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involving those aff ected by or needing to implement the transformation, and can reduce resistance. Although, resistance is often about people’s loss, and that needs to be listened to. Engagement is the big factor that decides whether transformation will be successful or not. Generating engagement involves widening the circle of involvement, everyone’s voice counts and everyone wants to make a diff erence. Work systemically to connect people to each other, bringing representative parts of the whole system together to share diff erent perspectives, collectively sense-make, generate ideas, and move to action. By working in large groups to build engagement and accelerate change and by going slowly to start with to help people ‘get it’ and contribute, the implementation will happen faster. Although don’t forget to slow down to check how things are really going. Some wisdom on engagement from

OD academic/practitioners that un- derpin this is that “People will support what they help to create” (Weisbord), and “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed” (Beckhard).

How skilled are your leaders at transformational conversations?

Leaders have a key role to play in transformational conversations and can be multipliers of these types of conversations. Leadership is inherently relational and people seek to belong, relate to, follow, and make sense of things with others. Leaders can purposefully guide

the way towards transformation by setting examples of how they behave through their day-to-day interactions; by role modelling desired behaviours and mindsets and by enlisting help from infl uential employees at all levels to mirror these conversations and behaviours across the organisation. A dialogue-based approach to

changing the organisation by changing conversations (what gets talked about, where conversations happen, and how conversations take place) generates energy and commitment while introducing new habits, routines and ways of working during transformation. In this way change and transformation happens one conversation at a time. Organisations are made up

of a series of conversational and

behavioural interactions that people have every day. We relate to each other, multiple times, in multiple ways, every day and are shaped by, and shape others, through these interactions and conversations. Used well, these can result in the creation and adoption of new behaviours necessary for transformation.

What’s the rhythm of your transformation?

A transformation programme will generate a pace and momentum of its own. T is gets accelerated when some of these suggested approaches to engagement get adopted. A rhythm can help to shape and sustain momentum and can be built into the fabric and structure of a programme from the outset.

Some ways to do this include: ` `

regular communication – don’t wait until everything is fi nalised before you communicate, share where you are and when you anticipate having more information or a clearer picture. People feel anxious because they don’t know what’s going on. If there’s no information then human nature takes over and speculation starts, resulting in things being made up based on rumours and hearsay

` `

create and stick to a pattern of communication – use a range of media to communicate, commu- nicate, and communicate again


use regular pulse checks to test out people’s reactions and responses to what’s going on. Publish a ‘word cloud’ to track progress from three quick questions (good and bad) and make visible adjustments


support the transition – so people feel safe to explore the impact of what’s happening

during the transformation: `

` `

be clear about what’s staying the same and what’s changing

test readiness for change against the change impacts

develop change capability skills in leaders to support emotional responses to the shifts that are taking place

` `

build organisational resil- ience and adaptability

create space (physically and emotionally) for conversations to happen.

How �ixated are you with organisation charts?

Transformation isn’t complete when you’ve got the new organisation structure chart in place. On the contrary, that’s when it really starts. It’s easy to be seduced by a nice new organisation chart that can be captured on a single page; it’s all logical and rational in neat boxes and lines. What makes a transformation suc- cessful is the accompanying change in behaviour and ways of working that go alongside new processes and structures, in other words, the culture. Without a change to the culture, a restructure won’t succeed, as culture is the glue that holds structures together. At best, short-term performance improvements last a while then the informal relationships and deeply held cultural patterns, habits, and ways of relating short cut and bypass many systems and processes that structure charts set up. Culture change takes longer than

anyone anticipates, or wants, so it often gets put into the ‘too hard’ box. All of the preceding points in

this article are designed to help support the cultural shifts needed for a successful transformation, although it’s not a pick and mix approach. Be conscious and deliberate about exclusion and inclusion as all ten are systemically connected. Good luck, I’d love to

hear how you get on!

Gwen Stirling is executive director of the Berkshire Consultancy Ltd, contact her at

Reference 1 Scott Keller, Colin Price, Organizati onal health: the ulti mate competi ti ve advantage, McKinsey, 2011

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