By Elisabeth Goodman, 30th April, 2015
Our host, Patrick Farrant from Taylor Vinters, opened yesterday’s proceedings at the One Nucleus Network Meeting in Cambridge on Managing Change with this quote from Richard Branson:
“A company that stands still will soon be forgotten”
A show of hands from the floor confirmed that those present were almost unanimously either experiencing change, had recently done so, or were anticipating it. So on that evidence alone, they and their organisations are continuously looking for ways to improve and therefore will not be forgotten!
(* I know that I am making at least two potentially erroneous assumptions here but I hope you’ll overlook them for the sake of this blog!)
The afternoon / evening event consisted of three case studies and a panel session, with the participation of Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins from GSK, Madhuri Warren from Pathology Diagnostics introduced by Tony Jones from One Nucleus, John Burt from Abzena and Chris Mayo from the London Stock Exchange, and Edward Hooper from Taylor Vinters. I had the pleasure of introducing the first session with GSK, and chairing the closing panel discussion.
It was a very enjoyable event, with a richness of content and some great discussion. This blog does not attempt to cover all of the content, but rather to explore some of the key themes that emerged in what felt like almost a celebration of change and how to make it a more positive experience.
Our attitude, having access to information and involvement in the change will make the difference between a positive and negative experience of change
I asked the delegates what would make the difference for them between experiencing change as something really positive and constructive, as opposed to something negative and really rather awful. The answers that came back included attitude, knowing what was going on, and being in control – a nice lead-in for my slide on enabling navigators rather than victims of change (a theme that I’ve previously spoken about in my capacity as committee member of the APM Enabling Change SIG).
I’ve added in the survivor image to illustrate a point made later by Jacqui Alexander about people’s reactions to change programmes involving long roll-out plans where they might just lie low and wait for it to blow over!
Effective change is about leadership attitude
Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins used a four-box model for leadership belief and change, taken from Rowland & Higgs’ book on Sustaining Change that really resonated with the audience and the other speakers.
It seemed that whilst the tendency of many leaders of change is to be very directive, it may sometimes be more appropriate to take the masterful approach, and that the most effective may well be the emergent one.
The masterful approach engages the people who are doing the work and so will have the best knowledge as to what will be effective.
The emergent approach is about creating the conditions for creativity and innovation, mixed with a culture of continuous improvement so that change is incremental rather than evolutionary. It also has echoes of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’: when sufficient people have bought into (a) change for it to gain a momentum of its own.
At the same time, there are some situations, as in John Burt’s case study with Abzena’s transition in its corporate mission and to a public company, and Madhuri Warren’s case study on relocating and growing their business, when those leading the change have to be more directive, at least at first. Both speakers recognised, and Madhuri elaborated on the fact, that there comes a point when the masterful and emergent approaches are essential for fully engaging their staff.
A strong management team is essential during periods of significant change
Both Madhuri Warren and John Burt reflected on the qualities of their management teams and how their wealth of experience supported their companies through their periods of significant change.
The ability to articulate and communicate their vision for the change to employees and external stakeholders / shareholders, turn it into a sound business plan, project manage that plan, and minimize the negative impact on day-to-day productivity is a complex mix of challenges for any team.
Pathology Diagnostics’ and Abzena’s ability to do so are a credit to the quality of their management teams.
Both experiences have led them to reflect on their change management strategies, and there was much that GSK shared about their ADP approach (Accelerating Delivery and Performance *) that provided food for thought on this.
(*The link is to Jacqui and Margaret’s previous webinar for the APM which was attended by more than 300 people. The link includes an audio recording from the event.)
It is important to communicate the right things, to the right people, at the right time
John Burt referenced the challenge of managing the company’s shareholder based when transitioning to a public company, and the changes in communication strategy that this entails. Chris Mayo elaborated on this further.
Managing the internal communications is also an important, as Madhuri reminded us: people want to know the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – how the change will directly impact and benefit them.
In the panel session we discussed how it is in some ways easier to manage that communication in smaller companies. Jacqui’s suggestion for larger companies is to take a cellular approach to change leadership to achieve this communication more effectively than waiting for the more traditional top-down cascade to happen.
Jacqui also suggested tailoring the language for different audiences so for example, in an R&D environment, we might describe a change programme as experimentation!
Focus on skills and motivation and you will get the results you want
Graham Robb’s book ‘Influencer’ suggests that the best way to influence people is through a combination of skills development and motivational factors, and these suggestions also came through from all the speakers.
Robb suggests that effective change depends on identifying the key behaviours that need to change, and then providing the support (skills and motivation) to make that happen.
(You can read more about this in an earlier blog entitled: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not sufficient to drive change)
Our speakers certainly demonstrated the awareness, and the approaches that will enable their organisations, and hopefully those of the delegates to continuously change for the better and so not be forgotten!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)
Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.
One of RiverRhee’s areas of expertise and courses for One Nucleus is on Managing Change – which was part of the impetus for yesterday’s event.
Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the recently renamed Methods and Standards theme for the Enabling Change SIG.