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The 7-Step Change Process

7steps.jpgW Edward Deming estimated that 90% of the problems that might be blamed on individuals in the workplace are a result of having them working in bad processes or systems. He fundamentally believed in human beings and their capacity to learn and perform. We need to think as broadly as possible in analysing the real issues that the organisation is facing – whether at the strategic level, the department, the team and the individual.

We have developed a process which we use when discussing organisational change programs and encompassing the elements which most support effective change. In our mind, it is useful to put a context for every piece of learning with which we are involved, and that is to imagine it as a change project. Whether we are working with an individual, with a team or with the whole organisation, people are going to process themselves through a period of change – they are doing one thing at the moment and perhaps we need them to do an alternative thing in the future, or we are adding new tasks to their responsibilities.

We know how often change programs fail or do not deliver all that was promised. Learning Professionals face this constantly when asked to provide specific learning programs. We know that individual events – a training course – have limited success. Professor Brinkerhoff goes so far as to suggest that in behavioural change no more than 5% of participants successfully apply the learning and make the expected behavioural change in the workplace.

So we need a process that aligns with the best practices of change projects and we outline our process below as an indication of the factors we consider when advising a company on a learning initiative.

Clarify your goals


Depending on the client, we will either accept the Goal or the Outcome defined by the client or work with them to define the actual performance need of the business, the team or the individual We have a number of tools which we can use to assist in developing this Goal, bringing clarity to the measureable results required and then what critical behaviours, skills and knowledge are required in the workplace to deliver the outcome.

We recognise that behavioural change does not happen on its own. We need to ensure that the culture actually will support the changes expected – there is no point in developing creative thinking if no-one asks the individual for their considered opinion on how to solve a problem. There is little purpose in developing coaching as a leadership competency if some of the bosses think this is a waste of time.

Once we have defined the goals, we then understand the knowledge, skills and behaviours that need to be present in the workplace. These are observable behaviours, very much as defined in behavioural competency frameworks. To assist this process, we have access to some 40 competencies and can provide 360 questionnaires to measure both before and after the learning process.

To ensure people are participating in the change, they must be confident that they can trust the process – it is robust and has been thought through - and the people, not only who are delivering the program but those around them in the workplace, most notably their boss.

Any learning can be challenging and participants must be able to build their confidence in using new behaviours, skills and knowledge. They must be given space to practise and to make mistakes; only then can they become confident in delivering the change into the workplace.

The company must build the support structures to reinforce learning – e.g. coaching, ongoing learning, mentoring – depending on the change that is being expected.

Finally, because the analytical work was undertaken at the outset, it is relatively easy to measure whether the expected result has been delivered on a consistent basis in the workplace, Have expectations been met: can we measure quantitatively, qualitatively or financially?.

In some organisations, it is clear that Learning personnel do not have the skills and the toolkit to analyse the issues around the organisation. When interacting with other key players, the following issues may arise:

  • the Learning analyst, overly focused on human relationships, ignores hard organisational system level performance data
  • the operational manager may not be able to see that would put the trees; so deeply embroiled in the day to day operation, he or she may simply not be able to position themselves to recognise any systemic issues, and therefore blame individuals for poor performance

We can provide an outside view of the issues and help the people involved to truly define the root cause of the problems they face and develop the solutions that will encourage the change that is required.


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