In the early hours of Sunday 7 August, my mum suffered a stroke whilst on holiday in North Wales. She suffered a bleed in the left side of her brain and so she lost her speech and movement in her right arm and leg. She also had some facial disfigurement. Since then her speech has improved hugely and the facial disfigurement has gone. The progress in regaining the movement in her arm and leg is much slower but she is incredibly determined to get both working again.
The Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists have given her tremendous support and along side her own determination, this is making a huge difference. These professionals are working with my mum to bring about a transformational change which will include creating new neural pathways if she is to regain full movement.
So often when we focus on organisation transformation, we can get seduced by the big ideas – the new propositions or strategies, the new organisation design and structure, the size and governance of the transformation programme, the scale of the change management challenge etc. However, like the transformation for my mum, organisation transformation is not delivered until there is a change in the heads, hands and hearts of those who add value in the organization. At its core, transformation is immensely hands-on and practical.
So I have been reflecting on what lessons I have learned about transformation from the therapists looking after my mum. The main lessons I have seen are:
- They care about the person and the profession in equal measure. Their professional skills make the difference but only when they can engage with the person they are helping as a person, in a caring way. Too often professionals can take over or focus entirely on applying their professional competence.
- They create involvement with the patient. They have worked to agree and deliver 2-week goals covering her progress but they have asked my mum what mattered to her and did not just work to their own list. They have involved family members in this too. When it comes to exercises, they have encouraged my mum’s active participation rather than just expecting or demanding it.
- They can be very tough minded. Very early on in my mum’s rehabilitation, they stood my mum up on her feet which at the time seemed dangerous given the paralysis in her right leg. Of course they knew she could not stand but it showed them precisely what she needed to work on. Over a period of a few weeks they then sat her in chairs with less and less support to build her upper body strength, one of the key capabilities she needed to relearn how to stand.
- They look to minimize risks as well as building strength and movement. For example, they know that it will take time for her to regain full movement and so they manipulate and massage her arm to reduce the risk of ligament shortening in the mean time.
So what lessons are there for organisational transformation which also needs to focus tangible and practical outcomes? My summary:
- Focus on individuals not just the change being introduced. If the transformation is to be delivered, we need our key staff to do different things in order to create new value.
- Creating involvement in vital. Much is said about communication in transformation but involvement trumps communication every time. Only the people doing the job will understand the real challenges of the proposed change.
- Be tough minded about the end goal. Whilst the implementation must have a human face, we must also not lose sight of the end goal by compromising to make things comfortable.
- People need training not only education. We have a tendency to speak to our work teams about principles but if we are to implement new ways of working it will require a real attention to detail and a focus on hands-on training.
Organisation transformation requires a change in the heads, hands and hearts of those add value in the organization and it is only when we engage with our team members as people that we will see successful change.