No one ever changed the world with a PowerPoint presentation.
It’s a salutary reminder that we can, sometimes, risk losing touch with the “human” part of the human resources equation. Sam Netherwood, who leads on Behavioural Change Design at data analytics consultancy Mudano, gave us a compelling 20 minutes on the importance of testing your ideas in the real world and creating experiences that resonate with your people.
We know Sam’s work well here at Clear Review: he was part of the team that delivered continuous performance management at examination awarding body AQA (you can read our case study right here). AQA’s story is a great example of a team getting deep into the challenges through listening work, then creating a strong and focussed recommendation that was stress-tested as it was implemented. It’s also an excellent blueprint for getting stakeholder buy-in and challenging management assumptions of what is possible through performance management.
During his talk, Sam continually referred back to the importance of workplace environment as a catalyst for growth. He created a plan based around promoting three pillars of better performance management — goals, feedback and relationships — and then designed scenarios and tests to prove their effectiveness. Making things happen in the real world, rather than on paper, has the benefit of creating advocates along the way. Once you’ve persuaded people that the new ways can bring positive change, they help you sell the idea in to the rest of the organisation.
Take check-in meetings, for example. It’s easy to tell people that the organisation doesn’t do annual appraisals any more, and that regular check-ins are taking their place. But if you continue to do those check-ins in the same meeting room you’ve always used for the annual appraisal, people will associate them with the legacy way of thinking. When you worry about your appraisal, your adrenaline kicks in and triggers your flight reflex. But if you find alternative ways of having those check-ins — walking around the campus, perhaps, or going to a coffee shop — then you remove that barrier to adoption. People instantly feel that this is a different process. As Sam put it, “There’s no hierarchy at a picnic table.”
Environment — the conditions an organisation provides for its people to thrive — should always be your first thought when you want to change that behaviour. We’ll leave you with a final analogy — possibly stolen from Gandhi — that supports this point.
“The gardener doesn’t blame the seed when it fails to grow”.
If you’d like to know more about what we do and how we can help you turn your broken annual appraisal system into a continuous culture of meaningful conversations, you can check out our short demo film or get in touch right here.