Within today’s modern organisation, there exists an evolving cycle of change and adoption of new technology, often against the backdrop of an embedded organisational culture and with it, many sub-cultures. Delivering transformational change which is sustainable over a period of time is therefore extremely challenging. Whilst traditional change methods address the “what”, “How” and “When” of transformation, we often ignore the sustainability of what we are trying to achieve, believing that the programme itself will cover the mechanics and cost of change with a view to measuring the benefits of transformation. Whilst more traditional change concepts themselves are a vital aspect to the success of the programme, they only focus on the immediate timeframe. Even with change reinforcement techniques, many of the success factors of transformation get lost beyond the completion of the programme and organisations, in particular staff, end up asking “what really did change? I got some cool new technology to play with and learnt a great deal, but I’m still doing the same job I did yesterday”.
If we think of the modern technology landscape, I liken it to a submarine attempting to evade the hunters of the Royal Navy’s 6th Frigate Squadron (yep, we were brilliant at anti-submarine warfare). The submarine has to constantly change course, speed and depth to shake off the wolf at its door. Likewise, with cloud technology, change is a constant. With the continuous evolution in new features, capabilities and trends, senior leaders can often feel a little overwhelmed. Certainly, at the mid-tier level of management, the focus on change dynamics is short-lived as the predominant responsibility of those teams is to deliver against their defined roles and responsibilities.
So how does sustainable change fit into all this. Why would it be different to the change management strategy and tactics we use today? Simply put, sustainable change focuses on the health and culture of the organisation as opposed to simply just improving business performance. Building on the work that will be conducted to effect change from a technology and people perspective, there exists a further four key aspects to incorporate sustainable change:
- Develop strong ownership and commitment from management and senior leadership: Focus change on the correct priorities and truly understand what the transformation is seeking to achieve.
- Create a clear accountability structure: redefine organisational, departmental and individual KPIs.
- Build the skills within the organisation: Enhance the capabilities of staff, management and leaders across not just technology, but also business development and understanding.
- Approach sustainable change from Day 1: Identify what the transformation is seeking to achieve at the programme level and drive the conversation around sustainable change right from the start.
When defining what sustainable change actually looks like, the emphasis should be on a thought process which is continually asking the question “why is this making my business and working life better?”. In this context, many transformation programmes focus on what is important to achieve success within the programme itself, predominantly focused on time, cost and quality. Beyond that conversation, there are further measures of success that should be incorporated which involves redefining what performance measures are in place today and how these can be adapted or new indicators created to maximise the value of the business investment in transformation. Key to this is the frontline leadership within the organisation. The team leaders, supervisors and managers play a vital role in the sustainable change process. When developing new business processes and ways of working, determining what change looks like and how it will be interpreted by the vast majority of the workforce is one thing. Leading that change is entirely different. Lots of programmes we have come across have involved top-down leadership of transformation, which in itself, is exactly what transformation programmes seek to achieve, yet often, the people on the receiving end of change, those that are tasked with performing the activities that make the organisation a success feel left out, almost dictated to. By adapting methods and conversations, always asking the question about why change is making business and working life better at the frontline of organisational leadership; sustainable change has a far greater chance of success.
As frontline leadership forms the bridge between the shop floor and C-Suite executives, it makes perfect sense to start and finish the change process from there. The development of new KPIs should be an engaging exercise, evaluating what the team does today vs what the team is capable of achieving tomorrow. When all the little things work brilliantly, the whole works exceptionally. But new KPIs can introduce a sense of foreboding. Classic resistance to change is prevalent in any organisation but that’s not the real point. Remember, we are focusing on the health and culture of the organisation as opposed to technology and people. Newly developed KPIs should be integrated into normal day-to-day business operations, as opposed to enforced, which is where frontline leadership is so vital to adapting the culture of an organisation. KPIs should also not be limited to just business or team performance. Individual KPIs and a restructure of professional development at the individual level also plays a pivotal role in the health of the organisation.
From our experience, modern day cloud transformation programmes focus less on technology and much more on people and culture. The technology aspect is relatively straightforward but where risual extends the boundaries, through our change dynamics, thoughts and methods, this is where the real magic happens. Working in partnership with many of our clients, we have seen organisations develop and grow through modern features such as Office 365. Thinking about sustainable change at the very beginning and how this can be achieved across varying organisations from the public to private sectors and across all industry verticals is an interesting exploration into individual and organisational transformation. Like the submarine attempting to evade the surface fleet, if they maintained a steady course, speed and depth, or only made limited adjustments, then guaranteed, they’ll have a torpedo up their backsides. Sustainable change is about developing a culture that is truly adaptive to the changing technology landscape, built from redefining what we do, achieve and how we perform on a daily basis. We can only achieve this by driving the conversation about what sustainable change means to an organisation embarking on a transformation programme and focusing in the right areas, at the right time.