Seven weeks in to a new role. You know what you want to do to make a difference and no CIO wants to come in and make changes for the sake of it; and yet at the same time you want the team in all its permutations to be working with you, reflecting your values into the way we work and ensuring that everything you do is based on the great outcomes you want and need for the organisation you are now a cog in the wheel of.

I’ll not mince my words. Change in a team can feel hard. Working out how to make change happen so that it lands in the right way is complex. Once we are in the change cycle we often don’t see the wood for the trees anymore and we need to! We need to find ways to stay engaged as we step through change, and most importantly we need to be on the journey together.

I have joined my new organisation at a brilliant time and had the most amazing hand over from the outgoing CIO and have been welcomed into the team like never before. With all that in mind in just a few short weeks in I am now in a brilliant place where we have a draft business plan, a set of personal Objective Key Results (OKRs), a renewed set of governance for digital transformation and data modernisation and a set of plans that allow us to read across the massive transformation that is in pipeline for the coming 12 months. Those that have known me a while will also know that I couldn’t sleep at night until I understood what the operational values and service management capability of the organisation as it stands – it is some of the best insourced capability I have ever seen. (this is you Kenny Robertson CB & Jacqueline Hanson)

I heard a phrase I loved last week: ‘Ask a fish about the water, the fish will say, “what water?”’

For me that is a lesson we need to avoid when we are in a team that is leading a change. We need to always accept that the change is around us – as fish swimming in the water we need to be aware of the H2O!

Me and the team were quite clear on the change cycle we wanted to adopt when we began the process and I think that has helped us. We were moving from expertise in what we want to change onwards and into understanding the difference we want to make and ‘finishing’ with a convergence of how we get there accepting all the ideas and acknowledging that the change is now here for us to make a success of. Reaching that convergence requires us to persuade, agree and then share. Sharing is how the agreement of where we are going and how with a renewed focus on our customer, the outcomes we want to achieve for them and our colleagues and the simplicity we want to put in front of them to facilitate every day they have here being a great experience.

The Venn diagram of successful teams going through a change is something we are trying to keep in our minds. It needs to have the HOW the WHAT and the WHO captured and clarity on what to do in the overlaps. The how becomes the relational process we undertake to get there. The what remains constantly the content of the change we are making, the subject line of the change if you will. The who, that is the fabric of the change, the people we need to come with us on the journey. The overlaps of the Venn though is where the success is really ignited, when we have clarity that lands in the sweet spot of the Venn then change is so much more straight forward.

Making that overlap point of the Venn diagram work as the fulcrum point of the change seesaw is key to reaching the tipping point. I feel, six weeks in, that we are getting that nearly right. Engaging thousands of colleagues in change though is where the challenge we have is making us scratch our heads a little. Transparency is key we think hence the OKRs approach and really pushing early drafts of the business plan into the team. Describing the end in mind I think is also helping, where we will struggle though is the reach, lets face it in 2023 we are trying to compete with the headlines in every media outlet, streaming service and social media to engage our colleagues in communications about change.

In a conversation with an old friend and mentee/mentor (stand up Mr Steve Westgarth) he suggested considering a Domain Driven Design (DDD) approach and looking to overlay that over the change needs we have in mind. On face value I really like this, after all it will appeal to a large proportion of digital people as it originates in software design and the delivery of technology. So, the DDD concept first requires us to define the domain and its attributes so here goes:

Entity: In the case of the change we are trying to make I define the entity as the way we do business here, not limited to a target operating model or business plan but a more human view of it being ‘easy’ to deliver digital and data solutions in our organisation.

Value Object: I think of this as the customer outcomes, the support for 12 million vulnerable people across the UK.

Domain Event: The moment when we are able to see that the ‘machine’ is delivering to the outcomes and we have a describable ability to continually deliver.

Aggregate: I think this is where we call out the artefacts of change, a new governance model, a business plan, OKRs, Plan on a Page, Business Engagement and Ownership models.

Service: I hope this is the concepts of Enterprise Architecture and Strategy and how they are the basis for how we interact with the OKRs for the team as the basis for what we do. Ultimately these elements come together to be the business architecture of our outcomes focused organisation, not digital, the whole organisation.

Repositories: For my organisation this is the Strategic Reference Architecture (SRA). A single set of composable systems and solutions that can be reused by all elements of the organisation creating standardisation of process, uniform data models and access controls and efficient and reusable solutions.

Factories: This is Digital DWP, the function that has all the inner workings that create delivery, inner workings that our business does not need to understand because a successful factory allows input and output from ‘anyone’ the sausage machine inside will be complex, but the sausage that comes out the other end must be easy to eat!

And that my dear reader is why this behemoth is so huge/When you write it down like that you realise that making this happen is a big change but one so worthwhile that we have to keep running up the hill to make it so. And perhaps these definitions, with some finessing and reviews from the team can be the bed rock of the change description.

Whilst the change happens we also need to keep an eye on the concept of ‘Cosmos Vs Chaos’. I personally don’t mind a bit of chaos along the way but it has to have a very tight time limit to it and the exit door of the chaos arena must always be visible. Getting the cosmos to align at the end of the journey is super important and perhaps plays back to that key communications moment of setting the end in mind at the beginning.

And there we have it, some ideas, some transparency on what we are doing and maybe some food for thought, as always very very happy to hear from others who have any ideas about this or suggestions of additional elements to try. 

As always, I can’t wait to hear other peoples views on this one…