The Search for Clarity

Leadership & Change: Building a resilient change capability

March 23, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
The Search for Clarity
Leadership & Change: Building a resilient change capability
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Embark on a transformative journey with the indomitable Jennifer Bryan, our esteemed change and adoption specialist, as she lays out her visionary AB Change Model, a beacon for leaders braving the often-stormy waters of organizational change. With her wealth of expertise spearheading change across a multitude of organizations, Jennifer dives into the essentials of fortifying internal change capabilities and erecting a resilient change network. These strategies not only bridge the digital skills gap but are also imperative for equipping our workforce for the uncertainties of the future.

As we traverse the landscape of change management, Jennifer takes the helm to confront the prevalent issue of change fatigue head-on. She illuminates how a shared vision and dynamic communication act as powerful remedies to this modern-day malady. Pinpointing the complex interplay of human dynamics, she underscores the critical role of continuous learning and the fine-tuning of solutions to match organizational idiosyncrasies. Jennifer's profound insights on the pivotal investment in change competency and leadership round out a discussion that's a treasure trove for any organization sailing the unpredictable currents of human behavior and organizational transformation.

Richard de Kock:

Hello and welcome. We have a very special guest for our episode today, ennifer Bryan, who is a change and adoption specialist. She's helped leaders across 30 different organisations with their change and transformational programs and she is the owner of AB Change Consulting. You're a non-executive board member of the Association of Change Management Professionals in the UK chapter and the author the new author of Leading People in Change a practical guide. So other publications that Jennifer's been involved in is the Successful Managing Change in the Workplace in Corporate Real Estate, the Journey of Leadership in the Workplace in I-Krona and Lead Behavior in Coaching at Work, which was done recently as well. So your authoring is not new to you, is it, jennifer?

Jennifer Bryan:

Well, authoring a book was definitely new to me. I have written, though, a number of articles, so the articles I was quite used to, but a book was a different feat.

Richard de Kock:

And so where does the passion stem from? They got you so thrown into change management and leadership.

Jennifer Bryan:

So my background was really coming from a learning and development arena, and what I very quickly learned is there is no learning without change and no change without learning. The two go very much hand in hand. So they really just kind of gel together and I have a huge motivation to help people, whether that's in a professional capacity or a personal capacity. That is where my motivations lie. I'm helping people through a journey of change, and so it's something I kind of fell into as a result, naturally because of what I was doing.

Richard de Kock:

And your accent. I'm battling to place it. Oh, here we go. Is it American?

Jennifer Bryan:

To be fair, how I introduce myself typically is that I'm from a little island in the middle of the Atlantic called Jennifer's Island, and, depending on the vowel depends on what accent you may get. So, yes, I grew up in the States and in Texas. My family is from Florida, but I've lived here in London now for 24 years, so lovely, over half my life.

Richard de Kock:

So your new publication Leading People in Change. You defined your own model for change leadership, called the AB Change model. What made you feel you needed to create a new model. I mean, what's unique and special about your approach?

Jennifer Bryan:

When I was doing my master's dissertation or in my master's degree a little over 10 years ago, I was also doing a lot of executive coaching for some senior leaders and I would many times get yeah, yeah, jennifer, I know about Carter and this, that and the other bit what the heck do I do with this thing on my desk? And so I decided I wanted to answer that question what the heck do they do with this thing on their desk? And so I did a load of research in leadership and change, and what I discovered through the research and applied research is that you know, a lot of the models previously were very much about any kind of change. You could apply it to anything, and what it really didn't answer is how? What is it specifically that leaders and managers needed to do very specifically with their change?

Jennifer Bryan:

Because we all know every change is different. You know, one digital transformation within one company is a different digital transformation and another. So no change is the same on that front, and also, change is constant. It's always happening. So what do we do with this thing? And so that was the question of the AB Change Model answers. The AB Change Model gives them a very clear steps and a pathway for leaders to manage people with their change. Because when we're looking at you know, when we have an approach that we know is going to work and then it's just working out, what does that mean for me and how am I going to know? Make sure I'm doing that, because I know if I do that then it will be okay. That gives us, as leaders manage, a level of confidence and assurance that what we're doing is the right thing, so that helps a great deal.

Jennifer Bryan:

Secondly, in the book I give a lot of tactics as well in regards to dealing with emotion and resistance, because when it comes to change, it is very natural for us to resist, and that's something that again because that's dealing with the emotion a lot of times people are afraid of oh gosh, they're going to resist, they're not going to like this, da, da da. It's like, that's fine, that's okay. We don't need to be afraid of that resistance. We need to recognize A it's human to do it. We just need to take a look at how we're going to manage it.

Richard de Kock:

Got you, so it's more of a preventative, proactive approach yeah, exactly Exactly.

