Drive Change

A good story travels faster than light

In the volatile and uncertain world we live in today, change is an ever present part of our daily lives, and so finding solutions to help people through change is vital to business resilience.

There has been plenty of research done in the last 30 years to show that change within an organisation can only happen when every employee understands the need for change, and the importance of their participation. So why do projects still fail with communication cited as the culprit?

We believe that consultants brought in to handle the nuts and bolts of the change itself, do not necessarily have the correct expertise to help organisations create a compelling, authentic story, or to transform the messaging style and the mindset of senior management to deliver it.

We do have this expertise…

Our programme has three key pillars:

  1. Build bespoke ‘change scripts’ collaborating with senior exec and other internal stakeholders, for each key internal audience. These will form the basis of how change will be communicated in person.
  2. Equip senior management and other internal stakeholders with the confidence, mind-set, and tools to deliver their own version of these ‘change scripts’.
  3. Support the business in a comms and culture strategy to embed change and the values which underpin the change.

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How a Change Story Adapted to its Audience

Origin Housing are a London Housing Association responsible for over 7800 homes. This 100 year old charity was on a two year programme of change which included updating their systems, ways of working and refreshing their values.

You might think this would be a positive, inspiring piece of storytelling, sweeping up the employees and moving them to embrace this more fit-for-purpose future, but when we worked with their ‘change champions’ they told us there was frustration amongst their colleagues. There had been ongoing infrastructure issues which had impacted on the staff’s ability to deliver critical customer service. We realised that the Change story needed to acknowledge the failings that had occurred in the past and connect with the staff sense of purpose. So we embarked on a piece of storytelling…

“Origin 2020 is underway with a mission to help you do your job as well as you want to do it. We all came to work for Origin Housing to make a difference and change people's lives but right now our current systems and processes are getting in the way of that. So Origin 2020 is about resetting the dial.”

The Change Champions used this loose script for how they spoke about transformation and spread the word within the organisation. Providing a clear way to talk about change, in a way that they felt would land well with their peers, and in a way that helped the Champions to feel more comfortable about their role as key communicators and leaders of the mission. It took them away from the reticence they had over what they felt was previously overly optimistic messaging which didn’t recognise the frustrations of staff.

The Senior Leaders’ session to plan the story for managers produced a very different result. We identified that it was essential for managers to be on board for the transformation to succeed because if they blocked the change then their teams could not transform effectively. We realised this story needed to be much more pointed and the draft version, which of course was never publicly shared, was as follows:-

“Get on board or get off the bus”

Whilst appearing pretty stark it was highly effective, but it was also couched in a much softer narrative…

“By embracing the new values, you have the opportunity to make your team shine. The values aren’t just to drive good practise, they will also help us to re-set the dial on behaviours that have been getting in the way, and this includes leadership behaviours that block our progress.

Alongside this core messaging, we also worked with colleagues across the business on ways to bring six refreshed organisational values to life for staff. This included the Senior Leaders making personal commitments to tangible actions and behaviours, and identifying staff stories which illustrated the values to be told verbally and in short films.

I have to say again, what a great piece of work it was, looking at the change champions script, it was just a brilliant way of acknowledging the mistakes and moving forwards.

After your senior leader workshop, there was a feeling that:- · we were all on the same page · we’d discussed and shared challenges · we were in agreement with what we needed to do

because bringing people along on the journey would make or break the success of Origin 2020. The values gave the senior team the behaviours they needed to get things moving. By all working on the message together and acknowledging the challenges, the team felt it was easier as we had an agreed set of messages.

As well as storytelling script, the change champions implemented a value each month in team meetings with an activity that represented the value. We found that this really helped people understand what the value meant. We started this process in your workshops when we began to identify staff stories which represented our values.

All the values were launched at a staff conference, which was mandatory to attend. The groups all had a value and a tablet and made short films about what it might mean in real life. These videos were then used as we revisited each value. We also got graphics put up around our offices so people could see the values every day.

So even with Covid and the new staff now, the values are very evident. We continue to use them in our systems and make sure they are talked about when recognising and rewarding people. For the people who were around at this time, the storytelling work we did really helped us be clear in our messaging and ensure we’re all on the same page.

Julie Humphreys:
Head of Communications

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