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Week notes and spider babies


Spider babies

I’m a bit patchy with week notes but a conversation with Oli this week generated an irresistible challenge. Let me tell you about spider babies……

Our team’s mission is to make change happen – we do that in different ways. Sometimes it’s in the form of a project, sometimes we are working with the product teams and sometimes we are working embedded in teams in what we call spokes. Increasingly we are looking at how we design big bits of work as a way of helping the organisation change and sometimes we are just having a coffee and helping a colleague find a way through a problem or develop a new way of working.

Our focus on making change happen can be a bit annoying and I am the worst culprit for this. We try and balance that by using our design principles to make sure that we are doing things with people and not to them – and this is where the spider babies come in.

Much of what we do is creating opportunities for change, sharing ideas and ways of working to see if people want to take them up. These are the spider babies – the potential changes that will need nurturing and feeding if they are going to turn into something that is sustained and starts growing and creating itself.

But here is the hard part. We can’t pot up all of our spider babies – not all of them will thrive and a house full of spider plants rapidly runs out of room and appetite for house plants – a bit like an organisation runs out of energy for change. And at the resin of REALLY stretching the metaphor its not up to us which ones get potted up – this is something that we need to coproduce with the teams we work with.

Our next phase of digital/not digital transformation is going to be about finding out which are the spider babies the organisation wants to feed and nurture and accepting that this means leaving some others to take their chances. Even writing this sounds harsh but it’s just the same principle of any agile approach; test and learn and be prepared to discard stuff. But that’s easy when you are talking about code; much harder when you are talking about helping people change their ways of working.

As we work in the organisation part of the art rather than science of transformation is identifying which of those spider babies to pot up – where are the places where sustainable change is going to happen if you just give it the right conditions.

That sustainable change means looking at the layers of change which sit below the surface; changes to job descriptions and governance and real changes to processes and sometimes structures. We are building on a solid foundation of the work that happened before I joined and our approach is to places in the organisation which can support their own digital transformation but also operate us part of a network that we can offer support and if needed guidance to. We also expect that before long those places will be creating their own spider babies.

This isn’t the only way we make change happen but it is an important part of the work. Some change needs energy poured into it and you need to invest and get organisational heft behind it – that’s the kind of work I was describing in the piece on Big programmes. Other change is organic and just needs the right conditions to be created – sometimes you just need to plant the spider babies.

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