After publishing The Transformation Roadmap, I secured a number of projects working with Executive teams around ‘how to’ manage change. Working with some younger executives – the ideas were brand new and I was a hero. Hooray! However, the downside in working with experienced teams is that it’s difficult to unearth a Wow factor, something they haven’t already experienced. Simplistic messages (e.g. “Commitment is higher if people get involved in decision-making”) elicit a groan. It’s a recipe for people sneaking out their IPhone to reduce that email onslaught. I needed to make an impact…
Take Away: One way to relegate the boredom factor in change programmes (or any communication) is to start with the take-away i.e. decide the exact ‘change message’ you want to leave your audience with – and design backwards from this. No-one wants Death by PowerPoint – trudging through 136 slides, regardless of how ‘clever’ your cartoons are. The alternative: take the group on a ‘learning by doing’ journey. Here’s a couple of innovative change ideas I’ve used to good effect. Would any of these work for you?
Option # 1: Company Idol: Split a total group into teams with about 10 people in each team. Have outsize t-shirts – one colour for each team. Give the groups 1 hour to prepare an entertainment which will run for 5-8 minutes per team. It could be a piece of theatre, a song, dance routine etc. Base the performance on the theme of the change programme e.g. Building the Business. Agree, in advance the judging criteria (best fun, full participation, best costumes etc.). Announce ‘prizes’. Give the team props (a CD player, an electric keyboard, an iPod docking station). When the show begins, each group scores the other teams – they can’t score their own team. Bring the group to a local theatre if this adds impact. Now, when you ‘announce’ this, the group will normally hate it – but this type of exercise is terrific fun in practice and cross-cultural (I’ve used it in 6 different countries). It allows everyone to shine (the non-singers write placards, design the costumes, pen the lyrics etc.). It’s very memorable and you should videotape the show and give this as a ‘takeaway’ post conference.
Themes: Unlock the hidden talent in the organization. Competition adds energy. Fun and change are not mutually exclusive.
Option # 2: Physical Movement: There are various games/physical exercises which work well in terms of getting people up and about. Some examples:
2.1 Judo Demonstration: Bring in two martial arts experts/equipment to demonstrate some of the basic throws and falls. Then get volunteers in the group to participate in a Judo Class. Give a ‘black belt’ to the winner with formal award ceremony.
Themes: Key principle in Judo is ‘working with’ the strength of your opponent. Link this to the key change management principle of ‘working with’ the existing culture – rather than trying to throw this overboard (e.g. ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’).
2.2 Tug-O-War: Explain the rules of a tug-o-war’ competition and everyone participates. Prizes announced for the winners.
Theme: Reflect on the normal ‘tug-of-war’ in change programmes e.g. opposition to change and winners/losers. Is it possible to run change programmes in a way that is radically different to this?
2.3 Cake Decoration: Sort the larger group into teams. Invite an expert ‘cake decorator’ to demonstrate the decoration of a wedding/birthday cake. Let the teams have a go working against the clock. Expert decides the winner (a bit safer than the other 2 physical activities).
Theme: First time you do something (e.g. decorate a cake or run a change programme) it’s difficult. But practice makes perfect. Fun and learning are not mutually exclusive.
Option # 3: Theatre Piece: Hire in a couple of actors and develop the script in advance. One actor talks about the impact of change on his/her life in a positive way. The other talks about it negatively. Use theatre lighting and stage props to make the show as realistic as possible. Alternative is have one actor play the role of a manager (the ‘changer’), the other as an employee (change recipient). A twist on this would be to use the participants in the group to play out these themes. You could even use real actors to ‘coach’ them on delivery e.g. a mini-theater workshop. Perhaps a ‘send up’ of some of the existing internal company mantras around managing change (a bit more risqué, but definitely good fun).
Themes: Making change ‘real’ in terms of the impact it has on peoples’ lives; managers confusion about the change process; how to communicate complex messages (understanding where we are today & envisage a better tomorrow).
Option # 4: Change Storytelling:
4.1 Change Stories: Weave a number of ‘stories’ together on the topic of managing change. Real world, dramatic stories – based on what happened in successful and unsuccessful change projects. Use video and music clips to bring this alive/make it more dynamic. Think about ways to engage the audience during/after the delivery of this e.g. have a fully open Q&A session.
4.2 Change Videos: Make video clips in advance, using internal people or customers to tell their stories (caveat: hard to get professional level quality here – without high costs).
Themes: Pick the central idea to be covered e.g. personal resilience in the face of change; storytelling as a change management technique and so on.
Option # 5: Customized Games: Build a ‘scenario’. Example: Aliens land on earth from the planet Hike. Their planet was destroyed because they never learned how to change. They now want to take over the Earth and make turn everyone into slaves. Split the participants into a couple of key teams (e.g. Technology team, HR team, Employee team and Management team). Devise a ‘mechanism’ that the only way we can ‘defeat the aliens’ is to work co-operatively as a total group.
Themes: The psychology of managing change in the shadow of an external ‘threat’; there are real ‘aliens’ (competitor companies) out there, and not just in Roswell; how this group can support each other – post conference – by sharing resources and networking (‘you are not alone…’).
Investment Costs: Some of these ideas are simple and require very little development time. It’s possible to do a lot of the work on this in-house – to keep the costs low. With some of the other ideas, it might be worthwhile to involve an Event Management company (often cheaper to use an exercise that they have already developed rather than build a brand new one). Caveat: some of the expertise comes in ‘facilitating’ the learning post-event – so the theme usually needs to be credible and pulled together well at the end. Even where this is run professionally, you won’t get 100% ‘market share’ from participants; not everyone buys into this stuff (hey, some people wouldn’t be happy in Heaven!). The upside is that you will have demonstrated that learning can be seriously good fun and your event doesn’t suffer from the Cardinal Sin i.e. it’s mind-numbingly boring.
Now, where did I file that PowerPoint ‘deck’ on the key principles in change management….
PS Lighter Note: In case you needed further proof that product instructions can be stupid, some actual label instructions on consumer goods are listed below … you couldn’t make it up.
On a Sears hairdryer: Do not use while sleeping.
Bag of Fritos: You could be a winner! Details inside. No purchase necessary (the shoplifter special?)
Bar of Dial soap: ‘Directions: Use like regular soap.’ (and that would be how?)
Swanson frozen dinners: ‘Serving suggestion: Defrost.’
Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom): ‘Do not turn upside down.’ (… a bit late)
Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: ‘Product will be hot after heating. ‘ (and you thought?)
Rowenta Iron: ‘Do not iron clothes on body.’ (but wouldn’t this save time?)
Boot’s Children Cough Medicine: ‘Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.’ (We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head colds off the forklifts.)
Nytol Sleep Aid: ‘Warning: May cause drowsiness.’(I’m taking this because…?)
Sunsbury’s peanuts: ‘Warning: contains nuts.’ (news flash)
American Airlines packet of nuts: ‘Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.’ (Step 3: maybe, uh…fly Delta?)
On a Swedish chainsaw: ‘Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or Genitals’ (was there a lot of this happening somewhere?). Might be a niche market out there. Must notify my friend in Woodies.
And, another one….Following on from the gag last week about the three religious gents, Dermot Freeman reminded me of another golden oldie. A Priest, a Vicar and a Rabbi were discussing how they decide what to keep from the weekly collections. The priest stated that he gave it all to the church and they gave him a living allowance, about 25% of the takings. The vicar stated that he split it right down the middle 50:50. They looked at the Rabbi and he said: “I take it all and throw it up in the air. Whatever God wants he takes and whatever falls back down is mine!”
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