In my work as a change facilitator (I prefer that to change manager – ‘management’ seems to imply a degree of control that I’m not sure any of us have in human activity systems…certainly not the change-ists!) I spend a lot of time in the process of what I call change therapy. Sure there’s always artefacts to produce and workshops to design and run and so on, but for me at least a typical day includes a great deal of what I suppose many think of as the softer side of change – the listening, the empathy, the perspective-taking, the coaching and so on. And that is a successful day; a valuable and worthwhile day. I am on a mission to bring emotion right into the foreground of organisational change work. Emotion is present in even the most analytical activities of organisational life and it would be a mistake to disregard it – for learning, for memory and for just making sense of things.
The thing is, how do we go about doing that? How do we authentically tend to this and provide much needed change therapy, without retraining as psychological and therapeutic professionals as well as change professionals? I think there are things we can do which require us to go a little deeper than our methodologies and frameworks can. Take figure 1. This is what I refer to as horizontal and vertical change. It shows that a change framework (like the excellent Prosci®), bookended by some change design at the start to let us know what it is we’re facilitating the change of (overlapping, we are interested in it) and some Business As Usual at the end (so that changes stick) form a sort of time’s arrow, left to right horizontal perspective of the change. It moves us from an idea on the left to embedded and adopted behaviours on the right. It doesn’t matter if that is achieved in a traditional project approach, or a more iterative agile manner – ultimately we are working our way from left to right.
Now our frameworks are fantastic at telling us where to put our attention as we go along that horizontal plane and what to do once our attention has been suitably directed, but they do not always tell us how. For that, we need a vertical dive for some extra skills.
This is not a criticism of any methodology. They can only go so deep – how can they do anything other than that? They can’t be everything. However, words like ‘coaching’ are thrown around with multiple meanings and with the assumption that everyone is good at it or wants to do it…
…and suggestions like simply having a deep or meaningful or difficult conversation if someone is having a bad time with a change…
…or even just to listen exquisitely.
These are all interpersonal skills and there are many approaches to them. What I’m offering (and what I talk about at length in my upcoming webinar, which you can sign up for here (https://www.iibauk.org/events/1013-virtual-clean-language-) is one option for going deeper. A technique derived from psychotherapy but used in coaching and business too, which works on the principle that asking questions and listening exquisitely will give you far better information than second guessing and sticking to a process in a rote fashion.
The magic is truly in the questions.
“But what kind of questions?”
Well, that is a good question 😊. In fact, that is a Clean Question. One from a set of highly honed therapeutic questions collectively called Clean Language. These incredibly powerful, yet seemingly ordinary, questions work in conjunction with exploring metaphors and are perfect for taking a deep dive and sensitively finding out what is going on for someone or for a team. Come along to my webinar at 5pm on 3rd March to learn about where they come from and leave with a model you can use straight away to move your clients and colleagues from stuck, problem spaces and into positive, desired outcome spaces. Now that is magic.
A professional coach and facilitator of change, Will Izzard is Head of Profession for Change Management at CMC Partnership, with over 25 years’ experience in projects and change in business. He is an Experienced Prosci® Practitioner, Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Certified Symbolic Modeller (therapeutic metaphor work). He is interested in the blend of change facilitation (directing attention on what to do) with interpersonal skills (how to actually do it). He believes that lasting change is brought about by small interventions that build the confidence and skills of others so that they achieve more and experience a deep level of learning. His latest development areas include helping clients construct metaphors from personal outcomes to visions and change initiatives, and exploring the neuroscience of change. Will thrives on applying novel ideas for an organic and developmental approach to change – building on what works to create something new.
With 61,000 people delivering services to millions of customers, Capita believes its own businesses need to embrace automation to maintain their competitiveness, retain customers and secure new ones. Based on our Chief Executive's expectation that every Capita business will have at least one automation project implemented, we embarked on what we believe to be the world’s most ambitious automation project.
