Putting People at the Heart of Culture Change

At last week’s GovX Digital conference, there was a valuable discussion on Culture Change in Government, chaired by Bob Gibbon. As it emerged over the course of the conference, much of the challenge of change in the public sector is very similar to the challenge of change in the private sector. Fundamentally, people are at the heart of everything.

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When instigating culture change, taking a human-centred approach requires employers to listen to their people and to involve them in the process. Consider consulting your employees or team members, particularly those with influence in your organisation – not hierarchical influence, but those who are connected with the organisational culture and with their peers. Not only does this give you insight into the micro-cultures that exist in teams and departments, but it builds trust and will give you models of behaviour at different levels of your organisation.

With people at the centre of change, there is also a need to understand that people are diverse. What is required of them and why should they change? What’s in it for them as an individual, and how does what they are being asked to do connect with their purpose and that of the organisation?

For leaders, change requires the vision and energy to drive it and the courage to model the behaviour and push through the transition. Change must be lived by leaders. They need to intentionally demonstrate the culture on a daily basis and, ideally, leaders would start living the values and culture they wish to see before it is rolled out across the wider organisation. This builds recognition in the behaviours people are being asked to adopt and helps to limit the amount of potential push back.

Once the change has been initiated, monitor it. Consult with people again – what changes have they seen? Are they connected to the new culture and is it being lived across the organisation? Is the new culture mirrored in your behaviour, both internally and externally, and in your communications? What tweaks might be required?

Change has become the norm this year and, as Joel Arthur Barker stated, ‘when a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero’. What change can you initiate to help your team or organisation leap ahead?

'Culture Change in Government' was a panel discussion at the GovX Digital conference, held in November 2020. The discussion was chaired by Bob Gibbon and the panel included Bernadette Thompson, Marco Salzedo, Manisha Pathak, Becky Thoseby, Liz McKeown and Lynda Rawsthorne.

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