Sarah was instrumental in assisting me with the task of pulling a large team together of approximately 15 managers and 175 staff that had previously not really worked as a cohesive unit...Not only did this lead to a significant rise in productivity, quality improvements and customer satisfaction but it also made the group become a “team”.
— Geoff Hewson, Cheif Engineer (Military Flying), Vector Areospace

Why traditional change management consultancy doesn't work and how we use a different approach

What we can help with

You are planning an organisational change. After months of work you've planned how the change will occur, and what the result will be. You announce the change and issue the implementation plans. At this point a number of things can happen including demoralisation, a fall in productivity, dis-engagement and of course 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 are good at AS WELL AS WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

Simply concentrating on what's going wrong can rapidly create a downward spiral of dis-engagement. Not only does it make people depressed and defensive, it can also encourage a blame culture as people focus on blaming others for the current difficulties. Focussing on what is working, and the strengths and successes of the organisation doesn't mean ignoring the problems, it means coming at them from a different perspective. Appreciative Inquiry offers a well established alternative route to change that, by positively affecting, mood, relationships, communication and engagement, by-passes many of the problems associated with 'top down imposed change'.

2. ARE YOU GOING TO HELP US NOT ONLY ASK THE FRONTLINE STAFF FOR THEIR IDEAS BUT ensure they are empowered to make them happen? 

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.  When they are actively involved in generating and evaluating ideas that 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 have energy and motivation to make change happen. All the co-creative dialogic change approaches we use focus on the co-creation of change plans and actions.

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, you'll be able to see if it's working, and quickly.

Positive techniques and tools we use

APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY

How can we help organisations grow towards positive futures? Appreciative Inquiry can be can be combined with other approaches or used alone. Almost any organizational activity benefits from an appreciative approach.

WORLD CAFE

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.

SIMUREAL

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

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 how working with, rather than against, people's strengths is integral to successful organizations in Our Approach.

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Sarah worked with us to create an effective response to the results of our staff survey. Working with a small planning team, and then over 2 days with 200 people, she created a highly engaging and positive event that resulted in the generation of 18 practical ideas for future improvements. The event exceeded our expectations and generated much positive feedback. An enormous positive effect on area relationships was noticed immediately and there is a great deal of energy evident for pursuing the ideas and projects.

We are delighted by the work Sarah has done for us at a challenging time and have enjoyed working with her. We thoroughly recommend her as an experienced and skilful facilitator.
— Stephane Veillat, HR business partner, European Space Agency HR department.

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 actively in the whole change process, then the resistance itself will fade away. This is how we work at Appreciating Change.

 

Get started - sign up to get updates on ways to achieve organisational change and receive a free guide to doing an Appreciative Inquiry in your organization 

We work with organisations that want to change how they work. Drawing on modern twenty-first century change approaches we help you energise people and make 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 for their active influence and involvement. 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 07973782715 or email jemsmith@acukltd.com to arrange for a free initial consultation.