So, when we say automation and robotics, what do we mean? Well we promise you our vision of the future does not involve C3PO, Robocop, iRobot, cogs, chains or oil. We’re talking about the 4th industrial revolution, software automation. Our solutions take the robot out of the human, they complete the mundane non-value add tasks leaving people to be creative and do the things that people are great at and help our organisations to grow.
Software automation comes in many forms. The most talked about is Robotic Process Automation, (RPA). RPA refers to software robots that can complete actions sitting on your desktop as a virtual assistant or completely on their own. According to the latest forecasts from Gartner, the RPA sector is forecasted to grow 19.5% to $1.89 billion in 2021.
Other automation solutions include;
• Artificial Intelligence (AI) – A broad term that covers a multitude of technologies that provide intelligent decision-making capabilities. Examples of which include Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.
• Cognitive Services (AI) – A combination of technologies that provide functions such as converting speech to machine readable text to facilitate automation. Another example would be text analytics, reading strings of text and making decisions as well as understanding the sentiment of the text being read.
• Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – Reading and extracting data from scanned images, e.g. Passports.
In Capita, we have a number of these technologies embedded into our Hyper-Automation platform to solve critical business problems.
Let’s address the key burning question.. Does this mean we will all be replaced by Robots? The short answer, no. Automation is designed to augment an existing workforce with supportive capabilities. Without the key aspect of humans, we wouldn’t get very far.
From our experiences to date having designed and implemented automation solutions for multiple organisations within both the private and public sectors, the benefits are broad.
Saving money isn’t the only outcome. Automation increases efficiency across organisations. It improves employee morale as it allows workforces to focus on more challenging and thought-provoking activities. It allows for organisations to increase compliance. It reduces error introduced by the burden of volume within administrative tasks. It opens the door to deeper insights and analytics regarding performance. Furthermore, it allows organisations to adapt quickly, a digital workforce can be scaled instantly to allow you to respond to real time problems in real time.
A Business Analyst is key to the success of an automation project. Our role is to firstly understand which technologies are out there, what’s available and how we could use them.
Secondly, we need to understand the organisation problem at hand. Rarely is a process suited to automation from the get-go. The golden rule is that “a bad process automated is still a bad process”. We would look to incorporate a journey of process improvement first, optimising processes and eliminating waste. Factoring in automation as we go, ensuring processes are designed to maximise automation where it best fits.
So we have all of that, what happens next? Clear requirements gathering and documentation. We begin to create the To-Be state in collaboration with key stakeholders. The automation elements could be a mixture of attended or unattended automation. We translate the business needs into technical language for our development teams to develop and work with process owners to re-engineer. One key measure of a successful automation project is being able to understand all the possible variants to the core process. Capturing these exceptions and defining how they will be handled will ensure a smooth roll out.
Planning is key, a monsoon of change into the business will likely not work out well. A clear plan is required to ensure all elements of the new To-Be state are rolled out in a structured manner allowing the business to implement it.
1. Business maturity is key – don’t forget that “a bad process automated is still a bad process”. We found a need to re-engineer and use LEAN methodologies to improve processes before introducing automation.
2. Not all processes are followed by everyone all of the time– the As-Is process written down isn’t always what actually happens ‘on the floor’. This is important to address to ensure any automations are based on the truth of the process being followed. Avoiding any nasty surprises on go-live.
3. Capture hearts and minds – key to successful delivery is stakeholder engagement. Automation is a fast-evolving world and can be quite a daunting one. By supporting our clients with training and knowledge sharing, we ensured that they were on the journey with us. Ultimately leading to better engagement and understanding.
4. Sell the many benefits – some people think automation is a solution to replace people. This is untrue, automation is a support solution, not a replacement one. To reduce these concerns, you need to work with and educate the work force on the wide-reaching benefits of automation.
5. Solve the problem – don’t shoehorn automation where it doesn’t fit. Always focus on resolving the business problem, and that is nearly always done via a combination of approaches.
Found this interesting? Why not book onto Mani and Aimee's webinar 'Taking the Robot Out of the Human' on 23rd February by clicking here.
Contact the authors;
Zohaib Ahmed – Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.
Gavin Clarke – Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.
Mani Basra – Lead Consultant Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.