The role of a Change Professional (I have stopped calling myself a Change Manager as the term is too confusing to many) is much wider than simply ensuring specific changes to ways of working are made. In my transformational change programmes I am responsible for overseeing these structural changes, involving:
- Process change
- System change
- Role change
But I am also responsible for a more macro level approach, assessing whether actions taken in the business are supporting our intended outcomes. This means that I must take a helicopter view of everything that is happening, as actions by managers that don’t align with the changes we are making can lead to cynicism and cause those impacted to question whether the changes are just surface changes that senior management don’t really endorse.
Macro level interventions
My role is to assess where the energy of the organisation is pointing at all levels. Change cannot be sustained if the energy of staff and middle management is aimed at creating one change, when the actions of senior management point to different priorities.
For example, in one of the cultural change programmes that I am overseeing, the outcome is to create an environment where women are as valued as men. (it is sad that this kind of programme is needed in 2018 but it is so I am just getting on with it).
As part of the programme, there are several initiatives taking place to create tangible change in how work is allocated, how team meetings are chaired, and how interviews are conducted.
However, I am concerned with the wider picture, constantly assessing what else is happening and how the behaviour of managers is sending messages to the business about what is important and what our real priorities are. I need to ensure that this role modelling and the corporate storytelling I hear around the organisation aligns to the desired outcomes and does not conflict with them.
For example, although it is not a direct output from any of the individual change initiatives in the programme, I am coaching the Managing Director to ensure he is putting women into important roles. I am shepherding through a change on the board so that it is 50/50 men and women, because this is an important indicator of organisational intent. There is no point running initiatives in each of the business units about the value of female employees if at the top of the organisation the composition of the board sends a conflicting message.
Another example of the right environment is creating an accelerator group of junior employees, exposing them to career opportunities that will get them ready for future high-ranking roles. I am ensuring that these activities support those that would not normally put themselves forward for advancement, which too often are women who lack the confidence to tell everyone how accomplished they are.
I am working on flexible working programmes that enable people to join or re-join the organisation. Many of these are women who are balancing childcare and/or elderly care. They are a rich seam of talent and experience so creating a working environment that draws them back in is part of my wider change role.
Each of these macro level activities send an important message that cuts across all the tangible changes we are putting in place. They are evidence that the culture we are building as part of the programme has the support of the senior managers, and how they behave is in complete agreement with the desired outcomes of the programme.
Micro level interventions
I am also working on the micro level of role modelling with individual leaders and how they delegate work to staff. Too often they give out interesting work assignments to the men in their team. This unconscious bias is being addressed by giving managers a matrix of factors to consider spreading the interesting/stretching assignments across all their team members.
I have also developed a checklist of points to consider when chairing face to face and on-line team meetings, to ensure that everyone gets equal air-time, not just those that always speak up. Again, too often it is women who do not speak unless spoken to, so by making it the responsibility of the manager to call on everyone individually to have input to the meeting, I am helping to level the playing field.
I am constantly looking out for the subliminal messages and unconscious bias that our actions send to others, and recognise the importance of widening my remit to address these issues so that the emerging culture of the organisation is aligned and supports the deliberate changes that we have scoped and planned.
As ever, share your examples of how you do this, as it is by sharing our experiences we all continue to learn.