Embedding Organisational Change – Part I

Organisational Change is a misnomer!

For those of us interested in better performance of some kind for our organisations – it makes sense to coin a phrase like “Organisational Change”. However this phrase makes the process sound relatively easy, when we know that this is simply not the case. Organisational change is often very difficult.

When we unpack it what we are really saying are things like – we are keen to integrate new systems or approaches, or we are seeking to be more responsive to customers as a way of gaining their loyalty, or we keenly recognise that in order to remain competitive we have to work smarter not harder.

These are challenging because we are actually trying to change the behaviours of a large number of individuals – often pretty quickly.

A Senior Executive that we work with has a significant role in the realm of Safety Performance – and the goal they have as a business represents a step change in this field. As she describes the challenge herself – “We are not really sure of exactly what this change looks like let alone the pathway to get us there.”

Recently she shared with us that she was talking with a group in the organisation that must be engaged with the changes coming. As part of her presentation she found a cartoon to show them. Here’s a copy of it:

who wants change

Changing “MY” behaviour is hard.

Let’s personalise this. Think of something in your life that you really want to be different. For many of us these are easily found! We want to exercise more, sleep better, drink a little less, spend more time with our loved ones, eat more healthily, get that ‘cholesterol/blood sugar/weight’ down etc. Any of these sound familiar? How satisfied are you with what you are achieving? For some people this challenge may have been easy, however most of us have at least one or two of these issues that despite persistent attention has not changed significantly. Most people have examples where they are performing at a 5 out of 10 or below, despite knowing that the change is worthwhile.

The lesson is obvious – even when we really want something to be different, and it matters, we often discover that the pathway to change is problematic.

SO – the obvious question – what to do!?

The new sciences tell us that organisations and individuals are far more like an ‘organism’ than a machine. In a Newtonian mindset we view things as machines – ie we just have to put the right pieces together in the right order/structure – and the machine will perform. Think of your goal again – then apply the idea that you just have to do the right behaviours in the right frequency and combination and you will achieve your result.

The logic works – but the reality is different. We may know the right behaviours and the frequency – but the challenge is the implementation!

New Sciences tell us that every organism has its own “DNA” its ‘purpose for being’ if you like. So – how do we harness this idea to embed organisational change – I hear you asking! What a great question!

If you are a leader wanting to create a change in behaviour – we suggest the very first question you pose to yourself is – “What is the PURPOSE of this change?”.

Why is this change necessary, helpful, useful, essential, desirable, wanted for me, my teams and my organisation?

Once you have asked this question of yourself and have answered it fulsomely start having conversations with people. Tell them what you believe is the purpose of the change. But that is not the end – there are two more key questions to ask of them.

Question 1 “What is resonating with you?” and Question 2 “What other purpose can you see here?”.

Communicating the purpose of change is an essential first step to embedding organisational change. The second is to win the minds, hearts and commitments of your people. This can only be achieved through sharing and listening!

Putting it into action:

  1. Get clear on why the change you are proposing is vital to the organisation – define the purpose of this change.
  2. Check in with a number of people from across the organisation who will be affected by the change – does this purpose make sense to them? Are they inspired to act to achieve the purpose? What is missing for them?
  3. Allow each conversation to inform you and evolve the purpose accordingly. After a few iterations you will feel confident that this purpose can be meaningful for your organisation.
  4. Keep the purpose at the forefront every time you communicate – we all need reminding often as to WHY change is important to get us over the humps.

I invite you to share your experience of putting this into action with your next change initiative.

Here’s to your whole-hearted success!

Written by Lily Cubrilo  


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Shared with permission of Lily Cubrilo, Partner, Acumen Global Partners