People as the beating heart of change

Posted by Riët Broekhuizen on Oct 29, 2020 10:14:23 AM
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This summer, I read a Harvard Business Review article* stating that, according to research, 50 to 60% of organizations expect to have to reinvent themselves to a greater or lesser extent every three years due to increasing global interconnectedness and dynamic circumstances. In the same article, reference is made to a recent study by BCG, revealing that 75% of changes do not deliver the desired result. One proposed way to boost this percentage is to "place the human at the heart of the change."

"People want to change, but they don't want to be changed"
We tend to forget that every change, no matter how big or small, means the behavior of the people in your organization needs to change, which has been a challenge for many of us for years. 

We know we all learn, communicate, or process information differently, and we all have different drivers, experiences, and fears. And yet we approach a group that goes through a change as a homogeneous group. For example, we invite everyone to a Townhall or kick-off. We share messages on the intranet, provide training, and coach teams and managers. After doing this, we consider the change implemented and expect new behavior. We are then disappointed because behavior didn't change, the group is resisting, or knowledge is not sufficient.  

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Use Employee Personas as a starting point
To increase the chance of a successful change, it should ideally be tailored to meet individual needs - what will help you make this change? Unfortunately, doing so would increase diversity to a level you would be unable to see the wood for the trees. 

I believe that one way to deal with this is by working with personas. A persona is a fictional personality representing a group based on preferences (information, learning, communication), character traits, role in the organization, and years of experience. Using personas helps you split a large group into smaller homogeneous groups and tailor activities accordingly. 

By looking at your activities through the personas' eyes, you can determine if you have all needs covered more quickly. For example, when implementing a new system, besides offering theoretical training, you also provide a practical workshop or explanatory video to reduce resistance and boost knowledge. 

Describe the desired behavior as concretely as possible 
Gaining insight into and splitting up your target group is just the beginning. If you want to change behavior, you must clarify what that new behavior looks like and what you expect from employees, managers, or leaders. The more details you use to describe desired behavior in advance, the better you can estimate the impact on every persona. 

Develop change journeys to learn and improve
In consumer marketing, techniques like customer journeys and personas have been used for years to discover how products can be sold successfully. In the HR domain, employee journeys are increasingly used to improve, for example, on-boarding processes. However, within the change domain, I notice very little journeys. Using persona preferences, defining touch-points along the journey, and asking for feedback, can help you improve the process and increase its effectiveness. 

I believe this is one way to improve change processes, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Who has tried this approach, and with what result? Please leave your comments behind. 

Article: Things You're Getting Wrong About Organizational Change by Nadya Zhexembaveva (Harvard Business Review June 2020)

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Topics: Agile Transformations, Digital Strategy