One of my favorite aspects of our business is that we get to learn about other peoples’ business. The “Deployment Research Study” was an amazing chance to learn about what people believed made their efforts to implement change successful. This was at a time when we were coming to learn that our business was not “delivering packaged solutions,” but was working with clients to deliver, in substance, the value of a change they had in mind. Our work was evolving into a sort of alchemy through which we helped clients move their organizations from concept to execution to the realization of results. The “Study” was a way for us to formulize the principles of “deploying” change so we would have some sort of code and consistency in our approach.
I think our genuine curiosity about what people were trying to accomplish, the challenges they faced, the opportunities they pursued, and the personal investments they made led us to findings that were both confirming and surprising. We were not trying to “prove” a theory or model for change. We were intent on discovering how people experienced and saw things, and to see if there were patterns of practice embedded in the success stories. The Study was in part, an expression of one of our core Expressworks operating principles: “Make friends out of our business, not business out of our friends.”
Through the Study, we coincidentally confirmed that when we approach our clients with an open mind and a real desire to understand their intentions for change, the context they operate in, and what drives them as people, we not only gain their confidence and trust, we open ourselves to the possibility of truly caring about how things turn out and learning what actually makes a difference. And, when we allow ourselves to learn enough about what really matters to our client’s success, we become engaged at a level that makes it apparent that we are both professionally and personally invested. This level of connection not only helps us ensure we have sufficient knowledge of what will be required for success, it also opens the possibility for friendship that often endures beyond the specific body of work we take on with a change project. It is a bit of the essence of the alchemy that is not explicit, but it is an essential quality found in those who led the successful initiatives we studied. Leaders were curious and open to learning what would work in their organizations, and the people and the result mattered to them.
Conducting the Study confirmed a number of things for us, including the key premise that the deployment of any initiative, what we now think of as change implementation, is a process with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As with any process, the ability to remove variability and waste results in greater value delivered and is a competence that can be improved and developed. The distillation of this process competence yielded the deployment process success factors.
Each change project is a story within which we do things, learn things, and achieve a conclusion now guided by the success factors we gleaned from the Study. In a sense, each project we take on is an extension of the original Study. It is a Study of our own practice of the application of the success factors with clients; some of whom we come to know as friends through the process of implementing change together. And, it is a continuing Study of how we build competence and capability through practice. We continue to do things, and we continue to learn from them.