Ideas by Bonnie Tang
Change without the management: Going beyond traditional change management
COVID-19 has forced entire industries to change almost overnight. How will your organization survive and thrive in this fast-changing environment? How are your customers’ needs, expectations, and behaviours changing? What will the change look like for your business? And how will you galvanize your teams toward that vision? Bridgeable’s Bonnie Tang and Terri Block discussed these questions in a public webinar. Read on to find out what they shared.
Today, most businesses are initiating or are deep into some sort of transformation initiative. Perhaps it is a change that was underway and accelerated by the conditions brought on by COVID-19. Whether it’s a digital transformation, an employee experience initiative, or a new customer experience strategy, at its core, it’s a change. And success looks like your organization executing that change.
What’s interesting about doing a change initiative now is that we’re collectively hot off of just having transformed in many ways overnight–all without 6-month long change management planning processes. And though much of this change was reactive in nature, not without its challenges (logistically, strategically, mentally, and emotionally), we have a significant proof point, that across industries, change can happen without attaching a long planning effort to it.
The question we’re curious about is:
How might we achieve faster, pragmatic, organization-wide transformation in the absence of a catalyzing crisis?
A critical obstacle is that the creation of transformation strategies is traditionally treated as a separate workstream from change management.
These changes are often, but not always, built at the top and then trickled down to the organization through traditional change management practices.
Traditional change management typically follows a “steps” model
The first few steps are often over-indexed on and coordinating all steps requires significant effort and a variety of workstreams and teams.
This traditional approach often leads to executive teams falling into one of two traps:
- Spending months designing a strategy or new initiative in isolation from the organization and spending lots of time conducting a grand unveiling of the transformation agenda–over-indexing on socialization to the point that little gets achieved and energy begins to wear out.
- Under-indexing on how to make the change real for people on the ground. This can end up looking like teams in the business who have a Powerpoint with a strategy but don’t know what the transformation/strategy means for their day-to-day work. Organizations can spend a year refining their guiding principles or other socialization artifacts and still have few tangible outcomes to show for it.
Changing from accomplishing steps, to achieving “change jobs”
It’s not that traditional change management steps aren’t useful. In fact, we can think of each of these steps as accomplishing an important “change job”. However, the way they’re traditionally managed takes more time, alignment, and coordination than is needed. There is an opportunity to rethink how change happens by bringing the vision for change and the action for change closer together.
A new approach to doing change
As service designers, we see this as an opportunity to shift our perspective away from transformation strategy and change management as two separate workstreams, and towards an iterative cycle for visioning and actioning for change.
This new approach has two core tenets:
- Define the vision or change you want to see relatively quickly and collaboratively with others because the vision will fundamentally shift in its articulation once put into practice.
- Action the vision by immediately applying it to practical project work.
What’s great is that it doesn’t actually matter where you start. You can define the vision for what your organization wants to achieve and build a practical project from there. Or, you can start doing practical work and see things in action in order to realize and articulate a vision.
Principles for change
To set this iterative cycle in motion, we recommend employing three specific, inter-related principles:
- Co-design with customers and employees
- Prototype and concept
- Measure and communicate tangible proof points frequently
It’s by doing these three things collectively that helps to reinforce change faster and in more pragmatic ways. And by putting these principles into practice, you’re achieving the same change management “steps”, or as we call it, change jobs.
To help see each principle in action, we walked through different change stories to show how you can bring the vision and action closer together to achieve change, without a long planning effort. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Christopher Elkin, Director of Experience Design at BMO, to hear about how he sees this framework coming to life in the work he does.