How does change affect people’s behaviours? Our Managing Director Lucy Trueman reflects on the use of profiling and mapping tools during change journeys.
As change professionals many of us are well versed in the ups and downs people experience when working through change and transformation in the workplace. Although for many of us who specialise in this field, change and the uncertainty around it can be exciting, exhilarating and keeps us on our toes, many people find it difficult.
In the public sector change programmes can often be extremely complex, with aspects covering technology, digital change, structural change and commercialisation. Often the people-side of change can be neglected. When pace is fast, little resource is devoted to supporting people through change.
Recent years have seen unprecedented change in many aspects of the public sector and we are seeing that instability can bring out the best and worst in people. So what tools do we have at our disposal to understand this? Recently, I spent a couple of days in a barn in Hathersage with the clever folk at Mindflick and learned that the answer, surprisingly, is about cats and cheese!
Mindflick are a company of performance psychologists who have been building a range of tools to help people better understand their own preferences and styles around how they work. I’m sure many of you have experienced profiling tools of some description over the course of your career and having insight about yourself and where your blind spots may be is always useful. What I found particularly interesting about their Spotlight profiling tool was how it combined personality preferences with mindset. Mindset is fluid: we see changes in behaviour in different environments. Any experienced change professional or leader will tell you behaviour changes when there’s something to win or lose. But what can we learn from this and how can we better understand it?
Using the metaphor of sensitivity to cats (risk) and cheese (reward) makes it easier to unpick some of the behaviours we see during a change journey. During uncertain times some of us chase reward, others are more motivated by fear of risk and there will be some people who just aren’t that bothered by either. I have seen this play out at an organisational level many times, where there can be tension between delivery-focused services (for example, teams wanting to invest in their place/community) and corporate services who are often described as “risk averse” or “blockers”. Perhaps this clash of cultures is down to different preferences?
When organisations are going through change, it propels those involved into a state of instability, and can often create a situation where there is something to be lost or gained. Having an understanding about how your team will react to this and which key players will focus on the potential reward (“this change will make things better”) or on the potential risk (“what problems could this present us”) places leaders in a better place to support colleagues through the journey.
What I liked about the “cats and cheese” metaphor was that the language was accessible, and by talking about these theories in groups, we can start to describe the behaviour and understand others with different viewpoints. The key thing is, there is no right or wrong here.
To really affect change you need a balanced group of people driving it, who as a collective can keep sight of both the reward and the risks and not become overly driven by just one aspect. By profiling a leadership team and key stakeholders around a change programme, we can map out these preferences and create a shared language, to reduce conflict and prepare a group of people for the potential changes in their behaviour to come. As always, the magic isn’t in the profiling itself, but in the group discussions and shared understanding that follows.
On a personal note, when I completed the profiling tool, it appears I’m sensitive to both cats and cheese. Perhaps that’s a by-product of the emotional roller coaster that is having your own business!
Do you think you’re focused on cats or cheese? Have you seen behaviours which support this theory in your organisation when change is happening? How have you prepared teams for change journeys?