The NewLeaf International Principles of Transformational Change Part 10 'Create a Sense of Urgency'

In the last of the series, I’d like to talk about “creating a sense of urgency”.

Of course this doesn’t only relate to implementing business improvements and Transformational Change programmes it is also important on a day-to-day basis too.

As Operational or Technical Managers, we often approach change in a very linear or binary approach, but creating a sense of urgency has Psychology and Behavioural Science at its heart.

If you remember in previous Newsletters we have talked about the importance of encouraging people to “think differently” when looking to improve work systems as part of a change programme. Which then leads to better and sustained results. To encourage people to think differently we need to encourage them to do things differently and if they’re only doing those different things infrequently they will never retain that new thinking that comes from performing old and new tasks differently.

Behavioural Science suggests that humans learn in very similar ways to animals (be careful how you tell your colleagues that!) and repetitive training of “doing things in a new way” produce new habits. (Remember Pavlov’s dog experiments? Look them up!) So, as part of a change programme, if we want people to use improved systems and ways of working, however simple, such as new data collection processes, new standard operating practices or new work instructions, introduce these with very frequent activities, so the new thinking leads to new behaviour.

The diagram below shows two washing lines that represent change interventions.


The first washing line diagram has two large posts and between the posts the line itself sags in the middle. This is to illustrate the effect on a change programme. If you imagine the posts to be large activities or interventions, between the activities the workforce are not involved in new things and are forced to return to old thinking and behaviours associated with the past. This is not conducive to encouraging people to change their habits and conducive to creating new behaviours and therefore ultimately a new culture.

The second part of the diagram shows washing lines propped up with more posts but shorter and more frequently spaced, which means the washing line or the employee involvement is propped up with activities more frequent than the first washing line. Relating this back to activities in a change programme, then employees do different tasks and participant in new activities more frequently, which encourages different behaviour in line with the new ways of working and thinking that the transformation requires.

We have examples where organisations design programmes with interventions, but instead of the doing things every day or every week, they do things “if and when they can” or only once a month or at the end of a schedule and this does not change behaviour. In fact, it actually does the opposite and it also shows that the management team aren’t totally committed to bringing positive change into the organisation.

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209