Adopting a behavioural science approach to managing change means leveraging scientific research about human behaviours and using this to better manage change. A lot of the common practices in change management are not always based on scientific research. What is assumed as common change approaches may in fact not be substantiated by research and data.
We talk to an industry veteran of behavioural science, Tony Salvador. Tony has 30+ years of research background behind him and a long-time ex-Inteller and Senior Fellow. At Intel, Tony travelled around the globe researching human factors and how people behave with technology.
There are many valuable takeaways for the change practitioner.
Some of these include:
Engineering psychology and human centric design
Analogy of pickaxe and the change approach
Principle of aversion to loss
People involvement and transactional change
Determining the nature of leadership relationship with employees
Story telling and insight into change culture
Example of Brazilian translator and people’s stories
Power of observation and listening
The nature of relationships and how they determine change
Change rationale in weaving in multiple changes
Involving people in reporting to achieve authenticity
Building the case and involving employees to derive case for change
Change practitioners usually classify different change impacts into people, process, technology and customer. Then, there is a great effort and focus placed on describing exactly what the change is from a project or program perspective. These can include the processes changes, and how different the new process is going to be compared to the current process.
However, adopting a user-centric view of change impact is critical.
Often what is seen as impact can be very very different from what is experienced by the end-user. Let’s take a few examples.
When a project is ‘rolled out’. There are can be a lot of different impacted audience factors to consider. These can include:
Length of service
Availability of support staff
Availability of effective 2-way communication platforms
Effective learning and development processes in place
Functional skill sets
So depending on how these factors determine the impact of the change on groups of individuals, identified specific impacts can be different. In the change impact assessment process, these should be carefully teased out and identified explicitly. Even how we express the names of the impacts should consider how the changes are perceived.
For example, is an impact ‘Team Leader briefing team members about the new process’ or ‘Weekly team meeting to discuss new process changes’? The initial wording is more focused on the new process, whereas the latter one illustrates that there can be various changes discussed in the meeting. So as a result, practitioners need to be open to the environment in which their messages will be delivered and through this better position and clarify the meaning of the change from the team’s perspective. E.g. can this change be delivered as a bundle with other process changes?
In a recent example, a person is understood by the organisation to be undergoing 6 separate initiatives each with their various impacts. Each initiative has fleshed out the various project impacts and these are listed and planned explicitly. However, this is from the organisation’s perspective. In fact, what the individual is undergoing is quite different.
There are changes that the team or division is undergoing that are not always taken into consideration such as people or team changes. On top of this there are also seasonal workload impacts from the likes of end of financial year, audits or pre-holiday season workload. On top of this, there are also various Covid considerations to take into account – the mother of all changes at the moment. Lockdown and social distancing have profound impacts on individuals leading to physical and psychological health impacts.
On Google the 2nd most search term in change management is ‘change management process’. Users are keen to understand a standard formula that they can apply to manage any change. Most users are looking for something simple, clear and lay out a step-by-step process that describes what they need to do to manage change.
Managing change is no longer the arena for change practitioners. The field of change management has grown in such leap and bounds in the past 20 years that most leadership concepts now have a section of change management. Nearly all large 1st and 2nd tier consulting firm have a change management practice, even the likes of Mckinsey, BCG and Bain.
Around us we frequently see change management being mentioned. Change is even a visible tagline for the marketing campaign for lots of organisations. Accenture’s marketing tagline in 2021 is “Let there be change”. The Motto for The University of Technology Sydney is “Think. Change. Do”.
What are the common change management processes?
Prosci is one of the most known change processes, especially for those located in the United States. Change First has a ‘PCI’ (People Centred Implementation) model. Then there is John Kotter’s 8 steps for leading change. What all the models have in common is the initial engagement and planning, followed by change implementation, ending with a transition and sustaining phase.
Companies like having one change process to follow
Most organisations with a change management practice will have, as a part of their offering, one change management process for all practitioners/managers to follow.
Why is that?
