I recently read a great blog by David DeSouza on change being constant not one off events to be managed and it really resonated with my recent thoughts. I come from the world of the NHS where change management projects are par for the course. Everything that needs to be done differently is a change to be managed, it’s new and therefore outside of the day job. Even my past blogs partly conform to this way of thinking and like most people I realise I’ve been a bit indoctrinated to the view change is something to be managed.
As a result of so much change management I, like others, are suffering from change fatigue. In the NHS especially, change fatigue is clear to see. People can’t face yet another change knowing more is coming and that future change may even change the current change back to the way it was before it was changed. It’s change overload and who can blame people for being fatigued and therefore disengaged from it all.
David’s blog helped solidify my thoughts that not only does there need to be a better way but there IS a better way and it’s about helping people understand change is constant and supporting them to go with the flow.
For me, 4 things initially sprang to mind that are needed to move towards this better way;
1. Have explicit, honest conversations about organisational change.
We need to update how we think and talk about organisational change and it starts with being explicit about it. Most people have never worked for a company that has told them change is a natural part of the job, that all roles within the company are expected to make changes for for improvement or that staff are to actively expect a number of different changes to ways of working throughout their time at a company.
Companies may assume this is implicitly understood but that is not enough. We need to be having explicit conversations about organisational change, it’s constant flow and what it means for the company and it’s employees. We need open and honest dialogue to create a shared understanding from as early on as possible. We need to be constantly talking about organisational change moving it from an as and when needed conversation to part of our every day dialogue.
2. Understand change is not a management activity in a project plan.
Another key area to support thinking about change differently is to stop thinking of it as a project management activity. It’s not a line in a project plan. It’s not a time limited activity with a definitive start and end date. It is also not a bunch of documents or the words within those documents. It’s not a plan or a chart or a excel spreadsheet of actions. It will never be marked as complete. If we don’t stop thinking of it in this way change will never be successful because change simply can’t be successfully managed in this way.
3. Create organisational energy
Without energy change is impossible, that’s a basic rule of physics and yet energy is hardly ever referenced in relation to organisational change. I recently took part in the NHSIQ’s School for Healthcare Radicals webinar on resistance to change. The webinar introduced the concept change energy. The research of the NHSIQ team suggests five domains of change energy.
Social – Engagement, relationships, connections, collective ‘sense of us’.
Spiritual – Commited to common future vision, shared values, higher purpose.
Psychological – Courage, trust, feeling safe to act, self belief
Physical – Action, drive, getting things done, motion, kinetic energy
Intellectual – Analysis, cognition, planning, logic, evidence, supporting processes
The belief is that these energies exist in several forms; potential and realised, positive or negative, utilised or wasted. Getting the balance right between domains and forms is key to change success. For example, thinking of change as something that can be managed as part of a project plan is heavy on intellectual energy and not much else.
For me creating the right balance of energy at organisational level is key to supporting people to be more engaged and resilient to constant change.
4. Understand the HR is key to success
Up until recently my only contact with HR has been in relation to on-boarding and redundancies. I perceived them as a transactional back office function that handled paperwork, created policies and procedures and made sure people got paid. I now know, that while elements are transactional and need to be, a great HR team is far more than my view.
I now understand that great HR teams find great talent, engage employees, support the creation of great leaders, are flexible and innovative, build organisational capability, develop key skills and actively champion change. They are the people that focus on people and are there from your first contact with the company to the last. They understand people and how to make them brilliant and their core skills are therefore vital to creating people who ‘go with the flow’ of change. Trust me, you can’t do do this without them.
These are just my initial thoughts as I personally shift my view of change. Hopefully the resonate with you too and together we can start creating a better way.