In 2014, Ko Awatea was fortunate to have Joe McCannon visit and teach. Last week, delegates from Ko Awatea had the opportunity to visit Joe at the Skid Row School for Large-Scale Change. The school was run by Joe McCannon, Dan Heath and Becky Margiotta of the Billions Institute. This article summarises the key learnings.
Ideas that work often fail to spread to everyone who could benefit. We glorify discovering new ideas over implementing them and assume that change will diffuse as if by magic to the people who need it. In addition, a marketplace crowded with ideas, variation in values and beliefs, contextual differences, logistical barriers, fear and inertia make it difficult to create large-scale change.
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However, large-scale change can and does happen. The Billions Institute shows us how. Their model has five features.
- Set your vision and aims
Large-scale change demands a thrilling vision and compelling aims. The vision is a shared image of the future we want to create. It is the glue that holds people together. Aims state how we will get there. They channel energy from ‘vision to precision’, create tension that leads to action, test commitment, hold people accountable and create shared ownership by making people work together.
Leaders must commit to maintaining focus on aims. Be ‘tight on aims’ but loose on everything else: achieving large-scale change is a process of gradually losing control of an idea.
- Design your intervention
To reach an aim, somebody or something needs to change. Dan Heath reminds us that all change is behaviour change, and there is a science of behavioural change.
Do you remember Dan’s amazing plenary at the APAC Forum 2014? Some of these ideas were also explored at Skid Row.
Think about change as an elephant being ridden along a path towards an aim. The rider represents analysis and planning, and the elephant represents energy and passion.
The challenge is to direct the rider with clarity. To transform goals into behaviours, we need to be clear about the actions needed. Study existing bright spots to understand the critical behaviours needed to reach your aim – what are those getting results doing that others are not?
Motivate the elephant with desire. The key to motivation is emotion, not information. Emphasise positive, intrinsic motivators – passion, joy, recognition, empowerment and collaboration.
If change seems too big, shrink it into a manageable first step. If you cannot shrink the change: tap into people who are already motivated; spark change in others by connecting with emotion; and sustain change, once begun, with visible progress.
Shape the path by tweaking the environment to make the right behaviour the easiest thing to do. Harness social influence – visible behaviour is contagious.
- Choose your expansion method
Supporting complex behaviour change at scale requires engaging people and then supporting learning and application.
Training, courses, websites, papers and conferences are weak methods for widespread change. Better approaches include:
- extension agents who actively spread new ideas and problem-solve with people
- project ‘sprints’ that combat ‘analysis paralysis’ by using a 90-day process covering problem definition, scanning, testing and decision-making.
- communities of practice and other knowledge sharing forums
- ‘all teach, all learn’ methodologies, such as the Breakthrough Series, and collaborative campaigns
- ‘wedge and spread’ model with an intervention designed for all levels of a system
- innovation competitions.
These approaches build change management skills among participants, gain leverage by sharing practical information and generate new innovations. The best approach to choose depends on what stage you are at.
A key take-away point was to let go of your idea. By all means, hold to evidence-based practice, but let the idea be adapted to the local context of each environment.
- Run a ‘command centre’
Joe described his experience running the 100,000 Lives Campaign and building a ‘command centre’. A command centre is an environment for interacting with data from the field, rapid learning and taking action. It enables change to be executed effectively at scale. Delegates discussed and learned how the command centre should have plenty of run charts, allow bright spots to be identified and studied, and facilitate testing frequently.
A key take-away – recognised in Ko Awatea’s own work – was that success comes with agile rapid learning and testing.
Complexity means that excessive strategy is wasteful. We need to engage with the real world and get feedback on what occurs. Exceptional organisations focus on leadership that removes barriers, learning through rapid testing, and work in the field. They also support improvisation, generosity and celebration.
- Manage fear and liberate creativity for the individual and the team
Becky, Joe and the team at the Billions Institute reminded all delegates involved in large-scale change to keep the stage free of fear with a non-punitive environment.
Craft an effective team that uses people’s strengths, map strengths to key drivers of change and hire to fill gaps. Aim for a combination of specialists and generalists.
Identify and increase the ‘genius moments’ for yourself and your team. Genius moments happen when you are doing something you are good at and love to do. Identify when team members work at their best and try to increase the amount of time people spend on those tasks, while swapping out the tasks they would prefer to avoid to others.
We encourage you to attend the Skid Row School for Large-Scale Change, to learn from the inspirational leaders at the Billions Institute and to join with us at Ko Awatea and at the APAC Forum to change the world together! To hear our director Professor Jonathon Gray’s own thoughts on this programme, please visit his LinkedIn blog.