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Fostering participation in a change project

Elissa Farrow
May 13, 2013

Last post we looked at common staff engagement techniques and practices around information provision and consultation. We learnt there were a range of techniques used and that these needed to occur at key points across the change journey. The third method of engagement is active participation.

There is a growing trend in active leadership and participation approaches where staff are part of the solution formation as part of planning and strategising processes. The active participation method would vary based on the size of the organisation. Decisions need to be made about who is best to be part of these active processes, in my experience a vertical slice is always beneficial with careful selection of staff who can contribute both positive and negative critique and viewpoints.

Strategies might include:

  • Panels
  • Appreciative enquiry approaches
  • Action research
  • World café
  • Advisory committees
  • Staff reference groups
  • Design workshops
  • Value workshops
  • Strategy workshops
  • Knowledge centres
  • Shared document processes
  • Participatory leadership
  • Review teams

There are a variety of different strengths for using active participatory approaches in organisational change processes, but rarely is there much time allocated for them. There must be sufficient time allocated for the new ideas from staff to emerge and a level of trust in the organisation that they are seriously considering the views of staff and committed to building the new future with them.

Active engagement models need to be carefully facilitated and the clarity around power and control elements determined early. In some organisational contexts these models may not be as successful given the boundaries around legislative or commercial decision making processes.

Best case organisational change management processes have both information, consultation and active engagement processes that are carefully planned for, resourced and evaluated.

Evaluating the success of any engagement process is crucial to also determining the impact of the engagement method on staff and how the engagement is moving people up the awareness curve towards accepting the change and actively engaging in the new future reality.

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Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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