1. Common language to talk about managing change so that different stakeholders can refer to the same language, especially those who are not change practitioners. Creating terms that are easily understand by stakeholders within the company makes sense
2. Ensure new change contractors adhere to “the way of doing things” in managing change within the organisation. This is often a big complaint, that a new contractor will bring with him/her new ways of doing things, many of which may not gel well within the particular organisation
3. Create a minimum level of expected quality in managing change, so that at least the ‘minimum’ is carried out and that there isn’t anything obvious which is left out. This is especially important for project teams who may not know what change managers do and what outputs they should be working on
So what is wrong with using a change management process?
Not one change process may be relevant for all cases
Change management processes and concepts are good as general references to guide the change practitioner in baselining and learning the key steps that are critical in establishing a good change outcome. No change management process can suit every company and every type of change. This is why it is a good idea to leverage a diverse range of change processes for change managers who are starting out in the industry. Different change processes may cover different areas, therefore provide a synergistic range of references.
For example, John Kotter’s 8 steps of leading change is great for all levels of leaders and team managers as the model is focused on managers leading groups of people through change. On the other hand, Prosci’s ADKAR model is more suitable for a project context where there are a series of activities over several project phases to lead impacted stakeholders through the change.
Also, some change processes may not be applicable for all change scenarios. For example, the famous ‘change curve’ or the Kubler-Ross model of grief and loss. For some reason, this model has been applied so much within a change context that a lot of business people expect that the ‘change curve’ will always occur.
This is absolutely false. In the change curve there is a prescribed process of shock, denial, frustration and depression. There are not many change scenarios in which large groups of people go through these emotions. Examples include large-scale restructuring involving retrenchments. However, for standard process changes, technology upgrades, or new product launches, it is very rare that you will see this process being applicable at all.
Blindly following the process
One of the biggest dangers and risks of following a change process is not to know when to deviate from the process. This may especially the case for less experienced change practitioners. The outcome of blindly following the process can mean that the change actually does not happen and the change dial is not moved at the end.
What I often see from change managers who blindly follow the process is a change plan that contains a series of generic activities such as stakeholder engagement, communication and then launch. Often in these cases there isnt’ a deep understanding of what the change involves from the perspectives of impacted employees. What it means to them may be more than just meeting informational needs. There could be subconscious attachments or preferences/habits that are hard to break.
An analysis of the perceptions and history of changes experienced by those impacted by change is critical. What you may uncover is potential anxieties,
expectations, habits and misunderstanding of what the change involves. This may be ignored by popular change processes.
Change process may not be linear
Experienced change practitioners have seen this. Often what is planned on paper does not actually pan out to be the case. Most change processes follow a scenario where everything goes well. But for complex changes there are often mishaps or obstacles.
1. For example, key stakeholder groups were not identified upfront and the delay in engaging with them causes overall project delay and stakeholder complications
2. Feedback from stakeholders is that initial messaging were not clear enough and did not reach all groups. Another round of communications and
engagement campaign is required to reset expectations
3. Learning content was too long did not sufficiently match employee expectations, thereby resulting in lower completion rates
4. At the conclusion of the project rollout, as soon as resources were pulled out of the project team after go-live, adoption rates took a dive, resulting in little benefits achieved
In a lot these cases described above, the change practitioner needs to repeat certain processes, go back to previous steps, or even split stakeholders with some progressing further in the change process than others.
Following a process may inhibit experimentation
One of the core aspects of agile ways of working in implementing change is experimentation. We see teams from development and marketing constantly experiment and learn to evolve into a solution that meets business objectives. In change management, there is little practice in experimentation, eventhough this is such a core part of agile.
One of the reasons could be that change practitioners are used to following a prescribed change process and not used to experimenting with their change approach. Instead, most rely on previous experience or what others have done in other change initiatives. Despite this, there are many good reasons for experimenting change approaches, especially for large/complex change initiatives.
Potential experiments can include:
– Communication positioning
– Leader storyline for the rationale of the change
– Training content
– Change measurement
– Impact assessment design
– Townhall design
– Behaviour reinforcement and incentives
Not sufficiently emphasising the importance of measurement
Measurement is one of the most important aspects of managing change. Without knowing exactly the outcome of each of the activities we are executing how do we know that we are in the right trajectory? Also, measuring our change intervention ensures that we have the exact gauge on how effective the interventions are, and also where the stakeholders are along the journey. If we’ve not had any complaints or ‘noise’ does not mean that all is well and that the change will take place.
