Drawing the Line

Where do you draw the line to get the best return from your investment in change?

Stopping “the cycle” is what gets us jumping out of bed in the morning at Embed the Change Consulting. The cycle where projects rush to find the solution, and don’t take the time to understand what the problem is, the real root cause of the pain. The cycle of “saving time and money” by letting those affected by the change know just before launch day; “we don’t want to disturb them from their day job”.

The outcome of that cycle? The solution doesn’t address the problem because we don’t actually know what the root cause issue is. We didn’t have the people that live the issues day in day out in the design room. So the design doesn’t actually work and we have to go back and fix the problems. Excluding those affected didn’t save us time and money. At best those affected are disgruntled, at worst obstructive. Perhaps even in a place where they don’t want to support any turnaround effort – “I’ve seen this happen so many times before, why should I help”. All it’s done is confirm in people’s mind that change doesn’t work, it’s painful and to be avoided.

That’s the cycle we’re here to stop.

So, what’s the line we’re drawing?

The line is where should you start your change process and when does it finish? Where do you draw that line?

You may engage with those affected when you know exactly what it is that will be changing, and what they’ll be doing differently. At this point, telling them about it is quick and easy, maybe even taking the time to explain why we’re doing it, what the benefits are to them, their co-workers, the business as a whole. Train them up and hey presto, launch day happens and you’re good to go.

Or are you?  At Embed The Change we take a different approach.

The start line

We draw the start line much earlier. We bring a representative sample in from the people affected, right at the start. They help us define what the underlying issue is, so we know exactly what it is that we need to solve. And we keep them with us all the way through the design process too. This is the team that feels the pain, whether it be daily, weekly or monthly. It’s real knowledge, not third hand. We have the experience in the room to get to the root cause, we don’t need to waste your time (and money!) haivng to refer back to the business before we can move on.

A quick side note, I listened to a great TED talk recently on why design should include everyone, given by Sinead Burke. Sinead is 105cm tall and discusses how the designed world often inhibits her to do things for herself, because people of less than average height are not involved in designing public facilities. I highly recommend listening to it. Our discussion here isn’t dissimilar – involve those that are going to use whatever it is you’re developing, right from the start.  The link is at the end.

Who should do the talking?

So we’ve designed a solution, and we’re confident it works. It’s time to widen our voice and let the business know what’s going to be happening and when. Who should do the talking? Let those affected be our ambassadors and speak passionately about how we’ll remove the pain. Absolutely, we need our leaders to stand in front of any change, to voice their commitment to make this work, and their belief that we need to do it, and do it now. But that’s not the only voice we need to hear.

Prosci research tells us people want to hear the key strategic messages from their senior leadership. However, when it comes to personal messages “how will this affect the way we work and our team, what will change for us?” they want to hear from their “own people”, their managers or supervisors, the ones who they sit next to, see at the water cooler or coffee machine and look in the eye on a daily basis! Remember, we involved our ambassadors at the start, they know why we designed the solution that we did and the constraints we faced.  They don’t need scripts written for them. They get it, they feel it. And actually, they’re proud of what they’ve achieved.


For the purpose of this blog, we’re focusing on where we start and where we finish. We’re not providing a step-by-step guide for how to implement change. Let’s fast forward a little – we’ve had the right people talking at the right time in their own language that’s easily understood. We’ve allowed time to understand and address issues and concerns. We’ve trained all those that need training. We’re in that great spot where people know what’s happening and why, they’re supportive, and they know what to do – it’s launch day.

Is this where we finish?

Our solution is “in”, now we just need to get back to the day job and move on, right? I can’t emphasize enough how you risk losing your investment by walking away at this point . The thing is, we’re not robots, we’re humans. We can’t be re-programmed overnight. It takes time for new actions to become habits, for them to become embedded in our everyday world.

Launch day is only the first step. We need to continue to re-enforce why we’ve changed, what the benefits are and how we do things now. We need to celebrate examples of where the change is already having a positive impact.

And let’s be honest, no change goes ahead without some glitches that need fixing. So don’t rush to disband the team. Keep them focused to carry the knowledge and momentum needed to get the results you need. The real finish line is when it’s part of your DNA.

All very well, you may say, but that costs a lot more time and money – and we just don’t have that luxury right now.

Let’s look at it this way. If we don’t invest the extra time and money required now, we’re back to not knowing what the real problem is, so the design doesn’t address the actual issue.  We need to sink more money in to fix the gaps, and it’s the age old story of everyone hates change. We’re back to walking away on launch day and now no-one is around to pick up the glitches.  The gaps widen, people don’t feel the benefit, the focus is lost and your team may even revert to their old ways.

Because we don’t want you to waste your time and money

So yes, we do start earlier than you may have seen before, and we don’t think it’s finished until it’s part of your every day life. We don’t pretend otherwise. Why do we do this? Because we don’t want you to waste your time and money and not see the benefits that everyone needs.

Businessperson looking through the window

Drawing the Line

Where do you draw the line to get the best return from your investment in change?