How do you change performance and results? By changing behaviours
“There has been an ingrained culture, a way of working. It is pretty impressive to be changing that in such a short project.” – Graeme Law, Environmental Services Manager, Peterborough City Council
If your strategy relies on changing behaviours to get results, then you are in the right place.
Over the years we have helped many clients bring about performance change in their organisations: performance often based upon changes in the culture and behaviours.
Even so, it would be wrong to claim that a mere strategic balanced scorecard alone (of any generation) will bring about those sort of deep behavioural changes. Alone, they won’t. Alone, they can’t.
Why Balanced Scorecards alone, even strategic ones, are not enough to create deep behavioural and cultural change
We have been involved in around sixty balanced scorecard projects.
“Our Balanced Scorecard roll out has been fantastic in helping with conversations and dialogue. It has forced our managers to think more strategically and talk to their teams about what is important.” – Chris Ingram, Operations Director Adepta
Some have been simpler implementations of operational scorecards: they help improve performance a little. When you focus on operational performance, how people meet, what they discuss, what drives performance, the measures and targets, and give people the tools to understand and discuss performance, of course things will change.
Many have been supporting significant strategic change programmes with strategic balanced scorecards managing the execution of the strategy. If your strategy is about organisational change then a strategic balanced scorecard will help you define, focus and deliver that change, through your change programme. This is the classic role of systematic strategic management that the strategic balanced scorecard approach provides. If you have been down a process re-engineering approach, restructuring or reorganisation, you will know what I mean. We have been involved in plenty of these. The skills of facilitation and change management alongside the strategic balanced scorecard components will help bring about these changes.
“To get the number of regions up and running with the strategy, to the extent we have, in the timescale, is very positive. It is better than we have done previously.” – Steve Scown, Director, Dimensions
However, if your strategy involves fundamentally changing behaviours in the organisation, to achieve significant performance changes, then you definitely need something extra. You need a much richer model of change than even strategic balanced scorecards normally provide.
That is what we are interested in here. Over the years we have been involved in quite a few of these behavioural based strategic change programmes. Now I will be frank: while some of these have created substantial change, others have not had such a dramatic difference. In some cases the culture changed substantially but not in all cases. In some cases it changed and remained changed: in others the change did not stick.
This leads to the question, “What made the difference?” What was it about the successful ones that made the new behaviours and culture stick? The reasons lie more in how the strategic change programme is run than the Strategic Balanced Scorecard approach.
Culture reflects ‘Deeply embedded learnt behaviours’
“The amount of change you have helped us create in the organisation has been terrific. There has been an ingrained culture, a way of working. It is pretty impressive to be changing that in a 5 month project. We have not embedded things, in the same way, before.” – Trevor Gibson, Director Environmental Services, Peterborough City Council
Years ago we realised that organisational culture is a learnt behaviour. It is learnt from peers, from managers, from executives. You see this in how people get assimilated into organisations and adapt their behaviours in the first few weeks.
Sometimes behaviours are encouraged as people learn, “this is how we do things around here”. Sometimes behaviours are discouraged. If someone tries to change things, and gets kicked back two or three times they soon give up and retreat into their box. They learn not to try again.
Over time, these learnt behaviours become embedded. Over time they become deeply embedded. Over time they become what we call “the culture”.
We call these ‘deeply embedded learnt behaviours’. Deeply embedded learnt behaviours are not easy to change. Some people say ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, which seems defeatist to us. If your strategy is being eaten by your existing culture, then to us that simply means you need a better strategy to bring about your cultural change: a change strategy that addresses how behaviours are embedded and explicitly seeks to create and embed new learnt behaviours.
So, how do you change deeply embedded learnt behaviours?
So, what might that better strategy for cultural change be? Working with executives who have been successful in changing deeply embedded behaviours over the years, we realised that there were characteristics of their approach and behaviours that were common.
So, a few years ago, our Chief Executive, Phil Jones, started interviewing executives who have fundamentally changed the performance of their organisations, by changing the culture and behaviours. The interviewees were carefully selected. This was not simply about changing the performance or results. The interviewed executive must have set out to explicitly change the organisation’s “deeply embedded learnt behaviours”.
“The interviewed executive must have set out to explicitly change the organisation’s ‘deeply embedded learnt behaviours’. “
Those interviews have been extremely revealing. They have turned around failing organisations ranging from manufacturing and service companies to hospitals and utilities. There is a theme of humanity, despite having to take hard measures, sometimes making people redundant and sacking others. They all changed the culture and the results. They all tackled the deeply embedded learnt behaviours creating a new, more productive culture, as well as turning around their organisations.
A consistent approach towards behavioural change
These Executives all exhibited a similar pattern and approach towards behavioural change.
“This is how we should manage in the second decade of the 21st century”
We characterised the approach as “It’s about behaviours, stupid!”. It has various themes that include obliquity, a rhythm of change, permissions, releasing butterflies from jars, and creating a compelling imperative. One interviewee characterised the way of thinking as, “This is how we should manage in the second decade of the 21st century”
It is their thinking and approach that we have incorporated into, and alongside, our strategic balanced scorecard approach. Some aspects were already familiar to us and we have used them over the years to help clients bring about significant cultural change. Other parts have clarified and enhanced our approach. In fact, it is such a significant shift of thinking and emphasis that it forms the Transformation Module of the Excitant Fourth Generation Strategic Balanced Scorecard approach.
“Even five years on, we are still using the approach you helped us develop. It has been central to building our capability as a department and focusing on delivery to our clients.” – Mike Martin, Managing Director, Anglian Water Technical Services
Persistent solutions for our clients
This is not a one-off process. We pride ourselves on building your skills and capabilities, so you can maintain and run the approach yourselves.
Visiting Anglian Water 5 years after our initial work they still had their strategy map on the wall: refined and updated, but recognisably the same approach, updated as their strategy had been updated. Similarly with the IT department of OCBCD, the Singaporean Bank. Talking to them again several years later, they acknowledged how important our work was to the successful implementation of their IT Strategy.
Are you serious about change? Then what next?
If you are serious about a strategy that changes performance, you have to be serious about changing behaviours: especially those deeply embedded learnt behaviours.
“Only use Excitant if you are genuinely committed to the high level goals and improved organisational capabilities of a strategy-driven organisation” – Ben Ticehurst, Deputy Chief Executive, Peterborough City Council
Does your strategy rely on changing behaviours and performance?
Does your strategy rely on changing behaviours to get results?
Are you looking for ways to ensure that your strategy delivers, by addressing those deeply embedded learnt behaviours?
Then, to explore how we might help, simply contact us