Nothing changes if nothing changes

Nothing changes if nothing changes

A crash course in facilitating change

Working at Impact, I regularly find myself in conversations about the ways in which our work is evolving to meet the changing demands of our clients and their leaders. One such recent discussion left me pondering a simple question: How has an increase in culture transformation work required us to work differently?

Below are 5 valuable insights we have gained from working with clients to advance their culture transformation efforts.

How is this work the same?

1. It's still all about people

An investment firm executive recently remarked, ‘All we are is people,’ as she displayed empathy in describing the challenges brought on by significant changes in her organisation. It was a useful reminder that we often get fixated on the rapidly shifting industry landscape or the perceived need to disrupt markets or internal processes at the expense of addressing the 'people resistance' that often hinders change efforts. Ultimately, we are solving people problems.  

2. It's still about shifting mindsets and behaviours

Put simply, transforming cultures is about shifting mindsets and behaviors, which requires enhanced self-awareness and a focus on developing the individual and organizational capacity for leadership. With change interventions, we guide participants through messier, less predictable processes than on a typical leadership development programme, which tends to be more intricately planned and controlled. This helps identify (and close) real gaps in knowledge and competencies. Importantly, those leading the change must recognise that people tend to resist perceived loss, rather than the change itself (Heifetz), so managing expectations is critical.

3. "The medium is [still] the message."– Marshall McLuhan

The way change is communicated, strategic priorities are set, and individual and collective action steps are created still determine people’s level of ownership and commitment; involving diverse perspectives is key. To borrow the words of two thought leaders in this space: "What gets communicated is less important than the particular medium through which people communicate." (Marshall McLuhan) and “Involvement leads to commitment.” (W. Warner Burke.) People, ultimately, own what they create.

How must we work differently?

4. Maintain a bias toward action

While leadership development programs tend to culminate in individual commitments to future action, change interventions must endeavour to move the work forward much more rapidly. “What have we accomplished?” and “Was this a waste of time?” are common refrains during change processes, so it is imperative to keep advancing toward the agreed objectives. A productive way to achieve this is to focus on internalising and personalising the call for change from the very beginning, then move on to co-creating individual and collective action road maps and starting the work.

5. Be an instrument in service of the group

More than with any other solution we have designed and delivered, culture transformation, and more broadly change intervention, have required us to be agile and adaptable in order to meet each organisation and its people where they are. When it comes to driving and facilitating change, the focus should be on process consultation, understanding the people, the challenges and encouraging leadership action, as much as necessary.

As Impact continues to develop our offering in the organisational change and transformation space, we look forward to continuing these energising and provocative discussions and learning from your experiences. Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Steven Nishida is a Senior Consultant at Impact