Leonardo Da Vinci “Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
How can you tell a story that sticks? How can you encourage your employees to share in your vision of the future and imagine better times?
In our previous articles we discussed leading change, we will now look at how we can persuade others and embed change. Telling a story is really powerful. Some people are natural storytellers, but everyone can learn techniques to bring their stories to life.
There are six principles that can help embed our communication and make them “stick”. They are:
What is even more effective than telling a story is helping your people to create their own story. As discussed in our previous article, our golden rule of influencing is: Ask don’t tell.
In the Royal Mail in 2010 there was a need to automate. When Royal Mail announced the changes to staff, the management team told a (true) story. What was essentially communicated was “We have huge operating costs, a big pension deficit, and lots of competitors who are much more efficient than us. We MUST automate.”
Despite the story being true, the unions immediately co-ordinated strikes which only ended when employees were awarded a pay increase, a shorter working week and greater job security.
When managers changed their approach, things changed. Managers sat down with union representatives and started asking questions. They said “We have competition, what does that mean for our people? Where do you think we can improve to stay safe as a company? How can we keep people safe and in jobs?” The solutions that emerged were to automate and not impose redundancies; they agreed to reduce staff numbers through natural staff turnover and not replacing leavers.
This changed how people were feeling about the change from resistance and reticence to being engaged with "build in". How can you learn from this and bring your team on board from the beginning?
Goffee and Jones talked about the importance of authentic leadership and how followers need to trust their leaders in order to embed change.
So, if you have a change you want to implement, how do you write your change speech? Think about group polarisation, can you find examples of other people doing the same thing? Think in advance about where the budget will come from. What article or news story could you show your audience 24 hours before your speech? This is called priming. Where can you tell a story? Choosing the right location can have a huge impact on an audience’s receptiveness. Where can you add images? Build a persuasive / emotional business case, not purely a financial one. We have trained thousands of people in these techniques and it is very rewarding when people change from being shy and nervous to becoming willing to take their ideas to the CEO.
A caveat; these techniques can be used for manipulation as well as influence. Marketing companies regularly use these techniques to manipulate; so do politicians. A quick guide to whether you are using these techniques ethically is, are you willing to be transparent to your audience about the techniques you have just used?
Links to further reading:
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Goffee and Jones: Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? https://impact.ref.ac.uk/casestudies/CaseStudy.aspx?Id=44529
Leonardo Da Vinci “Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”
In our first article last week on leading change, we looked briefly at the story of the saboteurs and the luddites. While they may have been responding rationally to a perceived threat to their livelihoods, they also would have been responding emotionally to a threat to their sense of expertise or self-worth. Occupations used to be so intertwined with the intrinsic sense of self that many people today still bear the hallmarks of their ancestors’ careers in their names (5.7 million people in the UK and Ireland still have occupational surnames). The Weavers, the Smiths, the Carters, and the Taylors: all these names suggest generations of skilled craftspeople. If your career is woven into your name and that career is replaced by a machine, what does it say about who you are?
Today, we are less likely to be named after a job, yet what we do can still have a strong impact on our sense of value, significance and self-worth. There are two typical change projects that we see in companies today: amalgamating two teams into one, or bringing in a big IT project to automate various functions. If you have been tasked with leading one of these projects, how do you help your team through the inevitable emotional turmoil that will come with it?
Carol Druick, who wrote the book ‘Growth and Fixed Mindsets’, insists it is your ethical duty as a leader to enable people to engage with change in a positive way. We recommend a good place to start is by talking your team through ‘the 4 laws of change’.
A Video of the Four Laws
An amusing example of Law 4 is below. It shows how something that didn’t exist 30 years ago has quickly become essential.
Here we will use an adapted version of the McKinsey model of behavioural change to show how you can ask not tell (Law 3)
1. Understanding why
2. Develop skills
3. Processes and systems
4. Role modelling
Your role as a leader is to empower individuals to act, to create leaders not followers.
Understanding why: set a vision and tell a story that means people want to engage in change. Remember to ask here too. Ask your employees what is happening in the wider industry or the wider world. What changes are coming and what does that mean the company needs to do to survive and thrive? The ‘why’ might be obvious to you, but not to others. It is important to be explicit. Often, when speaking to senior managers, they think they’ve fully communicated the plan. Whereas, when we speak to people on the ground, they don’t know what’s going on. Instead of sending one ‘copy all’ e-mail, communicate continuously, in different ways. Ask for feedback to check whether a message has been received, and start a dialogue to find out if your employees have any better ideas.
What if your team comes up with different solutions to your plan? If they are good solutions and you are a good leader, you would follow the team’s plans. Being wedded to a rigid plan before consulting the people it will affect is not true consultation. If a team have developed the plan themselves, they will feel in control and significant and will be more likely to act purposefully.
