Alex recently presented to a conference of global HR Directors in New York on the Unleash & Engage 5 Key Insights on Change. C-Suite leaders from organisations such as Ford, Honeywell, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Johnson Controls, Arcelor-Mittal and Georgia Pacific heard Alex talk about Unleash & Engage’s take on productivity and the role of true engagement.

Much of the conversation in the room centered on the paradox that despite the great advances in management science and capital investment, productivity in the US, Europe and Asia has steadily declined over the last 60 years. The biggest opportunity to drive improvement in productivity lies in engaging people, harnessing ideas and giving ownership for performance to the teams who do the work.

Alex shared with the group five key insights from the experience of Unleash & Engage:

  1. Change starts with creating a shared belief through the team: real change is only possible when there is a shared belief that the destination is more attractive than the current position and that there is a shared understanding of the journey. Too often leaders issue instructions that practices and behaviours must change, not realising that as soon as they look away we will all revert to what we have always done.
  2. Once belief exists, transformation is just a matter of changing habits: too often we tell ourselves change takes a long time, and change is very hard to achieve.  It is more effective to focus on simply changing one habit at a time – ‘culture’ is simply a collection of organisational habits.
  3. Habit change does not take long – but building habits takes intensity and frequency – nobody got fit by going to the gym once a month,  your new routine must be performed regularly and with commitment.
  4. Engagement is the route to sustainment – people protect what they build: co-creation truly is the only way to engender commitment. As the saying goes, no involvement – no commitment. If you think involvement takes more time, try disengagement.
  5. Sustainment is the route to profit: whilst top down change can deliver a short term blip in performance, sustainable change requires people wanting to maintain and accelerate improvements they have created.