Mind Fruit

I have been privileged to be asked to blog from the CIPD HRD event on April 24 & 25. There follow a short series of posts from my observations in areas of interest. This blog site makes a point of not discussing specific organisations, so the names have been changed to protect those who were happy enough to stand up and talk about themselves anyway.

Session: Managing junior & senior stakeholders through change

Eloquently and enthusiastically presented, both A-Org and R-Org walked through their transformational projects, sucking in culture, structure, management style, policy, process, expenditure, technology, communication, reward and recognition to the extent that it was difficult to ascertain what had been omitted. In such instances there is an ease in which it is possible to be drawn into the bristling enthusiasm and unshakeable sense of purpose, just the occasional sigh giving a hint to the inevitable battle scars and retreats.

A-Org the sage parent to R-Org’s youthful effervescence, both followed the timeworn DMAIC approach – define, measure, analyse, improve control. We were bon into this cerebral method, and so to shake it off is not like removing an overcoat it’s like shedding an only skin. There was no discovery of a positive core, no determination of what was working – instead a problem orientation, and a resultant language of problem. That is not to detract from the success of the projects, just to reflect on how they might have been differently positioned. And we can only wonder whether there is a company left in the world that has not had a “One [Insert Company Name]” initiative to underpin their transformation.

There were times too when the R-Org project sounded like an assignment in the Apprentice, using the clichéd jargon of business (especially in its vision statement) that sounded as natural and comfortable as chewing a golfball. Fortunately some refreshing terms like “Brain Candy” (a suggestions scheme) emerged to get us away from competency frameworks and cascades.

As a credit to the presenters and their passion, I wanted to know more principally around two questions that apply to most such projects:

  • What was actually working before the project started? The degree of transformation deemed to be required indicates that the previous situation was verging on the critical. How does an organisation manage to get itself into that situation? How did it lack the awareness to change, such that only a transformation would suffice? So what was actually working that enabled it to realise a transformation was necessary? The answer is probably embedded in the second question.
  • Where to now? A-Org left with a Darwin quote about the need to adapt to survive, but there was little time to explore how the transformation in each case could become a perpetual journey, and the new organisation embody this. There was a sense that the transformation delivered the new reality, and the team and the energy had been demobilised accordingly. Yet that’s probably how and why the original situation arose in the first place. As “all is flux” the key to change is to ensure that the organisation embodies it, such that transformation is rarely, if ever, required. Both case studies have the best chance they will ever have to set this right.

But conferences love a heroic transformation case study. Featuring case studies of organisations that understand that change is a journey comprised of many smaller journeys, and that live, breathe and flex change in every sinew, probably wont draw in the punters. Its time they did.