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Working in the records and information management field I am constantly involved in projects delivering outcomes that always result in some level of change to processes or systems, which will have an impact on staff.  How well this change is managed can easily mean success or failure of a project.

I recently participated in a virtual change management summit that was conducted by Change Management Review in the United States.  The summit included a range of speakers from around the globe including, Helen Palmer and Dr Jennifer Frahm from Australia.  The presentations provided some interesting insights into the human and organisational psyches.

  • Utilising communications to facilitate change, as the presenter Caroline Kealey noted, “nothing changes without communication”. An interesting point was made in this presentation – thinking of the organisation as a community with tribes – cultivating those tribes, creating opportunities for conversations, telling a story – where are we going; where have we come from, have clear compelling statements that are constant and reassuring and can be ramped up or down according to the project.
  • The storytelling approach was highlighted in an intriguing presentation on how our brains react to change. Our brains are not built for 21st century corporate life but are attuned to avoiding threats rather than to seek out rewards. Storytelling as a means of communication activates more parts of the brain and is a way of planting an idea in a more empathetic way – much more effective than bullet points on a slide.  Hilary Scarlet in this presentation noted that – “the brain of an adult going through change is equivalent to a teenager’s brain”.  Very interesting I thought and quite challenging at the same time. 
  • Jason Little, discussed transforming traditional approaches to change management by aligning change with agile project management principles and values. Thinking about the agile approach which focuses on cross functional teams working toward a goal; using visualisation techniques such as work on a wall; do regular stand-ups – get in front of the wall to see what is going on; what needs to be changed; involve the people who have to live with the consequence of the change into the design process, involve trainers and other change professionals.
  • Jennifer Frahm dispelled the myth that 70% of change projects fail. No basis in research can be found for this statistic but projects with a change approach have 2.5 x financial benefit. So we have to improve our practice, engage leaders in conversations and build a change capability for sustainability.
  • Helen Palmer discussed organisation change with a design sensibility.  Taking a human centred design approach rather than a business approach to design to affect organisational change.  She outlined utilising the UK Design Council’s Double Diamond Design Process when dealing with complexity in organisational change. The steps of which are to discover, define, develop and deliver, however, aligning this design approach with human factors such as trust, hope compassion and stability.

This is a brief overview of some of the presentations.  For someone involved in projects that constantly involve some level of change the summit provided fantastic insights into change management thinking from experts in the field.

What have I taken away from the summit?

  • A change strategy and plan should be part of any project regardless of how big or small the change.
  • Communication with clear and concise messages is key.
  • Look to the experts for new and innovative ways to affect change.

About the author

Adelle Ford has worked in the information and records management sector since 1979, having been employed in various capacities by both public and private sector organisations. Adelle has developed records management policies, strategic plans and operational procedures for large scale organisations operating in legislatively complex business environments. As a consultant to Pillar Administration, Adelle was responsible for project managing the organisation’s Records Management Program, and designing and implementing policies and procedures. Adelle has experience in TRIM administration and in project implementation. Having conducted a number of functional software specifications, Adelle possesses a sound knowledge of a number of EDRMS products and is experienced in software configuration. Adelle has taught records management courses through Sydney Institute (TAFE).