The Driving Change Conference 2021
On the 21st of January, NKD attended the Driving Change Conference where we shared our transformational journey with retail giant Woolworths Group. We shared how we worked together to get 7,000 people genuinely engaged about their role in Continuous Improvement, becoming the ‘Chief Change-Makers’ in making their world of work better, smarter and safer.
At the conference we were joined by HR, Change and Communications leaders from the likes of the BBC, Aviva, Avon, the Co-op, Coca-Cola, TFL, Deutsche Bank, National Grid, John Lewis, Mars, Lego, PepsiCo and more. Each shared their experiences, their opinions and wisdom around the best ways to create long-lasting sustainable change, overcome the fear of change and change fatigue, and the importance of trust, wellbeing, empathy and transparency in building resilience.
And so, I wanted to share with you some of their stories of change and their nuggets of wisdom.
“Without trust there is little room to do much more. From there we can talk about how to capture hearts and minds”
“Involve your people in the change process. Employees just want to know what is going on. People otherwise make things up and connect dots that don’t need to be connected”
“Rather than baby steps, COVID has made space for quantum leaps”
James Makepeace, Transformation Leader for Future Defence Programmes at Rolls Royce, emphasised that one of the greatest learnings from COVID is our speed of mobilisation. How many times have you heard “we’re not doing that”, “it’s not a priority”, “it’ll take too long”, “we don’t have the budget”. But the truth is, we can do it and we can do it fast! We must continue to build off that legacy and reflect on the resilience that we have built!
Top tips to overcome fear of change and change fatigue
- The why: Capture the benefits of why the programme is important, and why it should be delivered in that way.
- The journey: This is more important than the outcomes. How will people remember the change? Because for the next time, their perception of change will be different.
- Be tolerant and compassionate: Change fatigue can end in child-like reactions from employees but don’t punish them for it. Don’t ignore change fatigue, but go in and re-energise those individuals.
- Blame, no gain: Don’t blame the tools, the process or external factors. The real problem is usually lack of management, commitment, passion and pride.
- Trust in failure: Build trust and respect from the top and empower managers to support their teams if something goes wrong.
- Be flexible: Break the change into bite-sized chunks which allow you to change direction if needed and doesn’t warrant the same level of planning.
- Celebrate the wins: Focus on simple, short-term wins which release dopamine. People’s long-term planning capabilities are shut down during fight or flight.
- Multi: Use multi-channel, multi-approach communications and engagement strategies.
- Don’t over-engineer success: Give options and be transparent about the knowns and unknowns of change.
- Map in real-time: Put the Change Curve firmly beside any delivery plan and plot where you are currently on it
How do you optimise stakeholder buy-in and gain their trust, collaboration and financial backing for change programmes?
Eze Lisak, Head of Change at National Grid, explained how 70% of change programmes fail to deliver against time, cost and quality due to a lack of, or poor stakeholder engagement. He showed us the stakeholder map within National Grid of all the different groups. But every time he looks at the map he gets upset, because it’s the individuals within these stakeholder groups which is where you need to focus.
The best change programmes have been where he hasn’t had to sell the change, but where the change has been sold to him by the stakeholders themselves. Because they focused on the individuals pains and gains at a grass-root level, they gave people a strong reason why the change is happening and what it personally means to them.
Eze showed us the Cultural Iceberg which explains how people’s behaviours, customs, beliefs, values, unique life experiences, personality traits (some of which are visible and some which we cannot see) affect how we react and interact differently to change.
Eze suggested that we identify the demographic (about 20% of your organisation) who will have the biggest influence of change, and focus on them.
Nadia Strone, Executive Director of Human Resources, Western Europe at Avon echoed this, and added that high potential talent and people who put up their hands, come forward and are willing to help are usually the best ways to identify your change champions.
The importance of top leadership and middle management
We were warned to never overestimate the engagement of leaders the further up hierarchy you go – many of whom used to firmly believe that their job was mostly to inform, and that engagement was the responsibility of those lower in the organisation. But the more senior you become, the more information is power and leaders must role-model and lead the change. Their buy-in is key.
