to ourselves we will get a return on investment.  How does this apply to transformational change, when it’s not just finances, but relationships between people that need to change?  We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start.

 Past – Present – Future … where do you tend to start?

“I want to change the culture,” is something I hear a lot from potential clients.  They have an idea of what is NOT working and a vague notion that “empowerment”, more accountability” or “better collaboration” are the ways to change things.  They then immediately set about defining what the future will look like and writing their business case.  If this sounds familiar, chances are you are already on the path to failure.  That is because you have over-rationalised it and are trying to make a purely financial case for investment.

 The Future is unwritten

I’m not going to bore you with facts and figures about the failure of change programmes.  You’ll know yourself that organisations often choose to invest in tangible things that can be measured in financial terms.  Thing like restructuring, new systems and business processes.  They tend to spend less effort investing in building truly collaborative way of working, innovating and problem-solving.  Because these are hard to do.   Also, writing business cases forces you down that path.  It is often a logical place to start, but it is not the whole story.

 Let the Future remain unwritten for a little longer

In my experience, organisations that over rely on these rational aspects of change tend to achieve limited success, smaller business benefits and alienate their people.  Those organisations that consider the softer, relationship-orientated, people aspects of change achieve better results.  Sometimes.  A major issue, even when culture is properly considered, is that those seeking the change only look forwards to envision a brighter future.

 Opportunities lie in the Past as well as the Future

This is, I fear, only half the story.  By looking at how your organisation got to where it is today, you will understand what aspects of your current culture are already working well and need preserving.  Reflect on the journey taken to get to where you are today, the successes, the failures, what has been learned (and what has not).  This will give you a better understanding of what makes your organisation tick, and what might be holding it back.

 Now is all there is

By achieving a deeper understanding of the Past, you allow yourself, collectively with your people, to let it go.  You will become more intently focused on the Present.  I believe the Present is really all that truly exists.  Looking to the Past helps us understand the Present.  Looking to the future tries to hi-Jack the Present and force it into something it is not ready to be. 

 Be right here, right now with your people and allow your Future Intention to emerge collectively from collaborative sense-making and reflecting on learnings from the Past.  Pay attention to the Present to make your Future Intention a reality.  There are a few simple, practical techniques and ways of working that can be applied every day to do this.  The result is transformational.  The result is the culture change you are seeking.

 Jeremy J Lewis, committed to making a difference in embedding sustainable change

How effective is your organisation at making change stick?

First published on LinkedIn September 28, 2016

People often think transformational change is all about aligning your organisational structure with your strategy and improving the efficiency of your business processes.

They are partly right.

Your organisation is a system with three basic levers – strategy, business process and people.  Transformational change most commonly addresses the issue of aligning strategy to business processes through restructuring.  But unless you also engage your people in your strategy and nurture the right team culture to deliver it, your organisation will look good on paper, but will fail to live up to your expectations.

The role of leaders in making change stick

There is another lever that determines your overall chances of success, and that is your leadership capability to hold these disparate yet connected elements of the organisation in alignment.

The problem with many transformations is that they overplay the rational and structured elements of that system (strategy, organisation and business process), underplay the emotional connections (people, engagement and team culture), and often do not assess leadership capability at all.

So, how effective is your approach at making transformational change stick?  How have you engaged your people in the new strategy and nurtured the right team culture to deliver it?  And how as leaders will you hold it all together?

Take part in my research project

I am undertaking some research into the factors that make organisational change stick, which considers this systems-thinking view and other factors that promote or inhibit change.  I’d be very grateful for your opinion.  The survey will only take a few minutes.

You can take the survey here

Please share with your network

Many thanks

Jeremy J Lewis
@growthepig

We need a changeforce, not a workforce!

First posted on LinkedIn June 20, 2016

Let’s face it, as far as the Knowledge Economy goes, the concept of a traditional workforce is dead and buried.

What is a workforce anyway?  A force that does work, perhaps?  What work?  Why that sort of work?  How does it do the work? Where and when does it do the work?

Today’s knowledge economy reality
Traditional Workforce rules of engagement                Today’s Knowledge Economy reality
What A manager tells you what to do A leader sets direction and expects you to get on with it
Why You do it for pay, recognition and the social aspects of going to work You do it because it aligns to your own vision of what you want to achieve as well as the organisation you work for
How You get some training in what to do You get some development in how to take accountability for delivering the organisation’s purpose
Where In a workplace such as a factory or office Anywhere you can get Wi-Fi or 3G
When ‘Nine to five’ Anytime that suits

 

Clearly some aspects of today’s reality can lead to organisations taking the proverbial ****, such as expecting people to be always available and willing and able to turn things around in the hours of darkness between working days.  That said, the new reality enables personal agency and demands people take accountability for delivery, and when the freedoms of technology are used judiciously, this can help with choice and work life balance.

One thing’s for certain, change is accelerating at an incredible pace.  Politically (Irreversible Public Sector cuts, coalition governments, referenda requiring us to take accountability to determine our own futures), economically (1 in 7 are now self-employed), Sociologically (Big Society) as well as technologically.

Perhaps the new normal requires a new approach to the idea of a workforce?  Perhaps organisations need a changeforce, rather than a workforce?

A force for change

A changeforce still needs direction from a leader to set the course, but they would know how to go about delivering that course because they have been raised on dealing with and leading change, they do it because leading change aligns to their personal life choices, and they definitely do it any time, any place, anywhere, because they are truly ‘always on’.  The average Smartphone user already checks their device 150 times a day (source: Vodafone).

I’m reminded of a military analogy – the armed forces spend much of their training developing the skills the troops need to do their jobs (i.e. the ‘hows’).  In ‘theatre’, when a commanding officer instructs the troops what is to be done, (s)he does not waste time telling them how to do it.  They already know.  Rather, the ‘what’ direction is interpreted by the troops on the ground into ‘how’ to get on with it by drawing on their trained-in skills.

A changeforce should therefore spend most of their developmental time learning how to be a force for change.  This is NOT learning project management skills, but rather learning how they will go about:

  • Communicating the change vision with clarity
  • Engaging others in change
  • Facilitating organisational learning
  • Assessing organisational readiness for change
  • Realising the benefits of change.

So I’m curious; how’s your changeforce development shaping up?

 

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making a difference in organisation effectiveness and sustainable change