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The Human Element: Key to transforming your organisation

A community services provider recently shared with us that they had on four occasions gone through the costly exercise of selecting and implementing a new IT system. Sadly, by their account,

“Within a year, each one of those new systems had been abandoned. They weren’t being used; they weren’t doing the right job.”

This is such a common story

You spend lots of precious time and dollars to identify business capabilities that must be fulfilled by a new system…once implemented, it’s expected that this fabulous new tool will enable your people to do their best work… and in turn, they’ll be able to offer great service that will delight your clients.

Yet, it’s fair to say that not just ‘occasionally’, but more often than not, this expectation is far from met.

Somehow instead, you end up with a shiny new tech toy sitting unused, an upset (or even ‘departing’) workforce, and disrupted, unhappy clients … not to mention your empty wallet.

How and where do these projects go so wrong?

In our experience, it is absolutely crucial to intentionally factor in the ‘human element’ at the beginning of any transformational project. Yet it’s all too often forgotten or minimised.

Imagine arriving at hospital for heart surgery... Your wonderful heart surgeon, who’s been consulting with you for months prior, is ready to work on making you better… but as they roll you into the theatre, you realise she’s only been provided with a first aid kit to do the job? How would you feel? How would she feel?

People working in our community service organisations are like our heart surgeons.

Those who work on the tools and carry out our business processes have the most intimate knowledge of our clients’ experience. They deeply understand the breakthrough opportunities and pain points in delivering services. They have a major contribution to make for any human-centred transformation design work.

If we fail to empower our people who have this deep knowledge of our clients to be part of the transformation journey from the start, we will likely fail to both ask the right questions and solve the right problems.

So how can you supply your heart surgeons with the most relevant toolkit and support?

3 keys to intentionally build the crucial human element of your organisation’s #TransformationCapability?

1) Follow your Why

- Link everything you do with your vision and explain how the changes being experienced will help you move towards your ‘North Star'.

- What is the problem you are trying to solve? Why is it important? Why now? Everyone in the organisation should be able to articulate this if asked at the water cooler.

2) Make your people the heroes of the change

- Harness the power of your team’s passion and insights early and throughout the transformation journey. Seek out early adopters whose infectious enthusiasm will spread the benefits of the new way of working.

- Leverage your front-line team’s tacit understanding of your clients’ needs; who better to document clients’ expectations, experience, actions, questions & pain points and create the new ways of working needed?

- Ask the team what they need to be able to do their best work; listen to their niggles and act to remove obstacles from their path.

3) Recognise the revolution in the evolutionary steps

- Transformation isn’t something you suddenly arrive at overnight; it’s a continuous journey of many steps and these steps need to be taken by human beings.

- Remember it’s your people who actually ‘feel’ the pain of change - not your tech, processes or data. Leaders need to demonstrate genuine empathy - listen well and listen long (two ears one mouth is a good ratio guide!)

- Create a trusting environment, where your people feel safe and are encouraged to try new things without the fear of looking silly or ‘failing’. Build a culture that embraces, values and rewards continuous learning for all team members.

In conclusion, remember that there’s no technology silver bullet! Getting the very best ‘first aid kit’ into the hands of your ‘heart surgeons’ will not only waste a lot of precious dollars, it will genuinely produce tragic outcomes. A new tech tool may not differentiate your organisation – but it sure will cost you dearly if you fail to engage your people in the process of selecting an implementing it.

We see some organisations across the sector struggling with staff turnover above 50% – usually because they have failed to invest sensibly into the human element of change. They face an unsustainable future.

By contrast, organisations that genuinely invest in the human element of transformation go on to successfully implement new systems and build #TransformationCapability sustainable growth into the future.

Question: For every dollar invested in tech and data projects, how many do you invest in the human element of change (either within those projects or in parallel)?

How will you budget for and invest into the human element of change to ensure you build your #TransformationCapability?

Get started with a pragmatic review of your transformation capability.

Article contributors: Natascia Girardi, Mark Breyley, Kerryn Zwag.

Earlier articles in this #TransformationCapability series:

Follow Blue Bike for more great articles, and if you are coming to the NDS CEO Conference in November, please drop by our booth near the coffee cart to chat!

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