During the break-out session led by Jo Walmsley, People Capability Director at John Lewis, we explored the unique challenges for mid-level management in being a part of and steering change. Michael Bauer, Head of Internal Communications for Vaccines at GSK shared how middle managers are often torn between managing the day-to-day work and having to lead change. And when the pressure is on they choose the day-to-day, because this is what they are being measured on. Often they can feel like the forgotten group as it is their role to embed change and engage teams, but they often miss out on the senior conversations.
Our group believed that mid-level managers need more support and engagement to keep them part of the change journey. Not only that, but also to take advantage of their knowledge of their teams in order to gain information from the bottom-up, inform of potential road blocks and adapt change plans to ensure they land well. Michael encouraged us to have middle managers formulate their change narrative and give them practical tools to help in storytelling.
The importance of wellbeing and psychological safety in driving resilience and hacking change
Resilience is a skill that needs to be exercised. Nadia at Avon believes that resilience is a fundamental part of wellbeing. Our ability to navigate ambiguity, cope with limited resources and course-correct when faced with many obstacles, starts with the self-belief in our ability, having a positive mindset, and belief in the organisation. Remembering that relationships are the key foundation for having this support.
The importance of mental health was also echoed by TFL and Crossrail. Since the outbreak of COVID, mental health has been thrusted to the fore, highlighting to the businesses that we are all human beings and it is critical to have real conversations with people, to ask them how they are and to always be genuine.
Meg Peterson, Senior Manager for Learning and Leadership at Lego explained that change needs to be approached more as a social movement in order to create a pull for people to be involved. For this, the psychological state is important. People need to be themselves and be an individual within the change movement; possessing an ownership and experimentation mentality – not looking for permission, and moving to action very quickly.
Lego have created leadership programmes such as ‘Building Lego In A Playground’. This was developed by Lego to give leaders a safe space to behave as leaders, and define what leadership is needed, for the now and for the future. Over 200 leaders volunteered to participate. The new defined leadership behaviours went through a series of iterations, and engaged with a wide range of colleagues so that when it was finally introduced, there was already a sense of ownership and personalisation. Lego also had Programme Builders – volunteers from every team which guide people through that building. With these behaviours, instead of creating a cookbook and telling people what to do step by step, they let people go and explore these behaviours and what it meant for them as individuals, and what does it meant for them as a team.
Helena Curtis, Culture, Engagement and Wellbeing Lead at PepsiCo shared similar views and experiences. At PepsiCo they recognised that psychological safety is critical, and to achieve this they have honed in on empathy and agility. PepsiCo created ‘Learning Circles’ with leaders so that in smaller groups they could learn and test out their feelings and thoughts. Helena explained how it enables people to feel change ready, and during the pandemic feedback of leadership visibility was very present and very positive.
At NKD, we have developed something similar for clients such as Dublin Airport Authority and DHL. We came up with a programme that took the design-thinking and Hackathon approach used for product innovation, originally used by tech companies starting in San Francisco. But instead of hacking a product or a process, we hack human experiences, organisational mindset and behaviour, using the latest thinking on neuroscience and cognitive behavioural therapy. We called it ‘The Culture Hackathon’ or ‘Leadership Hackathon’.
A Hackathon works by following an immersive design-thinking process, made up of five unique parts: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
Culture Hackathons can be deeply cross-functional, allowing for the sharing of ideas and perspectives, maximising engagement and increasing accountability for delivering the actions that come out of it, allowing for essential buy-in to the end solution.
At our Culture Hackathon with Dublin Airport Authority, 80 leaders got together for two days to imagine and design ways to drive-up engagement in their business.
Top communications tips for responding to change
- Set up channels quickly even if you don’t have the content yet.
- Create a compelling narrative for where you are now and where you need to get to.
- Get the team together with one very clear outcome.
- Be authentic and honest – don’t pretend that you know all the answers.
- Always link back to your purpose.
- Have the right frequency and the right tone.
- See communication as engagement instead of comms.
- Encourage leaders to be vulnerable and take control of their own communication.
- Strip back the noise of other organisational changes during crises and focus on a clear, singular message.
I hope you took away some fresh and useful insights from this blog. It definitely doesn’t all seem like rocket science and as humans we adapt to change all the time. It’s in our nature, but in never feels like it gets any easier. At NKD we love helping organisations transform to their fullest potential. Engaging your people to bring their best selves to work every day, even during times of turbulence and change.
We’d love to hear about some of your change initiatives, where you’re struggling most and how we can help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!