Why do organisations find themselves in trouble?  Do they lose sight of the strategy amongst the daily grind?  Was it even clear in the first place?  Have finances taken an unexpected knock or a changing political landscape delivered unforeseen impact? The bad times can seemingly come from nowhere.

What fascinates me most is how many of these problems can be traced back to people – their leadership, skills and behaviours.  How proactive have they been in identifying and making necessary changes?  Do organisations consider where culture or behaviour change play their part in driving success and warding off disaster? 

 The way people behave is one thing that can make a big difference. Those small interactions between individuals – the thinking, discussion, and collaboration are places where much power is held.  Cultural transformation starts with changes in the way that an individual behaves, followed by a few, demonstrated by a small team, showcased by a large group…and so on.

 Such change need not come from “the top” (though it is very helpful when senior players champion change themselves).  It can be just as powerful when groups of colleagues begin to try something new.   So much of our learning is imitative and it is the everyday behaviours of people that can determine the culture and way of working – the experience.  Some of the biggest movements start with a few people being brave enough to involve themselves with a new idea.

Taking time to work out these required behaviours, getting people going, providing permission to act, and then encouraging and rewarding them is critical.  First up though, investing time in shaping strategy is crucial.  I find the McKinsey 7S model really useful for analysing how well an organisation is positioned to achieve its intended purpose.  The model posits seven internal aspects of an organisation that must be aligned for success, ensuring full consideration of a whole range of dependencies – including the ever important focus on the skills and behaviours of people.

Consultants can often provide an objective analysis of the current state of play.  Staff are sometimes much more willing to be honest with someone from outside, share views openly, and frequently are full of great ideas that they just have not found the right way to express to those they work with regularly.

Having done the deep thinking, consulted with others, and identified useful actions to improve the chances of success, an organisation can then take steps to make necessary changes – introducing the behaviours that will “deliver”.   If the right internal resource is not available, consultants are valuable, bringing a mix of skills in and experience of organisational development.  Time investment may well be needed above the level of “business as usual” – consultancy or interim support can be used to fill these gaps.

Here are some suggestions to help deliver successful outcomes through a focus on skills and behaviour:

  • Analyse the strategy, plan for the future, build the project plan, agree success measurements – and know what behaviours and skills will deliver the outcomes you are after.
  • Share the goal, show people how their work fits with the overall direction, provide the right communications, state expected behaviour , offer skills development,  and be clear about how people play a part in getting the results.
  • Find those individuals with good social networks and the right behaviours, the skills you want to embed, that can help spread the message and enthuse others to join in: get them on board.
  • Reward the right behaviours and build your support team with new skills and knowledge.

With some good focus, a strong tail wind and some luck … this ought to help keep some  of the bad times at bay !