Richard de Kock:

Now something that's, I've found, a huge challenge for most organizations at the moment.

Richard de Kock:

I mean, given the incredible speed at which we are evolving as organizations, the introduction of new emerging technologies and and tools for our workforce to either have to use to get their job done or be having to look at all these new emerging tools and apply them to new business situations to see how they can be innovative. I think one of the biggest challenges we have is this the digital skills gap and being able to future proof our workforce. I see a lot of organizations really battling on the best approach to get this done. You know, is sending your workforce out to get certified on a particular approach the way to do it? I mean some would advocate no, because within a few months, that certification is no longer as relevant as it was the few months before. So, keeping up with the space of change, from a skill set and an upskilling perspective, what are you seeing as strategies that are working for organizations out there and you know to keep themselves abreast of change and future proofing their workforce?

Jennifer Bryan:

So I think there's a few things there. One is you need to build the change capability internally, and that in name. That requires a change network to be established within an organization. That's how you'll be able to deal with the constant elements of change that goes on in the world, much less within any organization.

Richard de Kock:

And what would we say? A change? Network would be.

Jennifer Bryan:

A change network is a network of people internally who have those capabilities. A lot of people call them change champions, change agents right, you know that there's a host of different terms that that are used depending on the organization and the culture of the organization, right, but the role is the same, and the role is it's about being not just advocates of change, because it's your job also to challenge and question so that when those challenges come up from others in the organization who haven't been so involved in it, the program and the change itself and the people are ready to deal with that.

Richard de Kock:

Right.

Jennifer Bryan:

So as a champion for lack of a better word or change agent, you know the roles are about there. It's a coaching role but it's also a challenging role. Is that really understanding all the skills capabilities of that specific change, but also change in general, which is really dealing with the benevolence of other skillset of people? And so that's the first thing that I would say organization to enable change going forward in a resilient way.

Jennifer Bryan:

The second is about then connecting with other change communities and networks and professional bodies and ensuring there's a dialogue in all the areas of the of the business are incorporated into that conversation, and what I mean by that is it's not about getting just a whole bunch of project people together, for example. It's not about getting a whole bunch of just HR people or just IT people. You want people from all the different areas of the business because everybody will have had experience of change, you know, because it is constant. And so getting those perspectives in the dialogue and in the conversation on a monthly basis or even quarterly basis as part of that change network really helps the conversation and keeping everybody abreast of things. And when you're connecting also then with other Organizations and bodies, that then you've got that learning mechanism going on and you bringing that back in house and you're able to share that with them, the internal community. So that that's, in my opinion, is is a really good way of building a resilient Change mechanism within an organization.

Richard de Kock:

So it would be really identifying champions that have been trained in order to, you know, address resistance, to challenge ideas and to evangelize ideas at the same time, and and put them in a Governance structure for lack of a better word to, you know, get the networks to really operate and flow information more effectively. And I Suppose a key message on that as well, from my knowledge of changes For the listeners out, there is it, you know, that's a very powerful mechanism, but it doesn't. It doesn't stop your, your managers involvement or leaderships involvement. Those are still just as vitally important.

Richard de Kock:

Oh, no, no no managing and progressing the change outside of of that network.

Jennifer Bryan:

Oh, completely yeah. That's why it's a network, you know. So your champions is, is, is you, is, you know, a member of your team. Then you have your leadership side, because there's a role, huge role, that leaders have In actually enabling their people to be able to do the change.

Jennifer Bryan:

Because you know, of course, as so many organizations, they they say oh, we want to Implement a new ERP system or we're going to put in this new processing system or a new operate, whatever it may be. Well, the thing is, you can create the best system, process mechanism, whatever it is you want in the world, and and Deliver it with a huge laser light show or whatever. But if people don't use it, it Doesn't matter. It's a waste of space and money and resources because change is expensive.

Richard de Kock:

So, circling back to our discussion around the digital skills you was, you were saying before I I pushed us off track. So the first step to to address in that digital skills gap would be obviously setting up the change network and getting that established. From that point on, how, how do we, how do organizations address that skills gap and keep it, keep their resources, future proof?

Jennifer Bryan:

So, um, how did they address the skills gap? So they With the skills gap. It it's about looking at the skills in which you need to deliver for Change within that organization and that's gonna vary depending on the culture of the organization. So there isn't just a you know Key, that the universal key that works for absolutely everybody. It is unique to the organization because, as we all know, every organization has a slightly different culture to it and has in. People will react to that differently and that plays a huge role in in that Skill set and what's required. The main skills is around influencing, communication and Presentational skills from a generic arena and as well as coaching and coaching skills. Those are what I would say are the four you know generic skills that need to be developed within that network. But then outside of that, it is very it will be specific to the organization, specific to.

