All Change Is People Change

I have a theory about change: All change is people change.

Without support, change dies, or it doesn’t get started at all. Without the buy-in from people in your workplace, change doesn’t get out of the idea stage. We end up looped in a cycle of planning, thinking and more planning – but stay trapped in the starting blocks, and don’t see anything actually… happen.

In designing a piece of work with MBIE recently, we got to talking about the Deliverology framework, designed in the UK. Deliverology is a striking and almost embarrassing method for public service transformation. Why is it embarrassing? Because we need it in the first place!

The framework, now applied globally, follows a simple, powerful process to get ideas moving into implementation.

Make no mistake, the need for this initiative is very real. Thanks to shifting priorities, political pressure, difficulty in measuring success and a track record of failure, getting ideas into implementation is no small feat. I’m all about this stuff – I even wrote a book about it! 

As you can imagine, there’s all sorts of theory that sits behind the Deliverology method – implementation requires lots of technical components, like alignment, accountability, resourcing, monitoring and reporting. 

The most powerful and effective piece of the Deliverology puzzle, however, is in the establishment of a ‘delivery unit’ – a small team of people who are focused exclusively on getting key things done and pushing boundaries. Basically, a “Get Shit Done” crew.

This paints an interesting picture. Despite all of our cleverness and thinking, the most important driver to getting things moving is in the people. 

“He aha te mea nui o tea o? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata” – Maori proverb

(What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.)

I had a timely reminder of how critical this is, in working with a client just this week. This community-facing unit is part of one of NZ’s largest public organisations, where corporate compliance, process and BAU gobble up ever-increasing amounts of time.

They have a new staff member starting shortly, tasked with changing the way programming is designed and delivered. Their plan? To intentionally keep that person out of key meetings for the first few weeks – basically, keep them totally under the radar - before they get trapped in the wheel! Change by stealth.

Why are they doing this? Because they know the only way to get things moving is to have the right people doing the right stuff – and avoiding the wrong stuff!

The client example above is a best-case scenario – taking someone fresh and keen and letting them loose in the right direction. Most of the time, it’s not that easy. Generally, the people we’re working with come with baggage – history, habits, fears and preferences. Bringing the rest of our team on board with new strategies, tools, policies or structures means tackling those things head on.

Stinks of hard work, doesn’t it? Yeah. But people really are the key – whether you’re pushing boundaries or nudging edges. Despite a fear-inducing article popping up every few months telling us that the robots are going to take all our jobs, right now our efforts depend on the actions of humans. It stands to reason then, that if you can’t get people behind you and shifting in the same direction, you’re not going to get where you’re going.

If you want stuff to happen differently, you need the people that do stuff to change what they’re doing. 

Whether you’re driving technology change, process change, service delivery change, or any other kind of shift, we need people to come on the journey, and we need to make it possible for them to make ideas real. 

Have you neglected the people aspect of change?

Til next week!
-    A