The challenge in many organizations is that we have a strong propensity to jump to the solution. When the going gets tough merely having a solution in mind doesn’t get us out of the quagmire – particularly when it may not have been the 100% right solution to start with. It’s easy to lose our way, let the scope of the program expand, waste resources and money and leave our organization feeling like there is a lack of direction. All this quickly contributes to lack of adoption, change fatigue and that “here we go again” feeling.
How do you get everyone on the same page? Hours of meetings obsessing over mission statements and words can be frustrating leading to passive-aggressive behavior and mixed messages. To achieve the benefits from a transformation effort it’s critical to communicate a cohesive message. This starts with the leadership and executive sponsors. The trouble is – how do you do this? Herding cats is possible. Read on…
I recently returned from a Gartner engagement with a government agency. (The perception is that often government is “different” and not “good at change.”) They struggled with a multi-year program that could be moving at a faster pace. In addition, while the executive sponsor team worked together and each had their vision, they didn’t have a cohesive shared vision that would align their decisions and engage their employees. It was the classic communication and organizational change challenges I see across many clients and conference attendees.
How do you cut through years of culture and baggage? It’s not by doing trying the same techniques over and over. A mission statement or scope document won’t help. This group bravely agreed to try something completely different – co-create a collage that captured their joint vision of the future and another that depicted where they are today.
We had about 30 magazines for the group of 10 and a blank poster on the table. The instructions were simple: find pictures that represent a feeling or experience and cut them out. Each executive pulled out several pictures. They then began to lay them out, explaining their portion of the story. This iteration happened over the course of the next 20 minutes.
It was amazing to watch. The images were compelling and the stories convincing. There was complete collaboration and sharing of ideas, building on the narrative as each picture was placed on the poster board. At the end of the allocated time, we went around the room – with each of them talking about one component of their vision and story. The final product was a story that encapsulated the spirit of the massive transformation they were undertaking and the guide rails for how they were going to do this.
We closed the session with each executive writing their commitment. I was impressed by the depth of the commitments. Many were focused on the need to better communicate and engage their employees, rather than just focusing on the external outcomes from the program. The executive team is going to use the collage going forward and share with the organization.
Why did this work? Because it created a “toward” response, the group collaborated and co-created a common vision. There was no hierarchy or dominant leader since everyone had a picture to contribute and even the “quiet” ones participated – who are often the good listeners and synthesizers. It created a shared emotional experience and also built a shared story. There’s a lot more neuroscience behind this and I will leave that for a later time. I highly recommend Dr. David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work” for the detailed insights and explanations. The key is the “toward” response and co-creation which builds trust and commitment.
Look for more written Gartner research on this topic in the near future. In the meantime – I’m happy to discuss further and welcome your comments. What techniques have you used?