Leading & Learning – creating green jobs: Managing Change & Influencing Webinar

As part of the 'Leading and Learning – creating green jobs' programme it became apparent early on in the programme that if both officers and members were to achieve the deliverables from the challenges that they had set, then they would need to effect change within their authority and indeed within the larger system. As one delegate insightfully put “we are all change agents now, aren’t we?”. And one of the key elements of managing change is identifying, communicating with, engaging, and influencing a myriad of stakeholders.


We ran the Managing Change & Influencing Webinar on April 14 2021. We used various frameworks including John Kotter’s eight steps for transformation, Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis (FFA) and research carried out by myself and also from Prosci.

Kotter’s eight steps are:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Get the vision right
  • Communicate for buy-in
  • Empower action
  • Create short-term wins
  • Align structures, systems, policies and skills – don’t let up!
  • Make change stick by anchoring firmly in the organisation’s culture.

Kotter’s framework is one of the most popular frameworks for change and is useful, at the very least, to understand where you and your project are on the change journey.

A more granular framework – our own, Hexagon Model of Change was also presented which asked key questions which needed answering at each stage of the change process across a number of dimensions: 

  • Task – organising and implementing change
  • People and process – mobilising and aiding transition
  • Leadership – orientating, focusing and integrating change

Key takeaways included the following:

Although those of us in this field know the sense of urgency it is important that we ensure that stakeholders also have that urgency, and this can be done through evidence based data and powerful, and tangible stories of the consequences of inaction;

Coupled with this catalyst for change must be a vision of the future which is motivating and for this we made reference to a cartoon which looked at the tremendous benefits and co-benefits of working towards a green recovery and tackling climate change – preserving rainforests, sustainable products and services, green jobs, liveable cities, clean water, clean air, healthier children, etcetera, etcetera.

Exemplar authorities were doing two significant things – engaging with all stakeholder groups and working towards ensuring that sustainability was becoming part of the DNA of the organisation – all policies were being checked for potential adverse impacts on the environment.

During the whole programme, we had made good use of Lewin’s Force Field Analysis which helps visualise the current and desired future state and the various forces at play which are driving or enabling movement or restraining progress. These forces are likely to include: personal; interpersonal; group; inter-group; cultural; administrative; technological; financial; environmental elements, including oneself!

The key to getting forward movement was not to rely solely on increasing the driving forces – it might work for newton but can merely increase resistance when dealing with human systems. No, by focussing on the restraining forces – often people – and engaging and influencing them, you can sometimes ‘flip them’ onto the positive side.

Delegates were also introduced to the five colour paradigms of change, developed by Léon de Caluwé and Hans Vermaak, which “present five fundamentally different ways of thinking about change, each representing different beliefs systems and convictions about how change works, the kind of interventions that are effective, how to change people, etc. They are labelled by colour: yellow, blue, red, green, and white print thinking. Each is based upon a family of theories about change. These five models function as communication and diagnostic tools and provide a map of possible change strategies.”

We looked at what sort of change leadership behaviours are essential – not just in general change situations but especially when tackling environmental and sustainability challenges. We used the Leadership Qualities Framework developed by Esther Cameron and myself. Our research suggested that in every change situation, change agents need to be able to demonstrate the following or have people on the team who can exhibit these qualities. Different weighting is required for different change situations but all these qualities are necessary, to some degree, and in some configuration. To help understand the qualities we gave each a name, a personification of the quality, an avatar if you will:

The Edgy Catalyser, with a focus on what needs to change, who acts as a catalyst and creates urgency and discomfort. They would create and maintain awareness of the climate emergency; spot when and where stakeholders are reneging on promises; and focus on where there are blockages in the system.

The Thoughtful Architect, with a focus on developing a well-thought through strategy, and acting as “grand designer” of the strategy, create possible scenarios for us to step into. They would ensure they have an understanding of the whole ecosystem; would be working up scenarios and crafting strategies; and ensure feedback loops inform the evolving strategies.

The Visionary Motivator, with a focus on engaging people and sign-posting them towards a desirable future, acting as an empathetic coach, envisioning, motivating, and inspiring. They need to develop a positive sustainable vision of the future, with others; attracting people to the vision and the call to action; and having sustained energy and enthusiasm for the onward journey.

The Measured Connector, with a focus on aligning and connecting disparate interests and interest groups, acting as a connector, whilst being ethically grounded and measured. They are clear about the mission and who needs to be on the journey; excellent at developing trusting partnerships and collaborations; whilst ensuring that disparate parts of the system are fully connected.

The Tenacious Implementer, with a focus on developing a plan and seeing it through, acting as project manager, and being a “completer finisher”. They translate the sustainable strategy into practical actions; establish metrics, roles, responsibilities; and hold people to account on their deliverables.

Summary

As mentioned earlier, delegates heard some best practice research and it is probably a good way to summarise the key elements from the webinar. The number one contributor to change success is to have ongoing, active, visible and effective sponsorship. There needs to be a clear rationale and compelling reason to change with a clearly articulated direction, end point and motivation for change. There also needs to be a clear sense of how the process will be managed.

On-going, focused, tailored communication of direction and progress and demonstrable engagement with stakeholders is a pre-requisite for successful change implementation as is having a credible effective dedicated change management team, with a well planned and organised approach. That approach requires attention to the task of change, the people involved in the change, and the process of change.

Dr Helen Stride and Mike Green, Transitional Space