How to make organisational change actually happen


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written on August 1, 2017

The quest for excellence shouldn’t be confused with pursuing perfection, yet that’s a trap many organisations fall into.

Many workforce managers get caught up in developing the “perfect” plan required to deliver the outcomes they and their board desire. “This can be a case of missing the practicalities while sitting in the ivory tower” as will be discussed by Vicky Bartolacci, GM e3Learning, in Changing behaviours in the workplace – Decisions are good but actions are better at the 2017 AHRI National Convention this August.

With only 30% of change programs succeeding it appears making a decision or challenging current thinking is the easy part, taking action and making it happen is a little more difficult.

If you’re only as good as your last “deliverable,” then leaders in the organisation need endurance for the long haul as an organisation can’t turn on a dime in terms of processes and systems, and certainly not people.

So, what’s a workforce leader to do?

The focus has to shift to building a ‘change engine’. An engine requires all the pieces: people, processes, content and technology. These aren’t disparate pieces, but integrated functions in a machine that can run for the long term. The machine needs key pieces to function properly.


The machine has to have a solid strategy or blueprint. Starting with your employees and bringing that view through every step – from the first step all the way to how your team interacts with the changes you are making. This gives you a stable core from which to build outward, that can be replicated.


Content is the fuel for this machine, but it’s about more than just churning out a never-ending process of policy change notifications. Content that is useful, relevant and aligned to the employee’s journey is needed to run this machine. ‘More’ is not ‘better’ in terms of fuel, create and use what you need to engage your workforce, as anything else is wasteful. Fuel needs to provide the right information to the right person at the right time of their journey. To deliver this consistently across your whole organisation can be a challenge but is overcome by many by using tools like eLearning.

There are many options for an organisation, including to create their own fuel or to utilise content from third parties straight off the shelf. A barrier can sometimes be finding the right fuel for your employees, organisation, or challenge and you may want to commission a specialist to build the module or course for you.

Operating Manual

The machine can’t run without instructions on how your clients (employees) use it. The processes that govern how you listen for and respond to behavioural change are needed both to understand how the machine should be operating as well as how it should be built. How will you deliver that messaging and training across your business? How will you measure success and track individual change? A sustainable strategy and process needs to be in place beyond a spreadsheet, otherwise, it is not truly sustainable.


The right technology, built to the processes you engineer and integrating with the other elements of your strategy, keeps everything moving along. It can’t run without content or processes underlying it, but with this many moving parts, automation is necessary to manage the engine.


People are required to run this engine. Some are needed to build or oversee the individual pieces, and some are needed to feed it. Still others are needed to tinker with it when it needs a tune-up. Who in your team will be the specialists? Do you have champions at a local level?

Pursuing Excellence: Engineers Needed

The key to successfully running this machine is the ability to evaluate and optimise. The core shift that is needed to move from a “perfection” mind set to an “optimisation” one is the realisation that after you build it, the engine can be tweaked along the way to adjust for minor leaks or performance boost injections when needed. If you’re building an engine, you have the means to dig in, diagnose the issue and make adjustments.


Building the change engine means shifting from making a decision to taking action, from the pursuit of perfection to the pursuit of excellence, and making the changes necessary to support a sustainable approach to transformation. Remembering on your quest that your engine is the key for change.


A barrier to deploying the best solution can sometimes be finding the right fuel that you need or the cost to buy or build it.

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