How are you measuring your changes so that you understand where your stakeholders are transitioning to?
Gamification is the application of game elements to non-game activities. Whilst gamification has been around for a long time, it is only recently that it has been formalised as a structured method to achieve specific outcomes.
We see the application of gamification all around us. Yes most of the apps we use on our phones have game design elements. However, more broadly, we can see this all around us. Through gamification design, we can make significant behaviour changes.
Two of my favourite examples are:
1.Improving aim and decreasing spillage in urinals.
Amsterdam airport wanted to keep the urinals clean and reduce spillage. They pinpointed the aimed spot within the urinal design where the least spillage happens. What happened was that men would aim for the fly as a fun activity (or even aiming subconsciously), and thereby reducing spillage.
2. Encouraging physical activity by taking steps vs. the escalator
In Sweden, they did an experiment to see if they could encourage people to take steps over the escalator by making it fun to use steps. This was at Odenplan (where I used to frequent regularly on my way to bars in my younger days), a major subway stop in central Stockholm. They turned the steps into a piano where stepping on a step would the be same as hitting a piano keyboard. The result was that 66% of people chose the steps over the escalator. Here is a video that shows the behaviour of people as they use the stairs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7frzYFcbqjc
You will notice that these elements are not necessarily about playing a ‘game’ per se. Instead, they’ve borrowed elements of game design to engage people and make it more fun. However, ultimately there is a very clear goal and clear behaviours to be achieved.
6-D model of gamification
The 6-D model of gamification is a very practical step-by-step framework to help you design an effective change intervention using gamification. The value of this framework is that it ensures that there are clear objectives and focus before jumping into utilising one of the many gamification tactics.
These are the 6 steps to follow:
Define Business Objectives – Define the goal you are aiming for. Is it increasing stakeholder engagement scores? Is it increasing the viewership of articles? Or is it getting users to follow the new process?
Delineate target behaviour – Define the target behaviours you are aiming to achieve. Note that behaviours need to be discrete and concrete. Then, decide how you are going to measure them. For example, let’s say you want to get users to follow the new additional process steps. What actions do you need users to perform? How do we know if these processes have been performed? Can the outcome of performing these steps be traced or observed? Are these documented? Are they easy to report on?
Describe your players – How well do you know your target audience/users? In this step, you need to clearly articulate and define exactly what they are like. For example, what are their demographics? How do they tend to behave? Do they have a history of behaving in certain ways in certain situations? If you need them to add more steps in a new process will they tend to ignore it?
Devise activity loops – In this step, we are identifying the key motivations involved to sustain the desired behaviour. Are there particular reinforcements required to sustain this behaviour? Do we need to design feedback loops? For example, if you need to ensure that the user performs 3 additional process steps, what triggers or reinforcements are required? What notifications need to be in place to remind the user and motivate him/her to perform these steps? And how do we reward those behaviours?
Don’t forget the fun – This step may seem quite generic but nevertheless an important part of the design process. People prefer to perform tasks that are more fun. However, it is not always easy to determine what is considered fun. It is about incorporating the element of interest and fun where possible to increase engagement. For example, can the messaging or graphic design incorporate an element of fun? Or can the notification or reward elements be designed to incorporate fun?
Deploy appropriate tools – This is the action step. It is about choosing the right gamification tactic to deploy your change. There is a very long list of various gamification tactics to be leveraged. Here, we will review 10 different tactics and demonstrate examples from The Change Compass.
Now that we understand the theory and steps required. Let’s put these into practice.
10 example of gamification elements and how The Change Compass has applied this
The classic approach for change practitioners in implementing changes has tended to rely on training. However, depending on the change being introduced there are more engaging ways to socialise the change.
For example, with a new system there are tools to create context-specific walk-throughs and detailed explanations that are more engaging. These are not necessarily part of the tool design itself. There are digital tools such as Stonly, Help Hero, as well as a myriad of others that may be leveraged to easily design context-specific onboarding.
