I get lots of questions from people who want to initiate change in an organisation that doesn’t want to change.
It’s a very common question as many employees find themselves working in a culture that sees change as something that is scary and to be avoided at all cost, or simply not required.
In order to bring about change, and assuming you have no controling power (i.e. CEO, Director, Exec) you need to slowly nudge the business in the right direction. And usually it takes time. Lots of time. And it’s always painful – at least in my experience.
Of course, you should be aware that your view on what change is needed may not actually be what the company does need.
It may be that you have changed and need to find a different company to work in. It could be that with more information you’ll change your ideas about what needs to change.
But if you are sure the organisation needs to change it’s approach or process and you have no direct controlling power over that change then prepare yourself for a long fight.
But what follows are ways to make that long fight just a little bit shorter. What follows are 10 Ways To Initiate Change In An Organisation That Doesn’t Want To Change.
1. Start collaborating
Find like minded people in your organisation and start sharing ideas, product knowledge, skills and experience. I absolutely guarantee that there will be somebody in your organisation that also sees a need to change.
Network like crazy. Use the intranet or wiki. Seek out those who want to change and bring everyone together around a common set of discussions.
A wiki is a great tool to do this. Applications like Confluence are super good. Alternatives might be Evernote, Dropbox or a private Google+ circle. Even a good old fashioned face-to-face meeting with hand written notes is good.
The important part is to start sharing ideas with like minded people.
In some organisations you may have to keep these discussions and ideas “underground”. This is a shame but a reality many of us have faced. Don’t let that stop you though. If you want to change the organisation for the better then sometimes the “underground” approach is an effective way of doing it.
Of course, don’t do anything that will risk you losing your job. And if you do work in an environment where you could lose your job for trying to make positive changes, then you may want to focus your energy on plotting your career escape instead.
2. Go to an event
Try to locate some budget to take the whole team (like minded people) to an event, or find a great free event you can all get to.
Doesn’t have to be a big conference like a major international one – a local meetup or one day mini-conference will do the trick also. A shared experience around topics you’re interested in can often unite people in a way no other activity will.
3. Give people a central resource centre to go to
Start creating a library of resources and learning. This could be a physical library of books, or a wiki page with suggested reading/watching. A wiki page where employees can work through videos, online articles, internal training resources and reading lists is a great way of sharing knowledge.
4. Make it regular
Start a regular meeting in which you encourage people to share their learning, ideas, resources and other information that may be useful in bringing about change. Try to make it a safe and friendly place to share ideas and treat everyone with respect, no matter how wild their ideas may be.
Keep notes and records and start to build up collateral you can present to management or start experimenting around.
5. Pair with other people in the same role
Start pairing with other people in the same role in an effort to learn more about what they do, but also to help to build relationships. Relationships are super important – see point 8. To lead change you need to have strong relationships.
If there is no one else in your business doing the same role then consider pairing with someone in a different company doing the same role. Be careful about data protection etc but buddying or pairing with others outside of your organisation is a great way to find new ways of working.
6. Engage with people from other roles
Seek out people in different roles within your organisation and learn about their work. Try to understand what works for them and what does not. Do the improvement you think need to be made have a positive or negative effect on others? What else needs to change? Are their more important changes that need to be made?
7. Socialise Ideas (constantly)
Start socialising your improvement ideas with anyone who will listen. In my experience, planting the seed of an idea can make discussions about change easier later down the line. Get feedback on the ideas. Talk to people about how the future could be different. Listen to others.
8.Build relationships across the business
Set up one2ones with people who can help change the process such as scrum masters, senior devs, managers of departments – it’s all about relationships.
Start talking about the change you want to see and get insights in to how they view these changes. Is it more political than you first thought?
Are these ideas already being discussed by other groups?
Are there other changes in the pipeline that simply have not been communicated?
9. Read a lot
Read some or all of the following books from the “Resources” section on my website. Go to your book store and buy books on anything to do with leadership and change. Borrow books from the library. Find websites, blogs, podcasts and free resources online to help you learn more about change.
But be careful. At some point the research needs to end and the knowledge you’ve gleaned needs to be put in to practice; daily consistent practice.
10. Build case studies
Start gathering interesting trends about the work you’re doing – and then socialise these with the rest of the business.
Find other companies doing something similar and see what you can learn from them. Invite guest speakers in to talk about how they have changed their businesses. Find example in the mainstream press of companies having great success after changing their business or process.
People often respond better by knowing that others have had success with these changes you propose.
This all takes time though and it can sometimes be a futile activity, but rest assured there will be others who share your enthusiasm for change. There will also be people who don’t want to change and who put up blocker after blocker to curb your enthusiasm. Keep trying though. Don’t give in until you’ve explored as many options as you have the energy for. And if you still don’t succeed then it may be an opportunity to look for another role elsewhere.