The cardinal sins of culture and behaviour change projects
Developing a change in culture is difficult in any field, you’ve no doubt read articles on how to make a successful shift and how you can support a cultural change and nurture it for years to come.
This article isn’t one of those, this article is about the exact opposite, about what not to do if you want to really change a culture and the mindset of your people when it comes to learning. To help me in this piece and to explore the insights to not screwing this up, I’ll be using the popular film character of John Wick and various analogies to demonstrate my points.
Do not kill anyone’s dog (aka current methods of learning)
Never take away your audiences current methods of learning and replace with something completely different, which you communicate as now being the only way to learn from this day forth or face the wrath.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen not just learning tools and resources but products in general, completely fail because of the way they have been released to their target audience. Now as the champions of learning, we might feel that a digital approach with videos, podcasts and wiki’s is the way forward, ditching the old of formal classroom sessions, files of paper learning materials and week long elearning modules. It sounds like heaven, yet if you decide to just decommission the current methods of learning that your people have been accustomed to for say 15+ years on Monday and release a brand new methodology on Tuesday (which they must now all use with no explanation as to why this change has happened or what’s the benefit for them) then you’re undoubtedly going to run into trouble.
You might think this would never happen, but trust me I’ve seen it several times and it always amazes me that the ones implementing this change never see it coming. It’s similar to when your favourite app receives an update which takes away a functionality you’ve been using for years and replaces it with something foreign to you. Usually with no warning as to “this change is coming” or why it’s coming and even an explanation as to how do I use this new functionality (more on this later).
It’s kinda like when that group of lovely people killed John Wicks dog – he didn’t know why or the reasons that led to this and we all know what output that led to…….chaos.
So don’t invite that chaos when you’re trying to bring a positive change that can really benefit your people. Look at the ways you can communicate the changes that are coming, how they will work with the existing model and how they will develop it going forward.
Do not ignore advice from your assassin friends (aka ask your people lots of questions)
With any attempts to influence a change of culture and especially when it comes to the way we learn, you need to get input from the place that matters – your people.
Listening to your people and asking them lots of questions about how they work now, how they would like to work and what do you think if we tried xyz sounds like common sense, but again you’d be surprised how many times this doesn’t happen.
Learning experiences are unique and often tailored to the individual to fit their style, so of course it would make sense to ask them what they think right? Building user centric solutions is what learning teams are all about, creating great content in an engaging manner that works for your people.
You wouldn’t spend weeks creating a delicious dairy filled chocolate cake for your friend without asking if they like chocolate, certain fillings of if they have any intolerances to dairy would you? The same principles apply here too, you can’t build what people want/need to make a shift in culture if you don’t ask them what’s going on in the environment right now.
To take this back to Mr Wick, this is like when all of his assassin buddies tell him to let it go and not do this or that but he still goes off and does it, with consequences always being dire. So don’t be like John, stay close to your people, ask questions and identify from their insights what action you can take to bring about this culture change.
Reach out to people, build a network, you cannot do it alone
John Wick is a legendary badass, yet not even he could tackle his challenges along, he reached out to people through his network to accomplish his goal as grisly as it may have been.
Any big change cannot be done by one person alone, of course there’s always exceptions to the rule but in most cases you can be the change you want to see, but you need others to invest in it, support it and be your champions.
A crucial part in developing a change in culture and behaviours, is to have a network of people who support your message and the movement for change overall. Just like how a brand will have groups of influencers across it’s social media channels pushing their products to the masses, you will need to find those who have influence across different audiences to help in getting your message heard too.
Endorsement from those who people respect and admire is a powerful tool and one you should look to utilise if you want to embed change in your business. You can have the best products, processes or systems in the world, but if people don’t understand the ‘why this is great’ from someone they know then you you can expect all your hard work to stay in the shadows.
Have patience, change doesn’t happen overnight – make the right moves to enable and embed
Just like a world class assassin tracking their target across the world, you need to have patience when trying to bring about change, as we all know it doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s often said that it takes 30 days to develop a habit and 90 days to start seeing a change in a person, so why do we kick ourselves so hard when we don’t see results in the space of a week? It’s a common flaw in many projects and people. I would say it’s an all too common mistake I’ve witnessed, when the plug is pulled on a change project because results have not been seen by the powers that be in a speed they would like, but real change takes times.
Large groups of people will not change their behaviours which in-turn will develop a new culture easily, times is the resource that must be invested to make this happen. Too often is a new learning tool released across a business and in a matter of a few months or mere weeks it’s deemed a failure as every single employee hasn’t used it – but did you really expect them too? Have the right metrics for success and timescales been identified to all this tool to be embedded in the working lifestyle? Who knows, you might have been on the point of a breakthrough.
Everything takes times and yes, you do need to assess if the ‘juice is worth the squeeze’ and create hard deadlines, but don’t expect overnight success, after all some of the greatest cultural innovations of all time like the dawn of smartphones and social media didn’t happen overnight.
Share, share and share some more – communication is king
I’m not sure this one is applicable to our John Wick analogy, buy hey, who cares as it’s important anyway.
As slightly touched upon in my first point, in developing any kind of cultural and behavioural change, you must be open to your audience in what you’re doing as much as possible. Not communicating with your end users on what’s going on is a big no no and will lead you down a path of potential resistance in the long term.
What you’re doing is about improving the lives of your people, so talk to them always, as openly as possible. Not only will you get insight to key thoughts and views, but you’ll also create strong connections with those who will be part of the change, those who can make or break it this work and making feel part of the process through informed communications can only be of benefit.
So as you ask lots of questions of your people, remember to share, share and share too. No one likes to be out of the know, nor does it make them feel appreciated when something big is happening and they’re the last to know.
Before you go… 👋
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.