Develop skills: The McKinsey model says to teach your employees the skills they’ll need. The 4 laws of change suggest to ask them which skills they think they’ll need. Watch this amazing video from David Marquet, the captain of a nuclear submarine, who turned around the submarine’s poor performance by stepping back from his role of issuing orders and pushing leadership down through the ranks:
Processes and systems: Let the people own them. Top-down leadership doesn’t work. It often unintentionally ends up asking the impossible. We have known highly competent, driven, successful managers to resign from their jobs because senior leadership was asking them to impose processes and systems on the workforce that were simply impossible.
Role modelling: The McKinsey model says to role model positive behaviours. We would add here the importance of vulnerability-based trust. Share your fears about the future. Role model by saying things like “I don’t like the idea of this change, but I have faith in us as a team and we’re going to do it well.” It’s ok to be worried about change. This is natural and human. Go on a journey together. Ask your team “How can we make this a success for us?” Patrick Lencioni speaks very eloquently on this when outlining the 5 types of dysfunction in a team.
That example was anecdotal success from one company. We were able to test this theory in a series of experiments carried out at a global insurer, with teams manufacturing paper boxes. During leadership training (with permission from the attendees) we were able to gain 20% higher output by allowing them full autonomy. The high output group was able to choose their own group name, and their own methodology for manufacture; the control group had these imposed. Time and time again the team that had the most autonomy produced the most boxes.
It is possible to drive change by creating a ‘burning platform’. This sounds like “If we don’t change, we’ll all be redundant.” Wouldn’t it be much better though to create a ‘beautiful vision’? Ask your team to imagine “What would happen if ...?”
The hardest change management projects we have worked on have been where trust between the senior leadership and the workers has been broken in the past. Beware of false consultations. Only carry out an employee survey or a consultation exercise if you are willing to act on the results.
The most important law is: Ask don’t tell.
Dr Iris Firstenburg has written on the deeper psychology of motivating people through change and how to “build-in” change as opposed to just create “buy-in”. Buy in means: the plan has already been made; you’re just selling it to people. An example is an estate agent saying “Buy this lovely house.” Build in means: you’re asking people for their ideas to develop the plan. This is your partner saying “Let’s design our dream house together.” Which of these scenarios would excite you the most? Which one would you be willing to do the most work for?
The key to leading change is, you don’t lead change, you enable it.
Links to further reading:
Leonardo Da Vinci "In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time."
In our previous article on automation we discussed the impact and a few of the benefits of digital revolution. This article focuses on the psychology of how to help lead people through change. We will examine why people can sometimes resist change even though it might be an improvement or inevitable and how to help them accept and embrace it. In this article we will look at the traditional models such as Fisher’s Transition Curve and Kotter’s 8 steps; in the next article we will visit a few more modern concepts such as the 4 laws of change, the McKinsey's model of behavioural change and the 6 sticky principles.
This is not the first time that we’ve seen resistance from the general population towards technological change. Historically, the word “sabotage” was believed to come from the practice of disgruntled workers causing work stoppages by throwing their wooden shoes (sabot or clogs) into the looms of 15th-century textile mills.
Why would the luddites want to “clog-up” the machinery? From a rational perspective it makes little sense; the machinery had the potential to improve conditions, opportunities for workers to up-skill and their introduction was inevitable. From an emotional perspective, the machines represented a threat to livelihood, expertise and tradition. The modern changes that automation, cyber and digital transformation bring have the potential to turn a modern workforce into “neo-luddites”.
How can we overcome resistance, and help our teams with big transitions? It is important to note that leadership is especially needed during periods of transition and change. Role-modelling, visibility, clear communication and empathy are vital to the success of any change project.
What do the traditional change models tell us?
The traditional models:
One of the original models for understanding organisational change was developed by Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist, known as a pioneer of social, organisational, and applied psychology.
For Lewin, the process of change entails creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving toward the new, desired level of behaviour and finally, solidifying that new behaviour as the norm. Using a block of ice as a metaphor, to change its shape we need to understand the new shape we want to create and what’s keeping the ice in its current state. The next step is to change it by melting it, and the final stage is to re-freeze it into its new shape. Here are some useful questions we need to think about during the three stages:
Kotter's 8-step change model:
This model inspired the work of John Kotter (1996) and his 8-Step Leading Change model:
The Transition Curve:
What about the psychological impact of unexpected or enforced change on the happiness and productivity of our teams? How can we help them through the process so that they feel more engaged and are more likely to embrace the change?
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1969) originally developed a 5-stage model to describe the emotional stages of grief. This inspired the work of John M. Fisher (1999, updated 2012) who developed the Personal Transition through change curve.
