Supercharge your change initiative
By Mark Vincent
As any athlete will tell you, good to great is about the details. It’s about applying the latest science, testing and measuring and striving for marginal gains that, when applied over time, lead to the improvements that get noticed. The ones that leave a positive legacy you can be proud of. Those that win awards and rapidly advance careers.
Accelerating business change and increasing the agility of an organisation is no different. It’s science, it’s readily available and it’s well proven. There are plenty of case studies, academic papers and books showing the way (tens of thousands of book titles on Amazon alone!).
The secret of good to great in business change isn’t necessarily about more knowledge, there’s plenty of great wisdom readily available. It’s about gathering the right data, focusing attention, taking action, measuring the effect and then adjusting as needed. Most people have a good sense of what good looks like but experience shows that we tend to fall back into default habits, even though we know it’s not great for us. By measuring the right things we keep focusing on them and then the results come naturally.
The trick is to measure the right things
The best athletes don’t just work hard and hope for the best, they gather data on how they are training. They work smarter, not harder and use the data to constantly evaluate how they can adapt to make those small gains. They measure everything they can and they experiment with different ideas to find out what works. This is what sets the few apart from the many and it’s where excellence comes from.
The typical approach in business is to monitor status reports, RAG ratings, resource usage and budgets. These are all fine and sensible to a point but are also the equivalent of turning up for the race and then measuring the results. In other words it’s too late by then. And you may have also noticed that project and programme managers do NOT want to show up with a red status as it has a tendency to backfire on them. This in turn leads to a tendency to report bad news late, often way too late to do much about it.
So how about measuring those factors that all the science and practical experience continually point to but are either paid little attention or ignored altogether? The factors that lead to the green status reports, the factors that cause changes to move at an accelerated pace, that lead to an increased return on investment? These are the factors underpinning our engagement in a change and engagement is regularly cited in studies as the key to success.
So what are they and how do we measure them?
Put simply, they are mostly emotional and have a lot to do with how we perceive the change, which will be unique for all of us. If you’re interested in more detail you can read more here.
If that feels like a lot to digest then there is an easier way as we’ve done all the hard work for you. Working with the Psychological Sciences team at UWE in Bristol we’ve developed a stakeholder change readiness assessment that specifically tests for these factors and gets you results in minutes. Give it a try, maybe even put yourself in the shoes of one of your more challenging stakeholders and see what it shows you. Of course, we typically we run this across whole teams or groups of stakeholders.
With the right measurement, we can begin to identify and understand potential sources of disengagement and address them. Using the athlete analogy, it’s the equivalent of looking at their training routine, their diet, their mental state, their sleep habits, their rest periods and picking them off one by one. We know that approach works in athletics, in the same way that we know the companies who pay attention to engaging and inspiring their people just happen to be the most successful and most agile on the planet.
It rarely happens by chance and, if it does, it certainly isn’t sustainable.
• Mark Vincent
Apparently 85% of what we do is driven by habit. Think about driving a car or doing mundane chores at home, often we’re lost in thought and only barely conscious of what we’re doing. Habits can work for us or against us. In this excellent book and TED talk Charles Duhigg shows us how we can hack our less useful habits to create new, better ones. And the real eye opener for me was the realisation that an organisation can have group habits too and they can equally be productive or destructive.Read more
• Applied Change
Rory Sutherland discusses how our perception of things shapes our reality. This is an area of increasing focus for behavioural economics and in business. Understanding how we really behave and how irrational we are means that seemingly small and inexpensive changes can have a disproportionate effect on our behaviour and therefore the outcomes that result from it.Read more