LEARNING THROUGH CHANGE
By WiT, Feb 27 2014 03:53PM
First posted September 2012 - Lesley Cramman
2012 has been a really interesting and creative year for us so far. We have worked with a national charity, a community regeneration trust and a local authority, helping them to transform into the organisations they need to be to serve their communities better. All have embarked on difficult and deeply challenging journeys in the most difficult of times, which have demanded that they rethink what they do and how they do it whilst developing more open, honest and ongoing relationships with the people who work for them and with their communities. Complicated and very difficult work that is almost impossible to pull off without the ability and means to learn and adjust their paths as they go through profound change.
Learning is central to all transformation; learning what is happening, what people want, and how the changes are affecting them are all central to success. Our role has been to help surface and then recycle the learning in real time – to do this we have been further developing the ways we use the Learning History process to create feedback loops between intended and actual results. A Learning History is a tool for consciously learning from experience and gathering the most important aspects of the organisation’s story through the multiple perspectives of the individuals within the organisation, as well as those using services. It is a powerful and highly effective process which results in an important artefact that not only tracks the change process as it happens, but also creates new insights to inform future action.
Our learning has been significant – it is impossible to overestimate the power of listening to the stories people want to tell. The act of listening deeply has been the platform for building trust very quickly with the story sharers, and this has had a profound effect on how they see their organisation and the contributions they want to make. Through this process we have gathered ideas and insights that could not easily be collected in any other way which have been invaluable in adding new dimensions and adjusting change programmes.
Listening is fundamental to developing trust and deep insight, but it needs to be followed by the appropriate changes. From the collected stories patterns quickly form from which key themes emerged in each of the organisations, showing what was important, what was working, what was not, who wanted to help and what they wanted to contribute – and importantly, what else neede to be done to make things work. From these stories emerged the plans. Such essential information at any time, but especially important in times of huge uncertainty and financial limitation. Transformation teams have been able to change tack when needed, take tough criticism as well as unexpected praise, act courageously and effectively and perhaps above all, learn to listen and reflect before acting.
We have seen some wonderful work this year and feel very proud to have made a small contribution to their successes.