When we talk about data-driven cultures, what do we mean? What are the individual and organizational characteristics we look to cultivate? In this series of blogs, we will share three key strategies relating to people, process, and organizational change that lead to successful data-driven cultures
In our prior post on data-driven cultures, we discussed why you need to systematize your decision-making processes so that they can be learned, practiced, and improved daily.
This post examines why adopting a formal change management process is essential for your transformation to a data-driven culture.
Organizations feel pressure to adapt and change as they scale and operationalize advanced analytics solutions, but they often don’t have a formal process to help sustain the change over time. This problem grows as the number of advanced analytics projects proliferates, magnifying the impact of change by introducing new ways of communicating, working, and making decisions.
Leaders need to understand the conditions under which change is likely to occur and implement a clear methodology for helping people plan for and adapt to the change necessary to transform into a data-driven culture.
Why and How People Change
In their bestselling book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors and academics Chip and Dan Heath tapped into decades of research from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to uncover the keys to effective change. What they found is that successful change efforts share a common pattern requiring change leaders to address three realities at once:
Considerations for Data-Driven Cultural Change
Using the Heaths' framework as a baseline for change, what are the implications in a business context? How should leaders approach change? They recommend three core strategies to enable change in any organizational context. But first, leaders need to recognize a simple truth: "…ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?"
Three Key Strategies for Change:
Talking about change is one thing; making it happen is quite different. Simply put, it’s hard. Like any difficult problem or challenge, you must approach the task with an understanding of underlying core principles that help frame your thinking about the issue and adopt a systematic approach to ensure consistent execution over time.
Let’s start with some core principles derived from our experience and the research we have reviewed above:
Let’s start by defining change management as a systematic process helping individuals, teams, and organizations plan for and adapt to change. An important point to note is that change is continuous and accelerating. Therefore, leaders should think of change management as continuous learning or improvement. This reframing of change management is critical for organizations working to create more adaptive organizations as the practices outlined below become the foundation for a new way of working.
How does CALM Work?
Alignment. Alignment activities keep stakeholders on the same page, gauging where there is a misunderstanding, lack of support, or resistance. It happens at three levels: 1. aligning analytics strategy and people, 2. people and decision processes, and 3. decision processes and behaviors. Alignment, or engagement, requires conversations, listening to concerns, and processing feedback. Unlike communications, which tend to be one-to-many, gaining alignment is more of a one-to-one approach that typically includes coaching, workshops, roadshows, and counseling. However, just as with communications, transparency is essential to building trust. Alignment creates the conditions for effective learning by providing the context for behavioral change -- aligning the work people do with the required behaviors.
Learning. Learning is the critical enabler for transforming change into continuous improvement. It combines traditional instructor-led and self-directed learning with three clear distinctions related to the curriculum and the approach to learning; it:
In addition, continuous learning leads to mastery, a crucial element of human motivation. As employees learn and grow, mastering the essential skills and concepts, they experience positive reinforcement that triggers a flywheel effect, driving more of the desired behaviors of data-driven organizations, which at their core are committed to learning and adapting.
Measurement. The primary goal of measurement is to track the degree to which the change effort impacts predetermined success criteria. In other words, is the change having the desired impact? While setting and measuring goals related to company performance is important, they are not sufficient for driving change. Instead, organizations need to decide on the activities and behavioral changes that will drive the desired overall change and measure those. These activities serve as the “leading indicators,” or inputs of change, with the goals (performance metrics) serving as the lagging indicators or outputs. Tools like a Change Scorecard track change activities, employee sentiment, and behavior change metrics that leaders review to gauge progress and determine where they may need to intervene and modify activities or communications.
As you read through the description above regarding the CALM method, it's tempting to convince yourself that you are already doing these things. For example, you may communicate effectively, have all-hands meetings, provide training, and track employee sentiment. These are all necessary preconditions for a change-ready organization. Still, they are insufficient in today's competitive environment, where data-driven, people-centered organizations that learn and adapt will experience a significant competitive advantage.
Leaders must start by reframing the problem and focusing more on preparing the workforce for change. This requires continuous effort, adapting with smaller course corrections, rather than rewarding people for surviving disruptive change through heroic efforts when it does arrive. Leaders must embrace change as synonymous with continuous improvement and embed it in the culture. To accomplish this, organizations must treat change management like other mature processes, ensuring it is clearly defined, disciplined, measured, and improved.
The CALM method is to knowledge worker productivity just like the Agile approach is to robust software development; both continuously improve the speed and quality of a specific output. In the case of Agile, it is a functioning software solution; with CALM, it is organizational decision-making. The change that CALM makes possible is faster and higher quality decisions throughout the organization -- the essence of a data-driven enterprise.
Editor's note: this post, co-authored by Rick Hinton and Lisa Targonski, originally appeared on the Elder Research blog