Reverse brainstorms to kick start change

February 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Stream of consciousness by jurvetson

Why are organisations consistently so poor at implementing change.

One of the reasons for this seems to be lack of confidence of how to manage change.- In organisations today we are very experienced with quantitive data but not so much with the people issues. One hypothesis (whatever the drivers) is management think it is their role to have all the answers.

Of course there are many more reasons why change fails and I would be interested to hear some of your ideas by comments via the link above.

Research on change management consistently suggests engagement and involvement of employees are key ways to shift from failure to success.  This has to be one of those situations where the term ‘uncommon sense’ applies.

The question for today is – How can we assist leaders to engage employees around the given change whilst generating commitment to the future?

Last year we developed a tactile tool that can be used with leaders and employees to assist in co-creation. Our short YouTube video will give you an overview of the cards and the principles behind their design.

To assist some leaders in change for sustainability, I recently conducted a Reverse Brainstorm session using the Change Management cards. I thought I would share the process and reflections here.  Reverse Brainstorm is a powerful way to unpack issues and build a way forward, the cards offer a different dimension providing content that gives a basis for conversations that need to occur.

Our question for the reverse brainstorm was “how do you undermine the organisational change initiative currently going on to ensure it fails?”.

The group of about 20 on 3 different tables selected their change initiative based on shared experience. There was a variety of experience in the room for people to draw on about bad things that happened to them or others around organisational change. The butchers paper was quickly filled with examples to undermine change.

They were then introduced to the cards and given an understanding of how to use them during the exercise.

Then with a pack of the cards per table they were tasked to collaborate to “build” a way to implement the change so that the issues they identified in the brainstorm “did not” happen.

They were not told how to do this, the group was experienced enough to provide their own structure based on the potential of the tool (Change Management Cards). With a less experienced audience you could create a more structured approach to use with the cards.

Group One looked chose to begin with the Joker cards and identified the key cultural or systemic issues that contributed to creating their problems. They prioritised and selected half a dozen Joker cards and went through all of the Tool cards selecting tools/approaches that they thought would be useful in turning around the issues identified.

Group Two looked at the issues they had identified and using the Tool cards worked out which tools may be useful to proactively ensure the issue didn’t happen in the first place. They also had conversations about the role cards and the importance of the roles identified to overall success.

Group Three struggled with the percieved lack of structure, (an example of leaders uncomfortable with people issues who see it as HR’s role and therefor avoid it). Left with that tension, they finally decided to use the Process Cards as a structure for their change initiative. They then allocated Tools (from the tool card suite) to relevant parts of their process where using them could make the most difference.

Feedback and learnings for the groups

There is no one way to change – each group needed to process and develop an approach that worked based on their experience and goals.

We don’t know what we don’t know – using the cards or similar resources they realised they could broaden their scope and have more informed conversations to identify appropriate ways to achieve their outcome. Also the more the people you involved who knew about the different dimensions of your business the better

Group three realised they did well in the planning and review phases of the process, where they struggled was in the implementation phase. They realised that their review outcomes were consistently poor because they really didn’t know very much about implementation and engagement.

The key insights they gained were about the possibilities of co-creation with their people, realising they could get a much richer outcome tapping into the collective wisdom of their people. This session also created an understanding of how to engage with their people and begin the process of co-creation.

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