Jennifer Bryan:

What exactly they are trying to achieve. And the big key for that is looking at what I would Say and challenge leaders to do is to ask themselves what is it that we really want to be as an organization? And you know.

Richard de Kock:

Understanding what's. What's the digital strategy itself and the vision, and where do our people need to be in the next Three, five years? And one of those skill sets gonna look like. I'm assuming that that's sort of where you're heading with that.

Jennifer Bryan:

Exactly, it's looking at the vision, but I would actually argue that it's it's not just looking at the, the digital vision, it's looking at the vision of the organization. I so and reviewing that because with everything that's happened, you know, all the changes that are going on at the moment, in my opinion, are changes that were coming down the line over the next 10 years anyway.

Richard de Kock:

Yes, right.

Jennifer Bryan:

The difference is the pandemic has catapulted these to happen a lot faster and sooner than anticipated.

Richard de Kock:

Absolutely.

Jennifer Bryan:

So, so what we need to do as leaders, we need to look at the visions we've got at the moment and review them, say is it still valid, you know, is this still where we want to be in 10 years time as an organization? Is this still the direction we're looking to go, or is there? Is there something else we're trying? We want to be, you know, as an organization? Or, if this is still valid, how we get there. Has that changed? And I would argue, most definitely probably, at least yes.

Jennifer Bryan:

And there's a load of different companies that have started to do this already, and one of the big ones is M&S here in the UK. They made an announcement, actually in the end of March, start of April last year, saying they could announce to new vision, saying never the same again. But they didn't know how they were going to achieve it. They just knew that that's what their vision was going to be, right. That's when, then, you know, lockdown happened and all the rest of it, and then, by mid-May, that enabled them to say, ah, this is how we're starting to define it, of what that means for us as an organization and that then, you know, that lends itself to holding new set of skill sets and behaviors and mindsets in order to enable that to occur.

Richard de Kock:

Sort of yeah, gearing everyone up to the fact that change is the norm and that there is no normal per se going forward and that we need to be open to continually adapting and learning. It makes a lot of sense.

Jennifer Bryan:

Well, change has always been the normal. It's not suddenly. Change is normal. That's not a certain thing, it's always been normal. It's just the speed of which it's happening at the moment is a bit abnormal. Absolutely, yeah. But also and I think this is one thing that can't be discounted is that whenever you're delivering change and a lot of communication, experts will notice when you're sending out communication, you're sending it out through loads of different mediums. You'll have posters, you'll have videos, you'll have infographics, you'll have, there'll be emails, there'll be letters, there'll be, you know, a whole host of different types of communications going on, and hence we'll be absorbing those messages in a load of different ways. You know there'll be workshops, drop-in centers, what I would call the toilet posters and those signs, but you know, on the back of the doors, you have a really good target audience there, and you know, and they were all very useful.

Jennifer Bryan:

The challenge now, and the difference in which we really have, is that at the moment, we are no-transcript interacting and engaging through the same medium for everything. All of our work is through the computer screen. All of our leisure time, for the most part, is through a computer screen, with movies and content and whatever it may be, all of our personal interactions are happening through a computer screen, to be fair, whereas before we'd be going out to the gym, we'd go to the theater, we'd go to a workshop, we'd go to a networking event, we'd go out for drinks, we'd go to the restaurant, we'd be the mom taxi or the dad taxi or we'd be doing other things. That enables us to take in messages in different ways, and at the moment we don't have that. That's where the fatigue is really coming in, because of this one medium that's being utilized, which we all know. That's never a good way of going about getting your messages out.

Richard de Kock:

A really good point on the communications fatigue. It's totally relevant to a lot of people out there. You've got that one source of it's like drinking from a fire hydrant right, all this information being thrown at you at once. But also, at the same time, there's this plethora of changes that are now being thrown at organizations because, let's face it, some are in really hot water at the moment. Others are still okay, but there's lots of shifts and changes that need to occur. So just the mere act of education, change that someone's needing to go through, the amount of stretch on a lot of resources to engage on various projects to keep changes moving forward how have you seen organizations trying to address this topic of change fatigue that is becoming so dominant now in the workplace?

Jennifer Bryan:

Yeah, it's been a challenge for a number of years. I'm sure we've all at one point said, oh God, they just want me to do this again and yet another one. We've all been there on that. That is the sign of change fatigue. And now it's just heightened because we're also getting it through this one medium as well. And what I would really strongly recommend and have recommended within companies in order to battle that is, you need to bring all of your change into one vision. What is it so? We mentioned earlier that vision of what it is you're trying to achieve. What is it that you want to be as an organization? And then and you create that one vision and you have a logo and a branding around that one vision, and then all the changes that are related to that vision duplicate that logo everywhere, and the difference that that has is everyone goes, oh, that's just part of that change, rather than, oh, it's yet another thing again.

