Are you doing change to people or with people? – Interview with Phil Lewis and Claire Croft of Corporate Punk


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Today’s interview is with Phil Lewis and Claire Croft of Corporate Punk, an award-winning management consultancy that helps clients innovate and transform their business culture. Phil and Claire join me today to talk about how many change/transformation initiatives suffer because they try to do change to and not with their people, how doing change with and not to people is grounded in both data and dialogue and a framework to help an organisation/department/team determine how change-ready they are.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Customers don’t want minimally viable anything. They just want quality – Interview with Debbie Levitt – and is number 489 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders who are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my conversation with Phil and Claire:

  • When you are not getting the outcomes you’re looking for from any kind of change work, then it’s usually not down to poor strategy. A lot of the time it’s down to people not having worked together in the right ways.
  • Strategy tends to die on contact with reality way too easily, and organisations are very good at writing strategic checks that their competencies capability capacities can’t cash.
  • You have to focus on not trying to do change to people, but you have to focus on doing change with people.
  • Signs that you are trying to do change to people:
    • Often you find the language and behavior all in different directions.
    • One of the many phrases that gets used commonly in the world of work that I cannot abide is buy in.
    • Another one is taking people on the journey.
    • They’re both perfect examples of how language points often in a different direction to actual action.
    • When we say buy in, what that tends to mean is we need to get them to nod in agreement somehow but that means there’s not really any active ascent to a course of action.
    • There’s just a lack of dissent. A lot of organizations aren’t very good at managing dissent. They’re not good at engaging with it and resolving it.
    • So. buy-in often means we’re just nodding through stuff rather than having a difficult conversation.
    • When we say taking people on the journey it tends to translate into the creation of a whole set of PowerPoint charts which are then used to bash people on the head with it until they submit.
    • That’s not taking people on a journey, that’s kind of trying to act as a forcing function for a certain kind of behaviour.
    • My favourite one is we’ve got a really robust communications plan. So we’re just going to talk at them until they give in and do what we want.
    • Another one is when not a single person outside of the exec team knows what the strategy actually is, and sometimes within the exec team.
  • You can be efficient with everything, but people.
  • We’ve worked with clients that have spent months, if not years, thinking about what are the optimum processes that need to be in play in their organisation without a single conversation with their employees about their current lived reality of what it’s like to work there.
  • When you do change with people and not to people then things are going to be slower at first. And then in the end, they speed up. Things are going to be a bit frustrating at first.
  • But in the end, they’re going to actually be a lot cleaner and a lot more effective.
  • Leaders need to understand and embrace the idea that people across an organization have different perspectives. They have different experiences of work. They have different skillsets. They’ve got different wants and needs and so on and so forth. Now, if we’re trying to get them to work together differently, what we actually have to do is start by understanding where they’re at today and their perceptions of where the organization is, what its strengths, its weaknesses are, and what is going to happen when this thing called change starts being introduced to the organization.
  • That’s a fundamentally inefficient process, but it’s a process that tends to surface historic experiences of change, not having been good. It surfaces unresolved issues and conflicts.
  • It surfaces disagreement around strategy sometimes. All of that, you have to get good at being able to actually navigate through, which is to say, not just ignore and push to one side, but actually have the necessary conversations across the organization. In order that, people feel heard.
  • In order that, people feel heard. in order that those issues can be satisfactorily addressed and resolved, and in order that the collective can move forward. And so the behavior that comes with that isn’t just about conflict management and being able to engage and consult
  • It’s also about kind of a degree of strategic flexibility that allows an organization to be able to adapt what it’s doing in light of what it’s hearing from its people and make necessary cause corrections and adjustments in order that things can move forward in a more sort of healthy, holistic and inclusive way.
  • People and leaders don’t get trained or coached in how to navigate challenging conversations upwards across or down. No one is trained effectively in how to do this.
  • One of the most important roles of senior leadership is to protect people below from unnecessary, unrealistic, unfeasible pressures.
  • We have an offering called the Change Index, which fundamentally is a quantitative diagnostics platform, which looks at certain key attributes that predict change readiness.
  • The power of data cannot be underestimated in a situation in the work that we do. Because what it does is it permits the dialogue.
  • Just because no one’s talking about what’s really going on around here does not mean it is not known. It does not mean everybody is not feeling it. It does not mean everybody is not struggling with it.
  • Phil’s best advice: Proper dialogue with your people about what you’re trying to do and why and listen to what they have to say.
  • Claire’s best advice: In service of your customers put your energy into your people.
  • Phil’s Punk CX word: Relentless.
  • Claire’s Punk CX word: Integrus.
  • Claire’s Punk XL brand: Barbie Movie, Mattel Marketing
  • Phil’s Punk XL brand: Octopus.

About Phil

Phil LewisPhil is the Founder and Principal at Corporate Punk.

He is an award-winning strategist, mentor, business leader, speaker and author. Phil founded Corporate Punk because he knows there is a better way of making lasting, positive change to businesses. Prior to Corporate Punk, he worked in a range of creative and consulting environments both nationally and internationally.

Phil leads the business, and select client engagements with his trademark combination of compassion and candour.

About Claire

Claire CroftClaire is a Director at Corporate Punk and knows exactly how to inspire positive behaviour change in people. She’s been doing it for 15 years, initially as a senior strategist in a range of creative industry business, and latterly as an Executive Coach. Claire designs complex change programmes and delivers coaching for senior leaders and their teams as well as providing strategic advice on a range of talent issues.

With Claire’s help, leaders and their teams begin to work in ways that maximise commercial impact, and minimise pain.

Find out more about their work at the Corporate Punk site, say Hi to them on X (formerly Twitter) at @corporatepunk and @PhilLewisHQ and feel free to connect with them on LinkedIn here and here.

Credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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