People and processesChange ManagementPublic sector leaders share top tips for managing culture change

Public sector leaders share top tips for managing culture change

From the recent GovTech Leaders/Agilisys Breakfast Club, we've pulled out 25 ways to manage the people element of change in your organisation.

The first ever GovTech Leaders/Agilisys Breakfast Club brought together a collection of high-level public sector leaders to discuss why culture is vitally important to transformation and change management and how to manage cultural change.

The conversation, which included leaders from across the public sector, explored a number of key areas of transformation and culture, including:

  • Why putting in the ‘people preparation’ time and effort early in the process will reap rewards later in the journey
  • How to develop a deep understanding of internal culture and what makes people want to work for you and with you
  • Tapping into the social community within the workplace and utilising ‘change agents’
  • Creating a ‘digital by choice’ way of thinking by explaining the benefits of digital technology and why it’s central to transformation.

From that event and the lively discussions – more information on which can be found here – we’ve compiled 25 top tips to help you manage the culture of change in your organisation.

Preparation, ownership, sequencing and control:

  • Plan change and engage people early by explaining the positives of the journey and the benefits of the change, including the end goals – not only will this better enable communication, it will encourage people to share ideas and make them feel like part of the process too.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the practicalities early on in the transformation process – the cultural change element is just as important as getting the technical side right and the two must run concurrently.
  • The big, burning question employees have is ‘what’s in it for me?’ So, find out what motivates people in order to be able to sell the benefits of change. It’s important to note here that it’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer – one person might love the ability to work from home, another might share a flat with five other people who work from home or have a new baby that would prevent them from doing so.
  • Give employees an element of choice so they can make selections based on their personal preferences. For example, let people choose their device options, laptop, smartphone, tablet etc. – from a list of devices/solutions that fit in with your plans, of course. It’s no longer good enough for IT to thrust equipment on people.
  • Help people to create an identity and find their purpose in the transformation process. A good example is the ‘I am’ tactic used as part of the transformation process in Parliament. Essentially, a ‘golden thread’ was created around which people could anchor themselves on the journey, provide a story about what’s important to them and focus on the benefits they could deliver through change.
  • Encouraging people to find their anchor in the journey will provide people with the feeling that they belong in the process and help them understand the why and how elements of evolution. It drives acceptance of change.
  • People all too often have a mental block wit technology, especially when it’s talked about using technical terminology. Therefore, take time to show people the different types of technology and what it can enable. This will help people to understand how tech can help them, which in turn starts to drive transformation from within. It can also break down silos. Show progress, but don’t get bogged down by stats.

Allow the outside in:

  • In everyday life people use Amazon for online shopping, Ocado for groceries, online banking and Uber to get home etc. These firms are digital disruptors because they make life easier and consumers choose to work with them. By getting employees to adopt tools and behaviours that they use outside of work in their professional lives it will make transformation easier and, potentially, faster.
  • The office is often a sense of identity for many, a social space, and they enjoy the interaction, so leverage this. Build a community around transformation by involving people, generating discussion and building a buzz. This will develop deeper collaboration too. Giving people a choice, as mentioned above, is a great starting point.

Slow down to speed up:

  • Time is a commodity, so invest in it. Don’t be afraid to take time to get the foundations right and don’t set impossible targets. Transformation is about evolution over time, not one big revolution in one go.
  • You may have a big vision, but small gradual steps over time is required. Take time to understand what you’re changing at the outset and you’ll likely be able to accelerate transformation later in the process.
  • Take a step back from the immediate process to find out what skills already exist within organisations and where gaps exist. Invest in digital skills training and knowledge training early – through ‘digital champions’ if you think it’s appropriate – and you’ll reap the rewards later on. Be sure not to flog those digital champions though! Overworking the willing horse is clearly a negative.
  • Recognise and reward milestones so that people can see what’s happening and the improvements being made. Shout about the achievements made.
  • Pause to recognise success and allow time to re-evaluate progress. This time will be invaluable later on in the transformation journey.

Normalising the fear of change:

  • Recognising that feelings and emotions will be the norm during change and transformation is crucial to getting the cultural side right. Change can bring people together, if they have common goals and all feel like they’re in the same position at the same time – and they’re working in the same direction.
  • Communicate that it’s ok to feel like this, and that you will support people through it – it might be hard, but you will get through it!
  • Finding out what people are afraid of losing or letting go of, and explaining why it’s necessary, is often easier than telling people what they’ll gain. Build acceptance that change is going to happen but that their ‘losses’ have been accounted for will build trust and get people behind you.
  • As a leader, accept that you will need to be resilient! If you want to make enemies, try to change something!
  • It is possible to create energy around change by why it needs to happen, selling the benefits, explaining compliance needs or sharing fundamental business needs. This provides a purpose.

Additional key points:

  • Change is unrelenting and does demand persistence and resilience. Leaders will require energy to see transformation through. This may involve bringing in external partners to help take the strain.
  • Change doesn’t have to be a mystery, it sometimes does just happen and can reach a tipping point where it drives itself.
  • We have to step away from overbearing KPIs. Transformation efforts often can’t be measured – how can you put a figure on the cultural side of change? You can’t, so don’t try to as it’ll only stifle efforts.
  • Leadership shouldn’t be overlooked. Leaders need to have all of the tools required to lead their staff through change. They are the senior champions of change – all organisations need people who can talk at the right level, whatever that level may be.
  • Organisations all have people that are listened to – they’re worth embracing, even if they’re the bad people!
  • The utopia that organisations should strive for is one where change is driven by its staff, rather than staff having change thrust upon it. If you get the organisation to a point where it understands where it needs to get to and embraces that need, it will drive change from within.

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