Driving change in professional practices – the interesting bits?

Posted on: February 3, 2017
Driving change in professional practices

Our workshop on driving change in professional practices proved to be an intense and challenging day learning about psychology, leadership and change management. Delegates worked on their plans for achieving desired changes in themselves, their teams and their firms. Here are some of the highlights from the delegates’ perspective.

The challenge of personal change

Drawing on material from the world of counselling, we explored the underlying assumptions about human behaviour and how different models (Behaviourist – carrots and sticks, Psychodynamic, Humanistic and Cognitive) advocated rather different approaches to achieving personal change.

I was proud that all of the delegates identified numerous changes to make themselves – especially if they wanted to understand what was required in order to achieve change in others. For many of those present, the challenge of balancing client fee-paying work and management was proving the biggest puzzle. We also considered the powerful impact of senior level role models.

We discussed the different types of fear when trying to change, resistance to change, risk aversion, the change cycle (and the need to “grieve” for the old ways) and people’s limited capacity for change (avoiding change fatigue with time for consolidation).

Leadership

The need to balance emotional people elements (both individuals and teams) and rational task elements in the leadership role struck a chord. The value of joint leadership where there are complementary styles was acknowledged.

Many change theorists talk about the need for leaders need to create a compelling vision of the future. And then to engage everyone in working towards that vision.

Metaphors for professional practices

We considered lots of change models and learned that their use depends on the nature of the organisation. Management text books talk about organisations using metaphors – such as a machine or an organism. Some of the metaphors suggested by the delegates included: a cactus, a steam engine, a vintage car, a marching battalion and a disassembled body!

Dual plans – project and change elements

Before we embark on a change programme we need to be crystal clear about what we are trying to achieve (the goals and how we will measure success) and the specific things that must be done in order to succeed (the steps in the plan).

Everyone attempted to produce a one page diagram showing the main elements of what they needed to do to achieve their aims. This was the rational project management plan.

We then used some of the change models explored to develop the more people oriented (and emotion laden) elements that would be required to achieve the individual and team transitions.

Amongst the challenges explored were merger integration, implementation of new divisional structures, departmental business plans, diversification of services and changing team leader roles.

Our change model

Having studied various theoretical and practical change models during the day, the delegates developed their own. And it was pretty good:

  1. Analyse the problem or desired outcome
  2. Gain buy-in with the senior team and stakeholders
  3. Share a compelling vision for the future (using storytelling)
  4. Create urgency
  5. Adapt your leadership style
  6. Develop a plan and project manage its implementation (consider a pilot group)
  7. Communicate frequently
    1. include dialogue to address questions and gain input
    2. share success stories and report on progress
  8. Encourage senior people to be early adopters and be strong role models
  9. Empower people (provide training and delegate projects and tasks)
  10. Clarify what is expected of people (small specific steps, appropriate job specifications and aligned performance management and reward systems)
  11. Embed the new thinking and behaviours into the firm’s culture (make it “the new normal”)

Cultural change

Some reflected that their firms had a comfortable culture and that what was needed was some sort of trigger to prompt the need for change. Most of the models we explored stressed the need to create some kind of “burning platform”, urgency or compelling vision of the future. This needs to be combined with strong leadership skills in order to promote cultural change.

The value of independent outsiders, consultants, change agents and champions was discussed. The issue with lifestyle businesses hit home for some.

Much more communication

Throughout the day, the need for frequent, tailored, persuasive and face-to-face communication during change programmes was stressed.

I commented that I often observed that senior management teams are usually so heavily involved with change programmes that they forget that everyone else in the firm is unfamiliar with much of the analysis, rationale and benefits and that therefore staff need frequent reminders and regular updates on progress.

Final thoughts

At the end of the session, I asked delegates for their main takeaways from the day. It was an eclectic selection:

Details of future courses at MBL on driving change in professional practices http://www.mblseminars.com/Outline/Driving-Change-in-Professional-Practices—A-Workshop-for-Surveyors/8074/

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