The CEO's role is rapidly being transformed according to this McKinsey article 'Why digital transformation is now on the CEO’s shoulders'
"Digital transformation is being driven from the top, personally mandated by the CEO. This is something new."
The most critical thing here though is that while digital transformation is critical in priority and senior focus, it needs cultural transformation to actually be successful. If senior leaders really want to transform, they need to own cultural change as well, because.....they are the only ones who can as their behaviour is the essence of that culture. Yes CEO's, cultural transformation is also on your shoulders because without you owning and leading it, other important things like digital transformation rarely get done the way you need them to. There are a whole lot of mindsets to be changed in an organisation before people start embracing a digital future. That's really where CEO's need to start.
Lets hope McKinsey are saying the following soon "Cultural transformation is being driven from the top, personally mandated by the CEO". Our extensive experience in co-creating the right cultures has certainly proven that cultural change must be owned and actively lead by senior leaders, and integrated into everything they do, to be successful.
Let's talk about how that is done.
If you want to effectively manage and drive change, history suggests you need to create the tipping point where this will happen by creating, encouraging and empowering ‘change champions’ to bring the masses along.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell brilliantly defines the concept of the tipping point phenomenon, whereby if enough people are engaged in an activity/idea/trend/behaviour it starts to spill over into the mainstream and the masses begin to follow. The concept is, of course, totally applicable to organisations - as change is initiated by the brave, others will follow. And at ON-Brand! we believe this tipping point can be actively managed to drive the right kind of change and at a faster pace. More on that in a minute.
Firstly take a look at this weird and wonderful video taken at a big music event in the USA, that brilliantly demonstrates the tipping point in action. You’ll see in the video that as people feel that enough other people are doing something that is interesting and worth doing, they too feel comfortable, encouraged and inspired to also join in. In this case it all begins with just one guy, then two and once the third person joins the dance, suddenly it became a signal to all others that it was OK to join in and they do - en masse!
The video nicely illustrates that in many situations, the arrival of the third person is such a critical stage to give momentum to change and get a movement of thought or action underway. There will always be thought/action initiators who tend to be of a certain personality and disposition which enables them to boldly make the first move, however, for those who will never be initiators, if they can stop worrying about standing out, and what others will think of them, they very well may be the tipping point to get change underway. It is easy to follow a larger group, but if we had more of the first, second and 'third guy’ in organisations, we’d get to a better place faster.
Renowned thought leader Seth Godin also commented on the video noting that it’s only when ‘guy #3’ joins the group that it starts to become a movement. “Before him, it was just a crazy dancing guy and then maybe one other crazy guy. But it's guy #3 who made it a movement. Initiators are rare indeed, and it's scary to be the leader. Guy #3 is rare too, but it's a lot less scary and just as important”. And as for Guy #49? he is “irrelevant as there are no bravery points for being part of the mob”. Seth went on to say that “We need more guy #3's.”
The big question is how do organisations foster ‘Guy #3’ when they want to initiate change? How do they identify and support the leaders who can inspire other to follow?
Malcolm Gladwell would call Guy #3 either a ‘Connector’ or a ‘Salesman’. In an organisation we would call Guy #3 a ‘Frontrunner’ – those who bring people together, deliver a compelling message and help shape conversations and align behaviours to where an organisation needs them to be. They are 'encouragers' and 'empowerers' and can create the tipping point whereby others willingly and enthusiastically come along for the ride.
So how do you foster these people:
1. Empower them with the belief and ability to make a difference. They need to know that they can, and will, be supported from above.
2. Provide them with a platform to shine. Give them opportunities to demonstrate their commitment and enthusiasm in front of others.
3. Reward and Recognise. Follow the simple rules of good parenting – focus on, and reward 'role model' behaviour. Before long, the rest of the organisation catches on and a whole lot of people want to be like them.
So if you want change in your organisation, identify your Guys or Gals #3, give them some direction, outline the type of conversations and behaviours you want, give them time to try different things out, and let them loose! One of the most successful components of our culture change framework is our Frontrunner strategy so we're happy to talk more about it and what you need to put in place to create the momentum you need.
One Executive recently said this about their Frontrunners...
"A large part of the results we have achieved are due to the dedication and commitment to changing our culture from all of our people, but in particular our Frontrunners. So on behalf of the Exec and myself, I want to recognise and celebrate our Frontrunners, both past and present. You guys are awesome!'
PS: The book The Tipping Point - How little things can make a big difference is well worth reading. Explains so much of what happens on our planet and why.
Also take a look at It's time to create a change movement. Let us show you how...
Now that suddenly doesn’t mean you need to have a sofa in your office that employees can lie on and tell you all their troubles and woes. What it does mean is you need to build a strong understanding of how humans actually work - what gets them energised and excited about your strategic agenda, and proactively taking action to get the important stuff done. Once you master Human Beings:101 it will become clear that people really do want change and what needs to be done to achieve it.
Which is why the ‘ON-Brand' approach to organisational change follows a clear process deeply rooted in behavioural psychology. And it's all about Shaping Conversations, Changing Mindsets, and Aligning Behaviours.
Behavioural psychology sounds complex and slightly scary but it provides a clear insight into why humans think and behave the way they do. It’s principles allow us to understand why some people instantly buy into change while others resist to the point of actively attempting to sabotage any change initiatives. Sound familiar?
At the end of the day, with change management you are dealing with people, and the field of psychology helps us to know how to get the best from them.
While it might have been around a while now, I highly recommend having a read of the McKinsey article titled The Psychology of change management to get a greater understanding of the role of psychology in the commercial world. While it’s publication date of 2003 might seem like a long time ago in a world characterised by rapid change, I don't think human motivations have evolved that much in that time, such that the principles explored are any less relevant today. In fact they are probably more relevant as the rate of change and redundancy accelerates and we all just try and keep up.
The article talks about how insights from the field of psychology "have in general been applied to business only piecemeal and haven’t had a widespread effect. Recently, however, several companies have found that linking all of the major discoveries together in programs to improve performance has brought about startling changes in the behaviour of employees — changes rooted in new mind-sets".
It also talks about four conditions that must be in place for mindsets to change:
ON-Brand's TeamTalk conversation process is designed to address all of these head on, supported by an integral storytelling dimension (sharing what ‘great’ looks like) - something the case study in the article identifies as extremely valuable in achieving change.
The article The psychology of change management, nicely describes how most people really do want change, they just need to see both the rational and emotional 'case' for doing it! Call us flawed, call us difficult to manage, but us humans really do want to embrace change, we just need to believe in the 'Why'! And one thing I have learned over the years is you cannot just assume people know or understand the 'Why'. That's an area that requires real time and effort.
And if you want further proof of why people can, and will, embrace change then watch this great TED video by Jason Clarke - the messages are really clear and powerful. It's time well spent.
So, senior leaders... you need to develop a sound understanding of psychology if you want to create a work culture that embraces change. But the great news is ON-Brand Partners can help with that. Let’s talk about what really drives change, and the smart frameworks, processes, tools and resource we have that can get your workplace set up to embrace and own it, for the long term.