• A more diverse workforce

    Dan Bates, Chief Executive of Sheffield Theatres is one of the leaders on the Change Creation programme. Together with the Ramps on The Moon network, Dan is striving for a step change in the development of a more diverse UK theatre workforce that incorporates D/deaf and disabled individuals. He started off with the question: how do we embed inclusivity and relevance across our organisation, programming and people?

    “We know diversity is essential to our success, so using diversity as a lens, we started with questions about who we are, what we do and how we do things,” says Dan. “Where are we today and where do we want to be?”

    Dan and his team have worked with Change Creation to create a new mission, vision and values, reflected in a new brand. They have made changes to their working practices in areas like recruitment processes (including hiring positive action trainees), improved inductions, daily staff briefings, and inviting staff to observe board meetings. They have also invested time and resources into staff engagement, training and development. This has led a strong and united team who are ambitious for change.

    Dan’s team has also developed a ‘story of change’ specifically focusing on diversity. A story (or theory) of change is a methodology for unpacking the causal relationships between our work and their outputs and ultimate impacts. Creating a story of change enables organisations to understand all the inputs they execute to create an impact, and also helps in the isolation of data and evidence at each step in the chain of effects to get clearer about where refinements might be needed.

    “We’re proud of how far we’ve come. That inspires us to go further.”


  • Not managing change, but creating it

    Change management is traditionally seen as a set of tools and approaches for dealing with resistance and overseeing the implementation of new processes or structures. But creating change is much more proactive, dynamic and generative. We see the development of an appetite for change and innovation within an organisation as a creative act – one that enables everyone to bring changes to life. We call this building of the conditions and environment that make change inevitable change leadership, or change creation.

    At the heart of our thinking is the eight elements of change model. This highlights the crucial areas that every leader needs to focus on in order to ensure that changes are delivered, and don’t drift into a cul-de-sac of never-implemented initiatives. The eight elements combine to create clarity, consensus, appetite, ownership, confidence, practicality and momentum. Following the steps enables change to be embedded and benefits to be realised.

    Creating change is often like tending a garden – it takes time and care. But there are practical principles we’ve embedded in everything we do to enable change to flourish.

    Clarity is a crucial, early priority that takes time and attention. Once we are crystal clear about where we are going, how to get there starts to emerge by itself.

    Building an appetite for change really is a fundamental step. Once everyone is change hungry across the organisation, half the work is done.

    Change is done by people, not to people. Building involvement early on develops ownership, momentum and quality.

  • How to move your organisation

    Talawa Theatre Company is one of the UK’s primary Black led touring theatre companies, providing a platform for Black actors and artists to launch and establish their careers in the wider industry. Touring at least one production each year, Talawa works with and for a diverse range of audiences and participants to inspire, educate and tell stories that are informed by the wealth and diversity of the Black British experience.

    As part of Change Creation, Talawa has been searching for a new building… a new home. Inevitably the challenges – the known and the unknown – have been plentiful, and here Natasha, Executive Director reflects on her time with Change Creation.

    “We knew that having an independent creative space was fundamental to our business… our premises at the time were being redeveloped so there was a real sense of urgency. At the same time, we knew that we needed to take the time to get it right. Moving house is hard enough, so we knew that moving an entire organisation was not going to be easy!

    We wanted to use the opportunity of moving, to focus on our strategy, our approach, our partnerships, audiences and staff. There is little point in moving to a new building if the processes, people, infrastructure, mission, and structures don’t support that move.

    It’s been such a learning curve, a learning curve for me personally and for the organisation. I’ve learned that change takes time and it’s hard. There isn’t a quick fix and it’s not simply about implementing new processes. It’s about creating the right environment for change to happen – awareness and understanding, commitment and support, appetite and momentum. We all needed to be on the same page, know where we were going as an organisation and why. Change Creation has given us the opportunity to take time out of the ‘day-to-day’ to reflect on this.

