There’s a well-known Chinese proverb with which you’re probably familiar: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
The same is true of managing change: if you activate support internally and lead from within, it can help to sustain change inside the organisation long into the future. To do that, you need change ambassadors at all levels who can help to share key information with co-workers and teams and move the narrative on, while relaying concerns to the executive team and helping to find solutions.
We like to call them Change Evangelists: people who enable learning and accountability both during the change process and afterwards. The change partners already within your organisation who are the ‘glue’ that will help make change stick.
Here are two examples where ambassadors played a pivotal role in ensuring a positive outcome during times of uncertainty and upheaval, and ultimately ensured sustained change.
In the first case, our client was an independent statutory authority undergoing an organisational restructure. Part of our brief was to help newly created leadership teams set the new direction for the organisation, establish cohesion and boost staff morale.
We hand-picked seven senior leaders from across the organisation and named them Change Ambassadors: their mission was to break down barriers within the organisation and to promote and share key messages with the workforce and other key stakeholders. They also provided a useful conduit for two-way communication between the Executive Leadership Team and the business itself and were able to offer a sounding board for leaders, based on their on-the-ground experiences; their level of insight meant that their help was enlisted to develop a future strategy with the head of the organisation after the reshuffle was complete. The process also created important and effective connections across divisions and enabled a range of culture changes which positively impacted the bottom line.
The second example involves another extensive shake-up, this time for a public sector division where hundreds of full-time employees had to re-apply for new roles. The organisation anticipated significant disruption and employee resistance so, as well as training and mentoring the executive team, we appointed Culture Ambassadors within each of its 15 branches.
These representatives attended a monthly culture working group where they could drive collaboration, provide an insight into culture change needs and champion the culture change across the business. The valuable input from the ambassadors helped to inform a practical and targeted two-year plan based around four new priorities; when these were unveiled, the level of support showed that the program had really honed in on what was important to employees through a constant process of listening and engaging.
At Blue Seed, our mission is to make the world more change capable, and Change Evangelists can do just that by offering the tools and support from within to mobilise and then sustain the change.