Strategies For Managing Change – Use Your Walls

Introduction
No matter what kind of change you’re introducing to an organization, ultimately you’re seeking a change in behavior. Modify behavior, and you’ll modify results.As you’re focusing on people, process and technology, don’t overlook the physical environment. You probably already realize the importance of a well designed workspace to people’s productivity and job satisfaction. That work environment also offers you the opportunity to reinforce important priorities and influence people’s thinking.The Balanced ScorecardI was facing a difficult challenge in the category of strategies for managing change. I was new in my leadership assignment and new to the company. The people I had inherited were already working as hard as they could. The hours were long, the deadlines tight. Their internal clients were constantly hitting them with demands for new systems and capabilities.At the same time, all of the operational indicators for the organization were moving in the wrong direction. We were billing millions of customers, and our billing error rate was climbing. Applications were experiencing outages and systems availability was below 98%, totally unacceptable in this day and age.

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Operational pressures and business demands were colliding, and IT was caught in the middle. This was the classic opportunity to introduce a balanced scorecard, and so we did.The scorecard had some positive impact, and at least it got my leadership team on the same page in focusing on the right metrics and attempting to deal with competing priorities. But our improvements weren’t enough, and we quickly hit a wall. People were still operating in their silos, focusing on what they understood to be their priorities.Then someone came up with an interesting idea. Why not blow up the balanced scorecard into a color coded, three foot by five foot display and post it on the walls? More specifically, with several hundred people in the organization spread across three floors in two buildings, we would place the scorecard strategically in places it could not be missed. Elevator lobbies, break rooms and rest rooms all had available wall space we could commandeer.What happened? People talked. They sometimes made mocking comments. But they paid attention each week, not so much to the numbers but to the colors. (And eventually they came to understand what numbers resulted in what colors). They got excited when measures moved from red to yellow to green. They got inquisitive when something moved the wrong way, and suddenly improvement ideas started to be shared across the old silos.We had succeeded in not just creating a balanced scorecard, but in making it part of our culture. And we had done so by making that scorecard part of the physical environment in which people worked – by hanging it on the walls.Another ExampleI visited a client a year or so ago, one of the largest banks in the U.S. I was at their headquarters, walking through the part of the complex that housed a large portion of their customer service organization, including senior management and one of their biggest call centers.This bank was in the process of instituting a series of process and technology changes aimed at improving customer service. And throughout their headquarters there were banners on the ceilings and the walls that reinforced specific parts of the change program.The monitors placed throughout the work areas that regularly displayed call center performance had periodic “commercials” tied to their change program. For this bank, one of their main strategies for managing change was this: change the environment in order to change the culture.

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It’s a brilliant strategy, and it’s all too often overlooked. Bank management had managed to get thousands of people talking a new language, focusing on new processes. Lots of businesses have employees who talk about improving customer service; at this bank they talked specifically about how they were improving customer service.Virtual WorkforceWhat about strategies for managing change when people aren’t co-located? Or when the business is smaller and perhaps is not able to exercise total control over the physical space in which people work?Consider standard headers and trailers on email messages; try flash advertising or messages on the corporate intranet. Be creative.Your goal is really simple. When people are “at work”, whether that’s real or virtual space, use the environment they are in as a constant reminder of where you want them to focus, what you want them to be talking about, where you need them to take the business.Use direct mail if you have to. Online newsletters or instant messages can serve as constant reminders.It’s the most overlooked strategy for managing change – the work environment.