Change principles

A decade of experience in successfully designing and delivering change has led to a set of change principles that guide the work of Achieving Your Potential.

1.  Creating a clear and compelling environment

Every change involves people doing things differently, whether they are customers, employees or leaders.  Managers and leaders need to create a strong environment for change and this includes engagement to the boundary of what is really possible.  In the real world there are ‘no go’ areas.  Change leaders need to understand, communicate and establish these boundaries with teams and this can lead to some conflict.  These boundaries can include challenging non-participation.  Sometimes people think they can opt out of a change and it won’t happen.  Successful change programmes create a compelling environment for people to get on board, to be heard and valued, and to influence the change and in a climate where non-participation is addressed.

 2.    Showing people the way

Studies show change is most likely to succeed with engaged and visible leadership, ensuring people feel they have a chance to participate, are listened to (although not necessarily agreed with) and supported.  Leaders, managers and programme sponsors need to see that this is the difference that makes the difference and coaching and mentoring can be a valuable support.  It requires leaders to listen and respond; make and keep promises; build trust; and to demonstrate an approach that is open-minded and committed to change.

Results are most likely to improve if staff understand the ‘why’ of the change and participate in the design.  Engagement interviews and workshops ensure different levels and professions meet to hear and respond to each other’s perspectives.

 3.    Enabling to thrive – building capability

Organisations and individuals often merely expect to survive the change process rather than to embrace it and thrive.  This perpetuates negative expectations associated with programmes of change, rather than an opportunity to learn and develop.  Given that there will always be a need for more change, coaching, mentoring and training can help teams and leaders to learn and master tools for designing and implementing change, building resilience for the future.

Change is an opportunity for teams to learn that they can make a difference and that they don’t always need consultants. This can be done when they see enthusiasm for their ideas and are able to assess them against the challenge.  They can then be advised around how best to implement and track their delivery and assess the impact of the change.  The organisation wins an additional improvement and teams who feel able to continually review their services and improve.

Times of change and transition are often scary and managers need to think about how they can truly support their teams through change and ensure it is embedded, rather than just keeping their fingers crossed for success.

 4.    Keeping it human and real

Change isn’t just about process mapping, and data, good change programmes take into account experience, feelings and data.  Decision-making needs to keep things human or the solutions simply won’t work.  Successful interventions take into account the experience, thoughts and suggestions from different parts of the organisation and shared agreement on issues, options and plans.

Good communication is key in the engagement process – with all the stakeholders.  Too often change communication focusses on what managers want to tell people, rather than considering what they need to hear and delivering it in a way they can actually hear it.  Well-engaged teams and individuals can test communications to ensure they are impactful.

5.    Pace and resourcing

With strong and compelling leadership and a well-structured programme, deep engagement can happen, decisions can be made and new changes put in place at a pace that keeps uncertainty to a minimum and maximizes the likelihood of success.  This may require a better resourced team – but for a shorter period of time.

6.    Listening to and aligning perspectives

During change there are always different perspectives and this means negotiations – people will sometimes be giving up something.  Customers, teams and individuals need to understand and respect each other’s perspectives and the impact they have.  Successful change involves all the groups in a change – from customers, finance, IT, contact centre, right through to the front-line social worker and receptionist.  Individuals often need support to put all their cards on the table and to work respectfully with each other, exploring trade-offs and working through conflict and disagreement to a mutually agreed plan.

7.    Prototyping the change

New ways of working can cause unintended consequences and techniques borrowed from the design world can be used to test out the changes in the real world.  As the options are shortlisted teams can design and implement a prototype of the change. Then, through daily feedback sessions involving people through the whole process, they can look at what is working and not working, adjust the change (or stop it) as necessary, all the while keeping up engagement and improving the chances of successful change.

8.    Measurement that makes a difference

Part of delivering better results is measuring the right thing at the right frequency.  It’s about having the right people looking at it and then telling people what is happening to reinforce the change.  Successful programmes give careful consideration to what needs to be measured to track changes and improvements, ensuring that the data informs actions and the right level of people look at it – those who are responsible for delivery.

9.    Reinforcing the change

All of the good, hard work can come unravelled during the first few weeks and months of launching the change unless it is monitored, reinforced and celebrated.  Research, and our own experience, shows us how easy it is to slip back to old ways of thinking and working unless the new ways are reinforced.  Managers need to look for the signs of change becoming embedded (or otherwise) and take action.