So last week was cool in a career highlight kinda way and I reckon there might be a few of you interested in what happened. I had success with a very short but intense activity where we co-created a change road map tailored for six different audiences in 25 minutes with 250 people. Sound a bit far-fetched? Here’s what went down…

The setting

The setting was the Sportsbet Technology division annual strategy conference held offsite. 250 people in attendance – coders, developers, feature teams, data scientists, testers, operations people and of course their leaders. The day was themed around change – Sportsbet is pretty future-focused and is mid-way through the execution of an ambitious 2020 strategy. It’s fair to say the company is exceptionally focused on their customer and it means that the technology elements need to be in strong alignment. And that means change is important to them.

The lead up

The lead up to the crowd-sourced change plan was important. In hindsight, I don’t think the activity would have been as successful without it. The day started with the CIO talking explicitly about change and the strategy and priming the audience.

That then led into a theatrical representation of past, present and future of core elements of the strategy. It was seriously funny. The 20-odd employees had developed scripts, rehearsed, planned costumes and props with a lot of latitude from the leadership team. It only took 20 minutes to act out – but landed nine future state scenarios really well. The audience was thinking about change in a positive emotional state after a lot of laughter. This enabled them to access the creative and innovative part of their brains

As the audience came in they had a “Critic’s Corner” handout on their seats. An A4 table that named the scenes and invited the audience to reflect on what they were seeing and hearing with respect to:

  • What they were curious / concerned / excited about (feeling)
  • What they needed to know before it happened (knowledge)
  • What they needed to have before it happened (resources and dependencies)
  • What they needed to do before it happened (actions)
  • Anything else that came up (random)

After the play, the audience were invited to discuss with their immediate neighbour what their reflections were for about 10 minutes.

The activation

The audience were then moved into their divisional teams. Team leaders were briefed the day before on what they were to do in broad terms of facilitation. Each group had an A1 sized cor-flute board that had the main sporting events over the next 18 months (this is a more sensible organisational marker than months) and the relevant Quarter. This was actually a happy mistake. Initially the files were sent to the printer to have one HUGE wall made up of 6 boards (eg each board cover 3 months). They came back as six complete boards and we had to adapt the exercise. I think it ended up working better.

On the left hand-side the five swim lanes represented feeling, knowledge, resources and dependencies, actions and random. Business owners were given post-it notes for key milestones to put on the boards, the participants were given post-it notes to capture their inputs and put at the place on the board that made the most sense.

And I held my breath.

And then watched the most marvellous energy in the room take over – the leaders facilitating were brilliant and wonderfully committed to the activity, they all had their own ways of doing it but within minutes post it notes started going up.

And I exhaled.

The aftermath

Within 25 minutes, we had six boards full of content with questions, insights, demands, requirements and dependencies put up. It was amazing to see. I’ve done reverse go-lives (or futurespectives) before with groups of people but never at this scale, and at this speed. It was pretty special to experience.

I coded the post it notes on the day (Team: FY: Q: Swim lane) so we didn’t need to preserve them on the board and they could be entered later. Next step is to distribute to the leadership team, and those present to discuss how we go about using the input. There’s a lot of data to analyse!

Why am I sharing?

We know that many change practitioners don’t share the great work they do and the innovative practice on social media as there is a perception that they need to share a full change program and results. And this means that we have a very limited public view of what change management is.

I really think the way to counter this is to share “slices” of our professional life.

This is slice of my professional life that worked really well (shared with permission from the client). I hope that inspires others to try different ways of developing change road-maps and change plans in more agile ways.

Key takeouts- Why did this work?

  • The technology leaders were very open and committed to empowering their people to tell their stories in their own way. This means the future state messaging resonated with the audience
  • The CIO was very explicit about change and that was the focus. That provided certainty to the employees. Shout out to Simon Noonan for the clear change communication and change leadership.
  • The use of humour meant that people were enjoying themselves and more engaged (fun is very much part of the corporate culture)
  • We maintained a principle of semi-control (these are the principles of how to do it, and here’s what we want to achieve) you do it your way. Shout out to Mark Jennings for relaxing into the process and all of the facilitators who did such a great job.
  • The temporary and portable nature of post it notes meant MORE was contributed than would be gained through formal interviews (might as well put it up, doesn’t really matter).
  • We were constrained by time which upped the energy levels (hustle!).

What do you think?

Would you be able to try something like this in your organisation?

And would you then share it?

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