Why traditional change management consultancy doesn't work and how we use a different approach
What we can help with
You need to change how your organisation works. You've planned how the change will occur, what the result will be and announced it to great fanfare. Then nothing happens. Or a lot happens - a lot of resistance. You decide you need some help. Here are 5 questions to ask any consultant who promises they can help you:
1. ARE YOU GOING TO FOCUS ON WHAT WE DO WELL ALREADY AS WELL AS WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
Simply concentrating on what's going wrong dooms a change effort from the start. Not only does it make people depressed, defensive and concentrate on blaming others - making it very difficult for them to co-operate in the way needed to make change actually happen - but it means that there is no possibility in people's minds that things could be better. When you get people to realise that 'well yes A isn't working well but we're much better at B' this helps them to believe that A doesn't have to be the way it is and start to look at why B works so much better and think about how they could apply that to improving A.
2. ARE YOU GOING TO HELP US NOT ONLY ASK THE FRONTLINE STAFF FOR THEIR IDEAS BUT ACTUALLY DO SOME OF THEM?
This is vital for two reasons: One is that the staff lower down in your hierarchy will actually have some pretty great ideas that you and the other leaders in the organization won't have thought of. There's no shame in admitting this - great leaders don't have to come up with every idea, their key skill is spotting great ideas and implementing them. The other reason is that it will actually make change happen. Change is more difficult than carrying on as normal and if your frontline staff are told to do something and don't understand, and more importantly don't believe, that this change will make their working lives better they will resist it. If they can see that at least some of these ideas come from them and they are involved in the decision making process, they will believe the change will help them and won't just stop resisting - they will try to help!
3. ARE WE GOING TO START CHANGING NOW?
Another reason that you should involve everyone affected by the change from the beginning is that they can start trying out ideas straight away. Otherwise you and the other leaders will spend months devising 'The Plan' and then unveil it to the organization. Quite apart from the fact that this gives the staff no chance to influence the change and so every reason to resist it, it's unlikely to achieve what it's supposed to even if everyone does what you want them to. An iterative change where ideas are tried and evaluated and then discarded, modified or expanded and then tried again, works by responding to feedback and building momentum. It is far more likely to succeed than a big 'one-shot' approach which misses the target and which everyone concerned is too exhausted to try again anytime soon.
4. ARE WE GOING TO BE ABLE TO KEEP CHANGING AFTER YOU ARE GONE?
It's not good enough these days for organizations to stay frozen for 5, 10, 15 years at a time in between attempts to change how they work. The modern world won't wait for you. It's equally impossible for new Grand Masterplans to come down from the leadership every 18 months even if they worked - it's mentally exhausting for everyone concerned and engenders cynicism. If a change consultant has helped you to create an environment which accepts and even embraces change because it's seen to make everyone's working life better then that environment will survive even after they've left.
5. WILL YOU GUARANTEE WE WON'T BE WASTING A LOT OF MONEY ON YOU? HOW CAN YOU DO THAT?
Think about it - if a consultant is helping you to write a plan and they earn all their money doing that then it's not until after they've gone that you have any idea if the help they gave you was worth anything. If they're working to help bring about the iterative approach outlined above you can see if it's working or not as you go along. Similarly if you bring a consultant in after the 'roll-out' - when resistance has emerged - and they're advising you how to continue pushing through The Plan then if that fails will you know why? Maybe the advice they gave you was wrong, maybe the changes were always going to be too much to ask of your organization. Who knows? But if they try to do something different, and in an iterative way, at least you'll be able to see if it's working, and quickly.
Positive techniques and tools we use
How can an organization, or any part of it, change if it doesn't even know what the problems are, or how - or even if - things could be any better? Highly adaptable, Appreciative Inquiry can be can be combined with other approaches or used alone. Almost any organizational activity benefits from an appreciative approach.
The World Café process is designed to encourage relaxed, informal yet purposeful conversations to take place in small café style grouping of six or so people who regularly move around between tables. Useful in many contexts to reduce the intimidating effects of speaking up in large groups, it excels when the objective is to have discursive and exploratory conversations.
By recreating the whole business process in one room, and speeding up time so that the activity of months can be observed in a day, this technique allows people to see how their behaviour affects other parts of the organisation and the outcome as a whole. This is a really effective way of encouraging co-operation across the organisation, not just within departments. Simureal brings the whole process together in one space to bring into sharp focus the departmental interconnections and inter-dependencies so the organization can adapt and grow.
Open Space allows people to set their own agenda and then to move freely from one discussion to another following their interests. This means they can spend 100% of their meeting time listening and talking about topics that passionately interest them.
Find out more about rather than against, people's strengths is integral to successful organizations in Our Approach.
"The session you delivered on positive psychology was very well received by the group. Fellows described it as ‘extremely worthwhile’, ‘excellent’ and ‘of direct relevance to my work’. Emma and I also found it very interesting and enjoyable, and it has given us some ideas to develop!" - Professor Maggie Kirk, Operational Lead, Research Capacity Building Collaboration Wales.
If the answer to any of these questions isn't convincing or the consultant you're talking to says they're going to help you "overcome resistance to change" then steer clear - you're in for a lot of frustration and wasted time and effort. If change is done well, building on your organization's existing strengths and engaging its employees then the resistance itself will fade away. This is how we work at Appreciating Change.
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We work with organisations that want to change how they work. Drawing on modern twenty-first century change approaches we help you energise people into making change happen, saving you time and money.
We do this using several techniques, including Appreciative Inquiry, that help people affected by the change to see it as an opportunity that they can get involved in. This means they can become your partners in change rather than the source of problems to be overcome. If you and your organisation need this kind of help with change please ring 0845 055 9874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a free 30 minute initial consultation.