Here are some examples how we use context-specific onboarding walk-throughs and information.
At The Change Compass we love using the airport analogy because it explains the various components within the system that needs to hum for holistic portfolio change management. Each plane is an initiative and how the airport is run is portfolio management. The available runway is the business change capacity. Stakeholders understand this because it’s a tangible analogy that they have experienced first-hand.
We’ve embedded the airport theme in different parts of the application to create a sense of fun and visually more interesting. For example, here are some examples of how we have done this.
3. Random rewards
This tactic is about creating excitement and unexpected reward to surprise users in a positive way. Ideally, it would bring a smile to users since they were not expecting this pop-up or another form of reward.
For example, we have created various automation features to make it significantly faster for users to enter data. And when the task is completed we surprise users with a pop-up that celebrates this task completion.
The leaderboard concept is quite a common tactic to generate engagement and in this case competition. The idea is that those that have the highest points feel a sense of achievement and recognition. Please note that it depends on the motivation of users and may not work in all contexts.
We have created a user community to promote sharing of practices. In our platform there is a leaderboard that shows who has made the most comments.
Customisation gives users the ability to tailor and customise their experience. The more users spend time and effort to ‘create their space’ the more wedded and engaged they become. Most people are familiar with the concept of using avatars as an expression of themselves. This is another way of expressing who they are digitally.
In our application we allow users to upload their own avatars. In keeping with the overall airport analogy, we have ready-made avatars of different airline characters for them to choose from. Again, injection a bit of fun into the experience.
Challenges or quests keep users engaged and interested. It could arouse their curiosity and through this increase their likelihood of undertaking a particular task. It could be a question or a notification to let them know of a new feature. It could also be quizzes or Q&A to challenge users and thereby increasing their knowledge.
7. Sharing knowledge
Building features to allow users to share knowledge and support one another can be a motivating feature for some users. Helping others and building credibility can be intrinsic motivation for some. After all, helping others makes one feel good.
Our Change Tribe community has been a great platform for users to exchange tips and experiences. Different channels are setup to address different types of sharing. For example, ‘Feedback and features’, ‘Sharing practices’, ‘What’s new’, ‘Community tips’.
There are various platforms available for you to build community for users. It can be using your corporate Yammer platform, or others such as Slack or Tribe.
Giving users the ability to have a voice and share their feedback can be powerful and engaging. However, depending on the platform you are using you may need to manage the types of feedback that are openly shared. Giving users the ability to vote can also be quite powerful.
For example, at The Change Compass our features backlog is primarily determined by users and their feedback. This ensures that users feel that they determine how the application is designed and therefore feel more invested.
Having a clear and strong of meaning and purpose may seem like a no-brainer for change practitioners. Yet this is a very important one for game design. The most engaging games that instill a strong sense of purpose for the user, where the user feels emersed into executing on the purpose.
In the same way, designing meaning and purpose into all facets of the change intervention is critical. Ideally, with every step of the change journey, the user can feel ingrained into carrying out steps towards the purpose of the change.
For example, in The Change Compass we have an Action Planning module where the application steps the user through the analysis of the data, key observations, patterns, and what actions to take to potentially package or re-sequence the change rollout. This helps to directly address the overall purpose for the user in using the platform.
10. Social discovery
Social discovery is about enabling the support of users to find one another so that they can connect. This helps to support those with shared interests or connections. People are social creatures and we like to find others with whom we have shared interests. Think about designing your change intervention in a way that supports social discovery and networking.
For example, The Change Compass is about sharing initiatives across the organisation and the impacts they have on different parts of the company. Initiative drivers can discover other initiatives and how they may potentially impact the same stakeholders. This leads to better alignment and shared understanding and therefore makes it easier to collaborate for a better business outcome.
Now it’s your turn! What are some of the gamification tactics that you will deploy to improve stakeholder engagement and ensure your change initiative is designed with a view to creating a deeply involving experience for users?
To read more articles about agile practices within change management please click here. Or, to read more about different change approaches click here.