Change is not an option these days, it is a necessity. As an independent, sole practitioner I can turn on a dime; however the 19 years I spent in the corporate world taught me that genuine change is easy to aspire to, but much harder to effect.
The barriers include ineffective leadership, culture, misaligned interests, low staff engagement, poor strategic and implementation skills and so on; it is a long list.
How do we overcome these barriers? A simple but effective technique uses three key components:
1. Authentic vision
Your vision of the future needs to be authentic at its core. What do I mean by authentic? It will be attainable if it is harmonious with who you are as an organisation – satisfying the collective values of your people and key stakeholders such as owners, customers and suppliers. It will also be aligned with real needs in the world.
In my analysis of the top-30 global companies, I found that only 3 (10 per cent) had a vision or mission statement that reflected true values and societal needs. They were: Nestle (better food to help people live a better life), Royal Dutch Shell (meet the energy needs of society in a sustainable way) and Google (organise the world’s information and make it accessible).
At their worst, some companies, like Bank of America, have a vision that is rooted in the 20th (or even 19th) century. Their vision is to be the "world’s most admired company”, which is usually code for "we want to make a lot of money and hang the rest”.
Your vision describes 'what' you intend to do. Co-creation is a powerful way of forming the 'how'.
You can do this by engaging a wide range of people in the 'how', such as staff, customers, distributors, community, regulators and partners.
For example, in the public sector there has been rapid growth in the use of 'public participation' as a technique for the co-creation of outcomes. It is particularly effective at the local government level where major development issues can gridlock the system; a representative sample of ratepayers, armed with access to technical experts, works as a group to make an informed and unbiased assessment of the best solution.
If we have the right sort of vision and the desire to co-create the outcome, then how do we inspire people to start the change process?
One of the most effective methods is to put more substance around the vision and compare 'what we have now' to 'what could be'. Nancy Duarte, presented this in an interesting way when she analysed two prominent speeches: Martin Luther King’s use of "I have a dream” and Steve Jobs’ launch of the iPhone.
They both flip between what their audience had ‘today’ and what their future could look like, to induce the desire to change.
I recently saw an up-and-coming speaker, Franca Sala Tenna, use a crystal ball as a prop to great effect to help create a sense of 'what could be' when set the task of inspiring an audience of employees to commence a journey of change.
Change management is tough. Comedian and corporate hoaxer, Rodney Marks, recommends that the best way to effect change management is to … change management.
But seriously, there is a lot more to change management than what is presented here; however these three components will help you break the back of that process.
Phil Preston is an independent practitioner who helps organisations find innovative solutions to performance issues. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org .