I have always been interested in improving the way things are done in work and have focused on delivering business change and transformation projects throughout my career. As my experience of taking people through the process of change has grown, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it not only matters what we achieve but also how we get there.

A bit about me

I founded CE Change Ltd in 2015, initially focusing on the delivery of interim business change and transformation contracts. As my interim career progressed, I began working in an advisory capacity for customers, using my transformation insight plus my hands-on experience of actually delivering change to guide and support customers through the process of improving their own operational performance.

In early 2021, the time was right for me to focus on transforming my own business. CE Change Ltd is now a consultancy firm providing responsible business transformation solutions. Our core purpose is delivering sustainable transformation through responsible change and we specialise in delivering operational change, focusing on ways in which we can empower your people, processes and performance. Our solutions fall under two main headings; Sustainable Transformation and Responsible Change.

Sustainable Transformation is all about developing intelligent and ethical solutions to business priorities. There will be more on that to follow in future posts!

Responsible Change is about delivering excellent results whilst managing the impacts of change well. So what does that actually look like in practice?

What does Responsible Change look like?

We all recognise that change is hard but I don’t believe that should be the end of the story.

In my experience, both the process and the results of transformation can open up new opportunities. Through change programmes, I have seen people gain skills, grow in confidence, have a voice and ultimately deliver more value to customers in improved ways. I recognise that the process of change can be traumatic, so I’m really keen to find ways in which we can minimise the harm that our change programmes can cause.

Our approach to change is not one-size-fits-all but rather is open, collaborative, curious and takes into account the fact that every customer and transformation programme is unique. However, every Responsible Change programme is underpinned by a set of principles which ensure that all outcomes are delivered responsibly.

In future webinars and articles, I will be exploring these principles in more detail, but here’s a flavour of what our Responsible Change projects involve.

Sharing responsibility for leading change

Sharing change leadership involves rethinking who should be powerful in defining and driving change.

I see operational teams as full of specialists, each one having unique and valuable insight into how best to serve their own set of customers and the highest chance of finding creative solutions to their own work challenges.

Responsible Change involves giving these specialists the autonomy to design their own change role, make decisions, define what success looks like, identify the level of support they need and monitor their own progress.

For leaders, this might involve stepping back from driving change and instead using your influence to motivate, grow confidence, build skills and encourage boldness.

Are there ways in which your people could take the lead in designing their own solutions?

Replacing communication with involvement

Communication on any transformation programme needs to be extensive, to start early and to continue throughout and beyond the course of any change initiative. I’m not sure there is such a thing as overcommunication.

To maximise engagement, your messages should be authentic and ideally unpolished. People are interested in what your project teams are actually doing and what challenges they are grappling with day to day.

However, even responsible and extensive communication doesn’t equal buy-in. Communication during transformation programmes is just the starting point for inviting and encouraging involvement rather than an end in itself.

“Genuine buy-in, as distinguished from compliance, is the product of involvement, not exhortation.”

Humanocracy (Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini)

As stated by the authors of Wall Street Journal bestseller, Humanocracy, real buy-in comes from your stakeholders having deep and authentic involvement in your change programme. This means giving them the opportunity to have a true stake in the project, freedom to speak up and confidence that anything they do share will be taken seriously.

In turn, involving people deeply in the project gives them accountability for considering the impact of any changes on their own ways of working, in turn increasing the likelihood of your outcomes addressing local needs.

Rather than trying to work out when to involve stakeholders in a transformation programme, Responsible Change starts with the assumption that stakeholders have a role in every stage and decision.

Is your transformation programme getting the best value from your stakeholders?

Encouraging experimentation

This involves giving people the freedom to challenge, play, push boundaries and make mistakes in the pursuit of better results.

I believe that our role – as managers and change leaders – is to encourage people to imagine radically different futures and then to give them the freedom, support, time, space or whatever else it takes to figure out how to build the solutions that will build these.

There will be some mistakes made along the way, but let’s embrace these as (perhaps messy) progress towards a brighter future and as opportunities to learn.

Are you encouraging your teams to be playful – and prepared to tolerate messy progress?

Protecting what is most precious

People have a remarkable ability to adapt – this has been shown in many sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic – but not everyone does this in the same way or at the same pace.

Protecting what is most precious starts with recognising that your change programme might well be incredibly hard on your people. You will need to invest the time and effort to understand how your different characters will be impacted, assess their appetite for change, anticipate the change workload, consider where hurdles may need to be overcome and work out where resistance is likely to come from.

Having considered how change might affect your people, Responsible Change means doing whatever you can to remove obstacles, reduce workload, avoid stress and bolster resilience. Ultimately, your aim is to allow your people to flourish rather than flounder through change.

What could you start – or stop – doing in order to support your team to deliver better outcomes?

Considering all types of risk

In order to deliver change responsibly, I believe it is vital to understand the full breadth of ways in which your change programme could impact on people inside and outside the organisation, on society in general and ultimately on the planet.

Working with your stakeholders to understand all of the areas of risk of your project is just the starting point; risk management needs to be front and centre of your project at all stages. This will involve keeping a close eye on risks, having regular and meaningful conversations about these and then making people accountable for delivering mitigation actions. Fundamentally, you should be doing whatever you can to manage risks before they become actual issues.

Are you concerned enough about the potential impacts of your change programme?

Monitoring what matters

Learning is a key value for my business and central to delivering change both effectively and responsibly. In order to understand what is working (or not) and to increase the likelihood of your project succeeding, performance monitoring activities must be focused on measures that are both aligned to your project success criteria and meaningful to all those people involved in the project.

It’s critical to find simple but insightful ways of measuring and sharing performance throughout your transformation journey. Transparency will help with managing expectations and may even encourage people within your business to bring fresh thinking to project challenges.

Is your project performance giving the right message?

Join the conversation about delivering change responsibly

Each month, I will be hosting a webinar with a guest speaker, in which we will be delving further into these themes and exploring what Responsible Change actually looks like in practice.

The first of these will be on Friday 3 September, where I will be discussing the topic of ‘Sharing responsibility for leading change’ with Jane Eckford, Executive Leadership Coach, Non-Executive Director and pioneer in customer contact transformation. We would love you to join us and share in the conversation – the event link will be shared on LinkedIn shortly. Do get in touch if you have any particular topics or questions that you would us to discuss.

Cara Halliwell is director of CE Change Ltd, a change consultancy specialising in people, process and technology transformation. For further information about the services we offer, click here.