When it comes to effective organisational change management, it is crucial to think about the long-term. What is the objective of the project and what is really going to drive the success of your business transformation? Ultimately, what underpins the success of any business, are the people. People are also key in ensuring that a transformation journey runs smoothly and that changes are adopted into everyday practices.

To explore this topic further, we spoke to Derek Bishop, Director at Culture Consultancy, and asked him what the starting point should be for any business looking to implement a change programme. This was his advice for businesses: “Understand what the current culture is and identify the potential tensions or collision points of the culture, considering the future design looks post-transformation. As a minimum, this provides you with a starting point for the cultural change journey that the people and the organisation will need to undergo. This will also inform the design stage for both culture change and the detailed design of the transformation.”

If you are preparing to start a transformation project, here are the three most common mistakes that organisations make and why you should avoid them.

1. Not considering the cultural impact

As culture has been highlighted by Derek as the key to all organisational change projects, it is concerning to know that the most common mistake organisations make is failing to consider the cultural implications that will arise as a result of the change project. Culture will make or break the success of many transformation projects, which is why this is so important.

For any change initiative to be successful, Derek explained that in the early design stage of the project, full consideration needs to be given to the following questions:

  • What will be the implications for current work practices? Not necessarily the policies and processes that are documented, but the actual way people get things done.
  • How will people need to behave and go about their daily work differently from what they do today? The changes that employees will need to make.

“The answers to these questions will start to form the gap analysis that will ultimately shape what culture change will need to happen to assure project success. For example, moving to an agile delivery method when delivering technology enhancements or new customer propositions. In this instance, you’re likely to require people to work in sprint teams who are empowered to make decisions. If such design decisions are currently made at a more senior level, there is a cultural implication of the transformation, which is why looking at the cultural dynamics of how decisions are made is critical.”

2. Avoiding conversations with C-suite executives

Another very practical and real cultural dynamic that Derek has observed is that there is often a sense of fear or unease around asking senior management questions. Whether this is to gain clarity, direction or guidance. This is not always explicitly stated, but quite often the people charged with designing and delivering a change or transformation project are caught in a culture dynamic where it’s ‘not the done thing’ to ask questions of executives.

Derek highlighted that there are two common reasons for this:

  • The senior management team has generally said “Don’t come to me with problems, come with answers, solutions or options".
  • Employees have been empowered to make decisions and feel as though they just have to deliver the outcome without seeking help from the boss. Anything less may be viewed as though they are underperforming. People feel they need to ‘impress the boss’ and asking questions would not be seen as an option.

“In reality, while an executive sponsor may set out the vision of the transformation, it is unlikely that the initial briefing would have provided the clarity needed for a change project to successfully meet all expectations.”

3. Failing to communicate changes clearly

The third mistake that Derek highlighted is many organisations assume that when implementing change, people will immediately adapt the way they do things following a single communication or some training on how to use the new systems, tools or processes. In reality, people are the most complex part of any organisation.

“The modern workplace is multigenerational, multinational, with diverse thinking styles and beliefs. Shifting mindsets and transforming behaviours requires people to be at the centre of the change journey and not a latent participant.

“People can only truly align and engage with an organisation strategy or culture change initiative where they are properly supported along the journey. This means much, much more than just a single briefing or one-off training. To achieve culture alignment throughout the organisation, the four principles of Educate, Engage, Empower and Enable are key to success. Communication cannot be a one-hit-wonder, it has to be an ongoing cycle.”

A comprehensive strategy for change and transformation

Every change and transformation project is different, and will bring unique challenges for every business. Whether your next project is implementing new digital technologies, changing your management models, or hiring new skill sets to drive digital transformation, your people processes will need to evolve too.

“The value of a good strategy is in its execution, otherwise it’s just another strategy document which will remain as a set of ideas. The ability to execute a strategy is based on the organisational culture within which the strategy is to be delivered.” Derek explained. If your organisational culture does not enable execution, Derek warned that you will either have to change the culture or change the strategy, otherwise you’re heading for a failed strategy execution.

If you would like to explore how we can support you during change and transformation projects, and source the right people to best meet the needs of your evolving organisation, get in touch with us.

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