Richard de Kock:

Very clever. Yeah, it's a good point. You're emotionally connected to the one thing, as opposed to being spread emotionally across multiple Exactly exactly.

Jennifer Bryan:

So when you bring it all into that one vision, we can relate it and go ah, so that's just part of that. Okay, yeah, I got it, I'm fine. And whereas it's not that, yet another thing.

Richard de Kock:

The other thing that I was really interested in talking about was the fact that, as you mentioned before, in order to succeed with change, we typically needing to have a change competency in an organizational capability that is focused on orchestrating and structuring and managing. You know people throughout the organization at the various levels that they may be at during their journey, but you know coordinating and orchestrating the management of change throughout. I find, with a lot of people at the moment a lot of customers when we start to have a discussion around setting up a capability because many don't have, that we're looking at yet again another change, yet again more resources that need to be put behind this new practice and with the Plotora projects that they may have underway at the moment, how do you see people who are thinly spread from a resourcing perspective actually formalizing change as an approach, a dedicated approach? How do you think companies in this situation should be addressing leadership and change effectively and on a more formal basis?

Jennifer Bryan:

So I think there's several things here. So, personally, I think it's about having someone come in and help build that change muscle within the organization and because and when I mean that change muscle, that people change muscle and to really help build that within the organization and because the consequences of not paying attention to that are huge and costly. On that, Then it's about working with people, because then you can build their skills, about enabling them to bring people on board, and the big key for that is speaking people's own language. So when you're looking at formalizing that approach and try to convince people that you need to formalize that, when you're speaking to and I am gonna stereotype, so apologies here when you're speaking to a finance person, you need to talk about the financial costs of not doing this.

Jennifer Bryan:

When you're speaking to a performance management person in delivery, you need to talk about the decrease in performance of production. When you are looking, trying to relate to the ops person, the COO or whoever does, you need to relate it to the capital investment costs of this not having. So it's relating it to watch the value of what they care about. They're in their jobs because they care about what they're doing, and so it's about understanding that and then relating what it is you need to influence or achieve and you know may happen in the same way in an element that's going to help them listen. And what's going to help them listen is to talk to them about the areas that they care about.

Richard de Kock:

So, given that situation, so what you're suggesting is that we'd need to generally an organization from what you find would need to get in the help to build that muscle and thereafter organizations are able to manage and run change as part of their day to day activities. Or are we looking at the fact that most large organizations I guess it's a scale, a scaling issue would need to have a formalized practice managing change?

Jennifer Bryan:

There's a little bit of both. So it is about getting someone in, I think, to create that change muscle, as I said, and that's and but what? You've got that change muscle going. I would argue that the amount of other subject matter expertise that you need to bring in will be more limited times because you'll have that change muscle built up. So it's not to say that you won't need external help going forward. It's just the timeline in which you will need it will be slightly shorter because you've got that internal capability.

Jennifer Bryan:

However, the other thing you've got to bear in mind is you know most people and there are charts that demonstrate this Don't stay within an organization for the whole life, you know so. There is an ebb and flow of talent within any organization as well, so that's something that needs to be taken into consideration and built around. So once you've got, if you've brought someone in to build that change muscle, then you've got to ask yourself the question how are we going to be able to maintain this muscle as an organization? So, as people you know, move around the organization and move in and out of the organization.

Richard de Kock:

It's almost like for an organization that's got no experience of change getting an outside party involved to help them build that initial muscle. Once that's established, we need some form of essential function to coordinate the ongoing maintenance and management of that muscle. That's where we'd be looking at a more formal dedicated resource to that team to oversee that. But the bulk of the muscle and the weight is on people during the day to day activities. Correct alongside champions in managing that change and making sure that it's rolled out. What would your one key message be for people out there battling to get leadership and change done right?

Jennifer Bryan:

People Change is about people, not rocket science. And that's a slightly double-edged sword in the sense of people are not a processor system. So I was explaining this to an engineer once when because he went oh well, you just came up with that. You know where have you done that before? I said I haven't. I just created it for you based on your circumstances, because A plus B does not always equal C when it comes to people. So that's the first bit, but the other side of the sword is that it is just people. It's not as complicated as rocket science, so there's no formula for it when it comes to people. But it's also about dealing with the human side of it.

Richard de Kock:

Thanks, jennifer, for joining us on this session and for sharing your pros and wisdom with us on adoption and change, and to all our listeners out there. I hope this has brought some clarity as to how you can improve the success of your change initiatives and also to continue the evolution of learning and skills within your organizations. We look forward to meeting you again in our next episode of the Search for Clarity, which we'll be seeing in a few weeks. Until then, stay safe, and May the Search for Clarity continue.

Introduction
Navigating Change Fatigue and Leadership
Navigating Change in Human Dynamics