Stop changing the way people work!

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It has occurred to me more and more recently that trying to get people to change the way they work is a pointless exercise and pretty hard work really especially if what you are suggesting challenges what they stand for and the very role they have become experts in over a number of years.

In my experience people don’t want to be told that what they do is “wasteful” or “inefficient” because it affects people on an emotional level and that can often make them even more resistant to change. I believe that fundamentally people want to deliver efficient services or do things in an efficient and effective way. I mean why would you do something if you thought you could do it better. We do this all the time in our personal lives. This is the reason I now do digital banking. More efficient use of my time.

Now before anyone shouts at me I am very aware that some people are keen to change and promote change but are often knocked back and then get frustrated in their roles.

However these people actually suffer from the problem I do. Trying to get people to change the way they work.

You might often hear “change is great as long as I don’t have to”. Well the best way to get around this is to adopt an ever so slightly different approach and it is really quite simple. In fact I suspect all of us already know what to do, but like myself get caught up in the culture and structures that support these views.

So what we really want to be doing is:

Change and challenge the way people THINK about their work.

We can not change the problems we have with the same thinking that created them. If we can can encourage people to step out of there daily roles and look at the outputs and outcomes they are directly or indirectly contributing to, you can start to have a better discussion around how best to deliver the service. After all people are often very passionate about the customer and delivering quality for them. This is essentially about looking outside in – a Systems Thinking view really- but it actually gives you the angle that encourages people to question how best to deliver for the customer, instead of focusing on their specific role.

There are of course challenges in facilitating that process and ensuring you look at the big picture around people, process, information and technology but the key for me is actually getting to the point where meaningful conversations about fundamentally transforming the service can be had.

It is often in these conversations that people come up with ways to change their bit of the process, that in itself is one part of the change management task completed as people are more likely to accept change if they can understand and own the change. This can remove some of the uncertainty and lack of understanding around the need to change in the first place plus and don’t underestimate this – it was afterall their idea and not yours.

So if we are really serious about Transformation and Radical Reform across the public sector then we must start giving people opportunities to think differently about their roles and services.

Without getting into a huge list here – how you can do that will depend on local circumstances and the type of service area you are hoping to engage or participate with, but could include:

- Action Learning sessions/programmes – bringing practitioners from different organisations together to review, challenge and “think” differently about service design. This could also be online through the Communities of Practice platform or other social and professional networks
- Art of the possible sessions – practical demonstrations of how services have been delivered elsewhere using technology as an opportunity for change.
- Connecting people for learning and knowledge sharing
- Discussions and conversations with service users themselves.
- A cross organisational group of people to provide peer review and constructive feedback and challenge
- Traditional consultants who are “experts” in service transformation.

There are many other ways you can achieve the above and it doesn’t really matter how you do it, but we must start focusing on the THINKING.

I’d be interested to hear any other ideas you have which have worked and helped contribute to transformational change.

So my challenge is to see how we can do this in Devon. The Enterprise Architecture function I sit within has a unique opportunity to facilitate this process as it is exactly what we are here to do. We just need to get our approach right to be effective. We may need to change our thinking about how we do our job as well.

One thought on “Stop changing the way people work!

  1. The concept of ‘outside-in’ is John Seddons.

    He has been arguing and practicing that thinking is the key to service transformation with pretty amazing results.

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