A Little More Conversation…


This week I hit some important milestones in my new role.

Following months of hard work, intense, detailed discussions and a lot of listening, we finalised our divisional vision statement, mission statement, values and strategic goals.

I’ve loved this process and despite the huge amount of energy that’s been put into this, it definitely feels like ‘energy well spent’. For me personally, having been involved in large scale business transformation programmes, and having lead on much smaller scale business improvement programmes, this one has felt different for a range of reasons.

Around 12 months ago I made a conscious decision to find a role back into a manufacturing environment, having spent most of my career in the mining and metals industries before accepting a role in the healthcare sector. I missed heavy industry and I wanted to return to it.

Secondly, following some comments from the CIPD when rejecting my fellowship membership upgrade, I took on board the feedback received and realised that in order to progress my career to where I wanted it to go, I had to move away from the operational HR environments that I had spent most of my career in, an area where i was completely safely in my comfort zone, to take on more Organisational Development activities. So when this role came up 4 months ago, I had to have it.

So this week was special, defining the Vision, Mission, Values and Goals was the first vital OD task, or first major stage in an overall OD task, that was completed. I believe, strongly, in what we’ve done so far.

Secondly, this week, following a 6 week process, we finished surveying 180 employees within our division, seeking feedback on how our employees feel about their place of work. I like to think this was more than just an employee engagement survey. It was nothing cutting edge or particularly innovative, but it was important. It was a clear message to our employees that we wanted and needed everyone’s input into shaping how our place of work is going to be in the future. The true test of this activity will be when my colleagues see that their comments have been listened to, and acted upon where necessary.

So this week has been great and I feel awesome about it. I’m really proud of what me, my colleagues and my team have achieved so far. But it’s just the start.

I’m very aware from articles and blog posts I have read, largely through my #PLN (particularly from Neil Morrison’s Change Effect blog) that changing and improving the workplace isn’t about the grand gestures. I’m very aware the strategy, at this point, is just words. “Change”, is about a collection of small, effective steps; incremental stages and demonstrations of intent.

What I have learned from this process so far, is not that putting words together that sound awesome are going to transform a workplace.

What i’ve learned is that real change starts with conversation. Through listening to colleagues who want to tell you about their experiences both good and bad, and impart their words of wisdom on you. Through long-serving employees who have given their lives to the company and have been proud to do so. Through listening to the newly promoted managers about how they hope the business looks after them and supports them on a life-long journey. Through conversing with senior managers about how they are going to take on board comments fed back to them to change the service that their departments offer the business. Through chatting with people outside the business about their experiences with the company.

I’ve learned that change begins with not being afraid to kick over the rocks and that every new item of information uncovered is an opportunity to create meaningful actions that can make workplaces better. And not just better for the majority, but better for maybe even one individual who is looking for something from his employer that might be completely different to what everyone else wants.

But I’ve also learned that change can be scary for some, and that level of fear should not be underestimated.

Finally i’ve learned that this isn’t going to be easy, but can be extremely powerful because if the passion i’ve seen and experienced so far is increased by even a small margin, wonderful things could happen.