Although it is easy to focus on the “what” - what things look like and what they do, to understand change we also need to focus on the “why” - why things look like and do what they do. When you get the hang of it, you find this model is usefully applicable in all sorts of contexts. In this posting we look at these points through the lens of our recent work to update our own website design.
As a firm that focuses on helping its clients manage and implement change, we encounter the need to consider the whats and the whys of a change all the time: as a result we see it popping up in all sorts of unexpected places. By way of illustration, and also as a way to introduce you to the recent changes in the 2GC website, in this feature we look at how these concepts can be applied to any change project.
Understanding in the round
It is tempting to think that What / Why analysis can be applied linearly - for example “Let’s work out what change we need to make and then understand why it is necessary”. But experience says that it is not linear, but iterative activity - and it usually starts with an understanding of Why not What.
The first challenge - Why change?
In our work with clients, this stage is usually based around meetings and background reading - of organisation documents and external commentaries (if available). The aim of this work being to understand who the key stakeholders are, and what their expectations for the organisation is into the future: change is about achieving stakeholder expectations at a future date, not in the past, so it is important to understand what the Destination is, before you plan the route to it. You can find out more about these ideas in one of the new areas of the 2GC website that discusses some of the tools we use in our work.
For our redesign these discussions identified three areas that we wanted to see better supported by the website - we wanted the ‘future’ site to be:
- easier to use across a wider range of devices
- a source of practical information giving insights into how we do what we do
- able to support stronger two-way information flow
Mindful of our history (we’ve updated the website nine times in the 17 years we’ve been around) ‘the future’ in this case was set at 18 months into the future from when we started (i.e. about 14 months from now).
The second challenge - What change?
It is not at all uncommon in our experience for organisations to have goals to pursue that they (right now) do not fully understand how to achieve. So often the first step in understanding What has to be done is getting expert advice about how others have done things, and to characterise what might be involved in doing those things within the organisation: how long, how much resource, how big a change will be involved. Is it an evolution or a revolution?, and so on. As a result these discussions need to be iterative - shuttling between an emerging knowledge of what and a steady refinement of why. Not everything initially wished for in Why can be achieved - choices will need to be made. At 2GC we use our ERIC and ACME frameworks to help with this iterative process.
For 2GC’s website discussions, the issues about What focused on technology and how best to access it. The large amount of factual data on the 2GC site makes it quite complex to design - our site supports an unrivalled collection of useful and freely available resources, such as our Case Studies, FAQ Answers, and searchable lists of Performance Management Software vendors and of other websites. Two key factors were identified through this process:
- what technology to use to provide access to the information
- whether to support this development ourselves, or buy in expertise
We also had to keep an eye on budget, and practical timescales. In the end we decided to develop the new site using a more advanced implementation of a database system that has underpinned the previous two generations of our site, but to bring most of the development work in-house.
It is always entertaining to meet a client (or another consulting firm) who suggest that the best way to proceed is to map out the whole of the journey from here to the destination right at the beginning. Sometimes it is possible to do this, but more often the best you can do at the outset is to get a general compass bearing - have a good plan for the immediate future, plan in time to review progress and revise your course regularly thereafter: the chances are that you will work out the finer details of the final parts of your journey along the way.
To support this requires active management - as we discussed in an earlier feature, strategy implementation is not about ‘Fire and Forget’ - you need to proactively support regular reviews. A very good mechanism for encouraging such reviews are the kinds of strategic performance management methods 2GC is expert at. Read more about these focus areas in another of the new areas of this site.
For our site development work, we had a particular challenge balancing speed and completeness.
- Speed - of navigation around the site, of reading what is on the site, and how fast pages appeared.
- Completeness - finding the right balance between the punchy easy to read sound-bites for someone browsing the site and wanting a quick introduction to what we do, and useful and complete information for the inquisitive visitor
During the development of the new site we continually tested new developments between these two tough requirements. Whether we have yet found the balance point between these two remains to be seen - we hope so: if nothing else, the new site is certainly faster to get around, easier to navigate, and more responsive. We hope you like it - but would of course value your feedback. Get in touch with us and let us know what you think!
Planning and managing change can be challenging
We think that there are things we can do to help that make it easier.
If you would like to find out more about the solutions 2GC offers in this area, visit another of the new areas of our site today… or give us a call to discuss. We look forward to hearing from you!