    We began to feel like property developers, we looked at lots of premises! Some I liked, and our Artistic Director Michael Buffong didn’t, and vice versa. We initially struggled to find consensus, but by asking ourselves the right questions, we’ve found somewhere (Fairfield Halls, Croydon) that we can say ‘This is Talawa, this is our new home, this is somewhere that we’re all excited about’. It’s not what we set out to look for, but we know it’s best for Talawa and the people we work with and for.

    We’ll be getting more space – all our operations will be under one roof and we’ve got studio space to work closer with artists and community groups. We’re moving to a new community, meeting new partners and stakeholders and we already feel supported in a community that is alive with ambition and opportunity. All of this means we can look forward to our future, develop our national touring programme and continue to produce incredible work with the incredible talent that surrounds us, both in London and nationally.

    For me personally Change Creation has helped me to grow in confidence as a leader. That’s thanks to the incredible people on Change Creation. Being part of a cohort, surrounded by other leaders from arts organisations of different size, scale and art form is the best support that I could have wished for. It was support that I wasn’t expecting but the generosity of other people’s time, insights and learning has been significant for me and for Talawa.

    It’s like being in ‘live-time’ case studies. Richard Watts, Programme Director said at our very first workshop that the future is already here, but it’s unevenly distributed… and that’s true. No matter what we’ve faced, other people have experienced something similar, so to be in a supportive, friendly environment where people are happy to share is a real gift. I hope that I’ve been able to help others too.

    I’ve also learned that creating change creates new opportunities. We’re moving to a new borough, and Paula Murray, Creative Director of Croydon Council in particular, has been instrumental in our move. We recently had an away day with our Board, and Paula gave a presentation about the Cultural Strategy, there’s a real sense that change is happening and that culture is at the heart of it.

    We’re now working with a Change Creation consultant to imagine the future of our organisation and what that needs to look like. The expertise and insight is invaluable – I thought I knew what we needed, but having an expert ‘outside eye’ has really challenged and shaped my thinking.

    So, whilst we’ve faced challenges and change, I know that the changes don’t stop here. Change is inevitable and recurring and I’m now better equipped to lead change in our organisation’s future. I’ll keep surrounding myself with supportive networks; share and harvest opinions, learning and expertise; invest more in, and value stakeholder relationships; take time to establish clarity and consensus; and maintain momentum for our work, our future and the communities we are part of.”

  • Change is done BY people, not TO people

    When we start thinking about creating change, the conversation is invariably about how people need to change the way they work, think and behave… and most times the conversation assumes that we’re going to help to change them…

    But when we think about change management, we think about creating an opportunity for everyone to explore, decide and develop how they need to change themselves… rather than hear how someone else thinks they ought to change.

    All the changes we imagine happening in an organisation (save the ones that we personally deliver) are already owned by someone and their understanding, appetite and engagement is what we need in order for them to go about changing.

    So we see change management as a social process, of enabling people to see the changes that they can make… which cumulatively will add up to an organisational change… rather than a project process where people are told what they need to do and forced to do it…

    No one can make us learn a new skill, build a new strength or feel a different way, and while leaders can inspire people to want to change, the change is still the individuals to deliver and realise. Involvement is at the heart of the way we create change, so that change is done by people, not to them.

  • We don’t resist change, we resist BEING changed

    We don’t resist change, we resist BEING changed.

    I’m pretty sure that being contrary is a very strong human driver… perhaps third in line after survival and procreation is the urge to disagree. We are built to be skeptical, to question and to look for alternative explanations.

    When we are creating change in an organisation it is so easy to accidentally trigger this contrary response within our colleagues, and to characterise that resistance as destructive, obstructive and personally targeted. It’s normally positively motivated, insightful and likely to have some core truths in it that might save our change… and ensure it works.

    We put involvement at the heart of our organisation development work for this reason. People have to own the changes that are needed in their organisation and they normally have the greatest insight about what those changes are – once we remember to ask them and get them involved.

    When I hear clients talk about the fact that people in their organisation don’t like change, I often think about how much novelty, innovation and change those same people are making throughout their lives outside of work… and once we’re looking at them from that perspective, we can start to identify and dismantle the barriers to change that we have created within the workplace.