I was very pleased to be invited to speak at the 7th Change Management Conference 2018 in Dubai, at which many different cultures were represented from the Middle East, Africa, USA, Canada and Europe. It offered a truly mixed perspective of change management and rich interaction with change professionals from around the world. The overall theme was about successful business transition, and my talk was about ‘Future proofing your organisation for constant fast-paced change’.
As change professionals, we spend a lot of time supporting others through change. The fact is that change is difficult. Yet it is also an enabler of growth, and this is the bit that doesn’t get as much ‘air time’. To develop and grow as people, we need to experience change. Every small thing we do differently (even taking a new route to work, or getting on a different bus), creates new connections in our brains – encouraging personal growth. So my trip to Dubai was beautifully balanced between giving to others and receiving back in kind.
The two day event presented and discussed case studies of how effective Change Management practices helped organisations adapt and respond to rapidly changing business environments, such as a Customs and Revenue authority modernising and streamlining their operations, a Ministry of Health building change readiness and a global Healthcare provider outsourcing key business functions to a third party. It covered how businesses can manage disruption, engage with stakeholders in a complex environment and create a culture where transformation is the norm, and change is embraced as part of daily work – there was even a debate about whether change for change sake should be encouraged to help build change readiness and capability.
Throughout the two days, the common message came back to ‘people’ and the need for engagement. The need to win people over at an emotional level so that they believe in the changes and can see how they have a part to play in making change happen. Qabas Shaer founder of Riforma Consulting talked about organisational storytelling. She highlighted that people need a shared purpose, which should be actively created rather than just communicated. She gave an example about a storytelling initiative she managed with a team, where they worked together to create a poem about the change journey they were about to embark on. It is a lovely piece of creative work, demonstrating engagement and collaboration through shared values, common goals, which were all underpinned at a deeper emotional level:
We are the river
As the river flows, our teamwork shows
In a straight line we go, like an arrow goes
There will be stones, there will be storms,
If we plan together, we can reach our goals
From the mountain we start
We’re guided with goals; so SMART
Our work together, unites the streams
They flow in the direction of our dreams
If only we realise how important our roles
If only we achieve our personal goals
To the river we flow, to the river we pray
Not even a drop of water loses its way
I was particularly touched by the last line, which holds so much meaning about the team’s values and what they were aiming for, that they would be completely together in their commitment to embarking on this quest for change.
One event, two days, new experiences, and lots of learning.
Change is essential for growth. We should remember that.