A new architecture for transformational change
Continual pressures, continually increasing
When you’re the one responsible for development of an organization’s human capital (the assets that really make things happen) you face daunting challenges every day. You know, those monster issues like expanding organizational capabilities, releasing creativity and innovation, building teamwork in an ever changing landscape, and developing a constructive culture to support your strategic plan. The issues behind the pressures are common:
- Technology is changing at an increasing rate, and new competitors are transforming the marketplace into a global reality.
- Creativity, innovation, and speed to market are critical business drivers. It’s essential to keep up with competition and the ‘speed of need’.
- The demand for top talent is increasing, just as competitive pressures to get and keep the best are escalating.
- Multiple layers of hierarchy are interfering with the agility required to manage the pace of business today.
- A structure of multiple project teams is overtaking the enterprise. Smaller, cross-functional teams enable greater autonomy, speed of decision-making, and tighter focus on their distinct market segments.
- Building relationships essential for teamwork must overcome geographic dispersion of team members and lack of inclusive behaviors.
- New behaviors that form new working environments (culture) are essential to support business strategies and plans. But the wrong culture will work against you.
The right development foundation
Strategic plans are developed in every organization, to plot a course that responds to the issues and drivers noted, along with many more. Strategic plans address what needs to be done. Making those plans is one thing, but executing them is quite another. And probably the biggest challenge in executing any plan is to manage foundational issues—how things are done. That’s behaviors.
When you get down to it, executing any new strategy or plan will require new behaviors. How people behave, underpins the implementation for any set of goals. Experience has shown that building the right foundation won’t be found through compliance systems, big events, or traditional training programs. Developing the right behaviors requires more than restrictive rules, pushing information, and conducting surveys. Leader-led change initiatives can work, but, experience has shown that most executives have neither the time nor the aptitude to personally drive a behaviors development program over the months and years that it often takes. Structure, and the discipline to stick with integrated processes, are required. And everyone in the organization needs to participate in the process.
Change the focus to behaviors
There is compelling research that shows we need a focus on developing behaviors to drive results and to effectively manage implementation of any plan. In their book, "Influencers", Patterson et al, noted that two conditions generally need to be met before people take action—they have the ability to act, and the action will make their life better. Research by B.J. Fogg (Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford), found that behaviors occur as a result of ability, motivation, and triggers coming together at the same time. If one of these factors is missing, the behavior won’t occur.
These findings are key to designing processes and measurements that:
- Stimulate growth of critical abilities
- Create environments that motivate actions, and
- Generate the triggers for putting them into play at appropriate times.
Behaviors are what people do, and things like systems, processes, and operating rules are simply the tools used by people to take action.
Collectively, behaviors create the work environment, or organizational ‘culture’. Leadership guru Michael Watkins’ puts this conceptual relationship into perspective for us, by his conclusions that “... you can’t change culture; you can’t change attitudes; you have to focus on actions”. He explains that: “culture is an emergent phenomenon, so focus on right behaviors; behavior shifts attitudes; and right behaviors come from the right structures and processes, and the right goals and influences”.
The implications for leaders are clear: developing behaviors that support a plan is the path to results.
The new architecture for developing critical behaviors
The behaviors critical for achieving contextual goals flow from the goals themselves. Putting them into play requires a system that enables participants to navigate a long journey with the discipline found in most other business processes. This goes well beyond traditional approaches to prescriptive training and events-based learning. It requires a process that’s structured to unfold over time. And, this new architecture for learning will be supported by distinct features for delivering results. Key among them are these:
- A single system to integrate all related processes within a simple design.
- A digital platform deliberately designed to enable: information exchange, data collection and processing, and collaborative problem solving.
- Feedback loops to track progress and help people navigate the change journey.
- A learning experience, supported by social interaction, to enable people to interpret learning content within their context, and is supported by informed coaching.
- Processes to engage team members across geographic and time barriers. These must inherently build productive relationships as a priority, and create the daily discipline to make progress.
- Production processes to create content with speed and consistency, and always mindful of avoiding the “Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change”
- Capability to engage participation at scale, and enlist everyone in the organization to participate (human capital development is a team sport).
Is there more?
If the issues driving change sit on your desk—or if you support that person—I would expect the ‘new architecture’ I’ve just described makes sense to you. So, now what? How can you put these ideas to work, especially when you’re already over-scheduled with work? One easy, next-step is to follow our Map. Measure. Guide. process. A more advanced solution would be our Connect product. We’ve built it to include everything I’ve covered above. But you don’t have to start with these...
I’d enjoy it if we kicked off a good dialog around the demands for change and how to deal with them. As HRD professionals, we all know how valuable networking can be, and I’m making myself available to you. Your options? Make a comment, here on the blog, or go to to our About/Contact page and tell me what you’d like to talk about. You can also email me straight from the button below. I’m here to help.
Peter Stickler, Partner
Peter has extensive experience as a global CHRO and a human capital developer.