A simplified updated version of both models is below and breaks down the curve into four stages. It is important to note that time could denote seconds or minutes in the case of a minor change and up to years in the case of a major life change. Another important factor is that this transition is not necessarily linear, it is completely normal to oscillate between the stages.
How leaders can help and enable their staff during change:
What can we conclude from all of these models? It is important to plan and prepare for the psychological impact of change on our teams and staff. Listening, empathy and empowerment are vital parts of the success of the change process.
The other important takeaway is that these are frameworks not rules. Lewin’s unfreeze-refreeze and Kotter’s 8 steps regularly fail when managers use them as a step-by-step tick-box process to enforce change and do not take into account the psychology of their workforce.
In our next article we will go beyond the traditional models and look at the deeper psychology of motivating people through change and how to “build-in” change as opposed to just create “buy-in”.
Leonardo Da Vinci “It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
Automation isn’t just coming, in many industries it’s already here. Are you and your company ready for the challenges and opportunities it represents? How can you adapt and thrive?
Analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that around 1.5 million jobs in England are at high risk of being partially or completely replaced by automation in the near future. That is around 7.4% of the 20 million jobs that were analysed in 2017. Automation was defined as replacing tasks currently carried out by workers with technology, such as computer programs, algorithms, or even robots. Women, young people, and those who work part-time are most likely to work in roles that are at high risk of automation, which will potentially have a major impact on diversity and inclusion.
Some examples of jobs being replaced by automation are already familiar to most of us. The self-service check-outs that are now ubiquitous have replaced a large number of cashier jobs. Anyone who has chatted online recently to a company’s customer service representative may actually have being engaging with a ‘chatbot’. Other examples are more hidden. Amazon thinks it will take 10 years for robots to replace the workers in its warehouses. A UK online supermarket, Ocado, had 1,100 robots working in a fully-automated warehouse in Andover in 2018.
KPMG has calculated that robotic process automation can reduce costs for financial services firms by around 75 percent, mostly through replacing offshore solutions with automation solutions.
In the Industrial Revolution, machines took over many of the physical tasks we used to do. But we humans were still left with all the cognitive tasks. This time, as machines start to take on many of the cognitive tasks too, there’s the worrying question: what is left for us humans?
The new jobs people will be doing in the future are ones where either a) humans excel at a task or b) we choose not to have machines. This means the only jobs left will be those where we prefer humans to do them.
So what opportunities does automation present to us and our business?
How can we easily recognise areas where we can implement automation?
The best people to ask is our workforce; they will know the opportunities that already exist. Another source of knowledge is listening to customers and seeing what others in our industry are already doing.
Here’s a few tips to recognise easy areas to automate:
1. It involves a lot of data entry (and/or is in desperate need of Optical Character Recognition (OCR)). There’s no reason for anyone to continue typing numbers into excel spreadsheets. If you’re managing a lot of numbers by hand in PDFs or printed documents, look for ways to leverage OCR.
2. It’s repeatable and repetitious. No-one wants to perform the same task over and over. Between mailing and shipping, categorising emails and approving bill payments, automation can take care of many administrative tasks.
3. It has no room for error. Humans make mistakes. But when a typo represents a risk to security or customer privacy, it’s time to automate.
Implementing automation in your business
It’s possible to automate many elements of your business on your own through rigorous work habits, some knowledge of programming, and using available resources and tools. From marketing to customer support and from IT to bill payments, there’s an automation solution or tool for nearly every business process. Try them out. You’ll have more time, save some money, and gain better transparency and oversight as a result.
Here at Da Vinci's Workshop we help businesses prepare for the future, contact us if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
Links to further reading:
Humans Need Not Apply video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU
Leonardo Da Vinci: “Every action needs to be prompted by a motive.”
Nudge theory originated in work on rational choice theory in the 1980s at the University of Chicago, which showed that people are not always rational agents. This gave birth to behavioural economics and the science of choice. Two very influential books published close together, Nudge: Improving Decisions and Health, Wealth and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in 2008 and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman in 2011, brought these ideas into the mainstream.
Some of the best-known concepts from these two books are:
So what is a nudge and why would we want to use one? A nudge is a deliberate decision made to influence human behaviour. Importantly, though, a nudge preserves choice. It shouldn’t require heavy-handed legislation or regulation. There is ethical value in not constraining human agency gratuitously. Nudges can also be very cheap to implement while generating significant payoffs.
Since nudge theory entered the mainstream, there have been many examples of successful nudges:
You’re sold on the idea. How do you nudge in practice?
The Nudge Unit has developed an EAST framework: Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely
How could nudge theory help your employees and customers?
Beware: if people know they are being nudged, they dislike it and will resist. It is important to remain transparent and honest throughout. For example, only tell customers that a product is your most popular one if this is backed up by sales data. When Richard Thaler signs copies of his book, he always writes ‘Nudge for good’ next to his name.
Links to further reading: