• Responding to change in times of uncertainty – COVID19

    We are all experiencing unprecedented pressure, as public facing organisations at the heart of communities, as vulnerable organisations often reliant on the public to remain viable, as employers and a source of income for countless freelance and casual workers, and as family members, friends and neighbours of people who are concerned and affected in myriad ways by this public health crisis.

    We are all being tested in new ways and on multiple dimensions. How do we respond to the social, financial, personal and economic pressures we are experiencing today, and that might unfold tomorrow?

    We know that organisational and social change is often hampered by complacency, everyday pressures and critically, the lack of a galvanising vision combined with a practical concrete plan that we can engage with; our response to the heating of our planet is a case in point. We know that short term organisational and social change is most effectively achieved when there is an urgent and visceral threat; our response to floods or missing children show us how these can punch through our ‘business as usual’ response.

    We are all being tested in new ways and on multiple dimensions. How do we respond to the social, financial, personal and economic pressures we are experiencing today, and that might unfold tomorrow?

    We know that organisational and social change is often hampered by complacency, everyday pressures and critically, the lack of a galvanising vision combined with a practical concrete plan that we can engage with; our response to the heating of our planet is a case in point. We know that short term organisational and social change is most effectively achieved when there is an urgent and visceral threat; our response to floods or missing children show us how these can punch through our ‘business as usual’ response.

    The public health crisis, Covid-19, has clearly created just such an urgent and visceral threat. Our immediate challenge as organisations has shifted from being about how we reinvent the cultural experiences we deliver to make them ever more relevant and engaging for our communities in the 21st Century, to how we survive for the next 6 months, stay connected with our communities and audiences and support our staff and colleagues through this challenging time.

    While long term issues have to battle with complacency to get our attention, immediate issues challenge our composure – making it difficult to make good decisions when we are under so much pressure to make quick ones. We don’t have the luxury to be slow at times like this, but we also need to consult our wisdom and experience, to involve multiple perspectives and to build consensus.

    How do we act quickly, respond authentically, enable action while also being nuanced and drawing on our wisdom? We have identified some insights that we share here with all humility.

    Combine clarity with iteration

    • At moments of extreme uncertainty, people crave clarity. As leaders we need to offer definite steps and clear guidance. But when circumstances are changing so fast, and when we might not have had time to explore the question from every viewpoint, let’s aim for “fast and flex” not “fast and fix.” Let’s issue clear guidance, but with an indication that it will be updated on a regular basis, that we are continuing to be in dialogue with a range of people and we expect it to iterate. And let’s tell people how they’ll hear the next iteration and how they can make their own voice heard.

    Process Vision

    • We all want a clear vision of the future. As leaders we can sometimes give that, but more often we will enable it to emerge. Let’s share a “process vision” rather than “destination visions” with our teams at this time. A process vision gives a clear journey about how we will shape our plans and future together, what the steps and options might be and how we will reach decisions. It tells people how we will arrive at a destination vision, but doesn’t define it now. Process visions are great in times of uncertainty, since they give clarity of process without fixing our final destination.

    Organisational culture and values

    • We need to trust our true culture and values – how we do things in this organisation – what our authentic approach should be. Let’s draw on our values at difficult times, they give us a routemap through complexity. When we stand in our values our next steps often become clear. During a crisis it is often tempting to ditch our shared values and issue an edict. But our values are only truly useful when they are under pressure… Let’s make sure our culture shapes our times, not our times shape our culture.

    Collective insight

    • Even when we are under pressure the diversity of perspectives in our organisations is crucial, and so let’s make time to hear the wisdom, experience and intuition that exists across our organisation. We’ll make better decisions with multiple viewpoints, and the decisions will be owned and implemented with greater clarity if the fingerprints of the whole team can be felt on our response.

    Connect with our Audiences and Communities

    • Many of our organisations have missions that involve creating transformational experiences for individuals and communities. If we stand in that mission, what responses, interventions or actions suggest themselves? Of course our audiences are not only footfall, bums on seats or income sources… and we know that they are stressed, have needs and that their cultural organisation might be a positive force for them. Let’s stand in our missions and be inspired by our higher intentions as well as by the tyranny of our survival.

    Kubler Ross and Transitions

    • We know that as humans we respond to change in predictable and understandable ways. The Kubler Ross curve eloquently captures the ways we feel as negative change unfolds in front of us – with immobilization, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and testing preceding acceptance and we also know that organisations and individuals experience a drop in productivity and clarity as we transition from one reality to another. Let’s remember that each of us has an inevitable set of human responses to change and uncertainty, and that these responses call for a patient and empathetic response.

    Create opportunities for control

    • Most of us struggle when we feel control has been taken from us. Fast moving global, national, local, personal situations inevitably shift our sense of certainty and erode our sense of control. Let’s look for opportunities for everyone in our organisations and communities to exercise control – offer options, encourage the development of individual or team plans, explore alternatives and give choices wherever we can. While the circumstances might be beyond our control, our personal responses don’t need to be.

     

     

     

     

  • A panel of sector experts – helping us navigate our response to the current COVID-19 crisis

    Today, we convened a panel of sector and industry experts to help us, our Change Creation cohort and the wider sector navigate our response to the current COVID-19 crisis.

    How do we respond? What can we do to support our staff, stakeholders, trustees and communities? How can we re-model our current programme and offer to support communities, people and partners? How can we adapt to a new way of working? What  does our contribution need to be to support the greater good, the health and wellbeing of our communities?

    A link to the video can be found on our resources page.

    We’ll be posting videos of the panel, insights and ideas on how you can communicate, re-shape, plan and prioritise over the coming weeks and months. We’ll share all our tools and resources and if you need any support, please do get in touch.

    Our thanks go to our panellists who gave their time to share ideas and wisdom to support the resilience of the sector.

  • Responding to COVID-19 crisis

    Now, more so than ever, we are supporting arts and cultural organisations at this difficult time. We are sharing good practice, resources and ideas on business continuity, re-modelling, cashflow, finance, communications and more. We’re making tools available that will help you plan your changes and support your teams and people. If you would need support to make fundamental changes in your organisation and art form please get in touch and check out our resources page. We’re committed to sharing best practice and providing any support we can to safeguard the organisations who provide art, culture, heritage and life changing experiences for our communities.

  • Change Leadership: A Collective Endeavour

    We all know that it’s not the waving trees that make the wind blow. But distinguishing effects and causes within organisations is not always so straightforward.

    Our job isn’t just to shout for the wind to blow less or for the tree to stand straight

    When leading change it’s important to understand the factors that are shaping your reality, and then to work out how you can influence these. Just as it’s not the waving trees that make the wind blow, what if it’s not the disenchanted staff that create a culture of apathy? What if it’s not poor processes that reduce our focus on quality? What if it’s not underfunding that reduces the creative ambition of our work?

    In my role at people make it work, I help organisations change and develop. Often this means helping them shift focus from the waving tree to the prevailing wind. From the effect – such as insufficient income – to a cause such as insufficient relevance for audiences and funders. Or from insufficient time to think and devise new approaches, to the root cause: the habitual prioritisation of ‘urgent’ tasks over important analysis.

    Re-orienting organisations

    Our role as leaders is often to re-orientate our organisations towards the causes of success, moving people’s attention away from the immediate experience to create strategy that changes the conditions and secures a sustainable future.

    Alongside distinguishing cause from effect, we also need to identify what we can do to make a difference – to find our agency. Our job isn’t just to shout for the wind to blow less or for the tree to stand straight, but to understand how we personally influence the conditions affecting our organisations.

    Perhaps it’s time we moved from metaphor to reality. Our job as change leaders isn’t to see what other people should be doing differently and loudly demand that. Rather it is to understand the ways our own leadership can make change inevitable. And then do that. Even when it’s hard (especially when it’s hard). Change leadership is making personal change so that organisational changes inevitably follow. We are the wind.

    A collective endeavour

    Change leadership isn’t a solitary affair – it’s often a collective endeavour. Our organisations are interconnected; our audiences make up our communities; and the conditions needed for one of us to thrive will often boost us all.

    So let’s make these resolutions…

    • I will distinguish between cause and effect and focus on causes (wind not tree).
    • I will be a positive influence that makes change inevitable (a beneficial breeze).
    • I will find agency, identifying my own change in leadership before calling for change from others (be the change).
    • I will connect with fellow leaders to make these commitments together, creating change in our ecology (create a cohort).

    Our Change Creation programmes are two-year long action orientated development programmes for leaders in arts and cultural organisations where we work together to lead and embed change. Our last programme kicked off in November 2019, and the next one will start in September 2020. Together we’re learning what true change leadership means while transforming our organisations and building supportive communities of leadership nationwide.

    Richard Watts, CEO / Founder – people make it work. Co-Director – Change Creation Programme.

  • Graeae’s story: Rethinking your business model to meet financial challenges

    Graeae is a force for change in world-class theatre, boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and challenging preconceptions. As part of the Change Creation programme, Graeae’s focus as an organisation was on upcoming financial challenges. These unexpectedly moved closer not long after joining the programme.  Kevin Walsh, reflects on how Change Creation helped Graeae to rethink its model, meet a financial challenge and create a stronger future.

    “There is huge reassurance in knowing that you are not the only company experiencing challenge – this made a massive difference. The openness of the cohort in sharing their own experiences, advice and contacts, along with the tools we used all helped us to rethink our approach. The space, time and generosity of the programme makes you up your game in response and having the ‘time away from the desk’ to think about strategy and how to make it a success was vital.

    We were faced with an unexpected financial challenge. What we had was essentially ‘bad news’ and yet, with the support of Change Creation a disempowering message about finances turned into a creative conversation which enabled the team to get behind it. We did some collective re-thinking. How did Graeae need to change to meet our financial challenges? What were we aiming to achieve? How do we ensure that all the changes we’re planning fit with the organisational ethos? Speaking with stakeholders we quickly built up an understanding the needs of the industry and ensured that our creative team was central to the developments and thinking.

    It was a step-by-step process. Lots of communication, research, testing and thinking, which all came together to inform our new strategic plan. The biggest moment was receiving permission to go ahead with the strategy. All of the research had been completed, the whole team were behind it and it was genuinely representing wider stakeholders. We could see as an organisation what we needed to change, how to change it, what to do and just wanted to do it.”

    Graeae have successfully raised £365,000 towards implementing the strategic plan for the next two years and we wish them huge success for their future. You can find out more about Graeae and the amazing work they do here.