Recently we have been trying to notice and capture the ‘Power of How’; learning and sharing what makes change happen as we work together to create the conditions for a healthier, happier Greater Manchester and reduce the inequalities that remain.
The conversations we have had and the articles I have written on this topic have created energy, challenge and the further development of ideas and understanding. GM Moving partners are hosting a workshop on The Power of How in a couple of weeks time, to keep this conversation and our understanding growing.
Last week, I held a short workshop with some of the team; to explore the value of our work, using the Revaluation approach.
I started the session with a reflection on the question of WHY?
“As we work as enablers, facilitators, strategic influencers, connectors, supporter and deliverers…Why do we need to need to understand the value of our individual and collective work?”
I don’t know about you, but knowing whether I am making a difference and understanding something about how, gives me a sense of purpose when I start work each day. It motivates me and helps me to decide where to put my efforts. It is also important because I need to report on and explain the value of my work to investors, partners and most importantly; the people I serve. Talking together, we all had similar needs. Starting with why was a good place to begin.
If we understand what is of value and what creates positive change, then we can seek to work in those ways more of the time. We can also evidence it and explain it to others more clearly, supporting more people to work in ways that make change happen.
Because we are all here to make a difference.
To change lives, change systems, and culture.. to change the world for the better.
And we all have finite time, energy and resource. We therefore need to ensure that the way we spend it takes us further, faster towards our shared destination.
In our case our goal is GM Moving; supporting and enabling 2 million people to become active, by 2021.
Designing moving back into life, for everyone and reducing the inequalities that remain.
Hitting the target, but in danger of missing the point?
As individuals, as a team, and certainly as a whole system, we haven’t been noticing, understanding, capturing or evidencing everything that holds value in our work.
For decades we’ve been measured by narrow sets of KPI’s that only scratch the surface of what matters. Worse case scenario, they could drive us to consciously or subconsciously ‘game’ the system to hit a target, but miss the point. At best, the KPI’s we’re measuring only capture part of the value of what we are doing.
If what we are aiming for is long term, sustainable culture change, system change and behaviour change, then have we been measuring what matters?
The traditional measurement ‘system’ can even ask us to compare places to each other, or organisations’ data to each other, putting us in league tables that take no account of the underlying conditions, complexity, the aspirations, the differences in approach, or the myriad of things that are changing all at the same time.
If we are successful, reaching our shared goals and delivering on our shared outcomes, success will be shared, and it will be impossible to attribute it to one organisation, intervention, programme or strand of investment.
Our work with the revaluation team and more recently Substance and Sheffield Hallam University as evaluation partners, has opened our eyes to new ways of noticing and understanding what is driving change.
We are becoming more confident that we can seek to understand the drivers of change and better understand what works and what is going on beneath the surface.
If we pay attention to the approaches, ways of working, levers and mindsets we can develop ‘ever more likely explanations’ for change.
These approaches help us to recognise and work with the complexity. They are translatable from one person or organisation to another and one agenda to another. They helpfully move us clearly away from a conversation about which programme or intervention is the ‘silver bullet’ to addressing any of the social issues we face.
It is important that we seek to understand what is working and what is going on beneath the surface to explain why. Otherwise, we may well achieve our goals, but have no idea how or why. Then we will be less able to continue in a positive direction with confidence. We also won’t be able to support others who want to go on their own journey; to share learning insight or understanding. We will be limiting our potential to make change happen.
What does this mean for me and my work?
Each of us needs to develop an ability to recognise the full value of our approach, and critically; how and why we are making change happen. Once we understand this, we can work in ways that create more value, and make positive change happen, more of the time. We need to make time and space, and develop the ability to notice, reflect and make sense of what is going on. But normally, we run at a million miles an hour cracking on with our work with the next deadline or milestone in sight.
Thankfully, all around us, people are recognising that we need to build in time to reflect, observe, understand, and learn from what is going on, in all it’s complexity.
I used the revaluation approach with the group, as it opens our minds to the value of our work in a very personal and simple way; through the use of three areas of questioning:
- What can you count? Or what ‘could’ be counted that you’d need to find a way to calculate or work out?
- What can you see, hear, feel and touch?
- What connections are being made? What relationships are being developed? And what do you sense/know about the transformational potential of these con nections and relationships in the future?
In revaluation, the approach also distinguishes between what is visible and invisible, which is so important.
This diagram is used as a framework for a conversation which helps people tell their stories of change. In 2018, we used this approach to understand the GM Moving journey and learning. Rather than leading us to a series of numbers and graphs, it took us to a better understanding of the leadership behaviours that are conducive to positive change. Our Pointers for Leadership Practice have since been able to influence and inform how we work, so that we can create even more value in our work.
This evaluation work started us on the journey to becoming a ‘learning system’, aswell as a ‘reporting’ one. Our current work with Substance and Sheffield Hallam University is further developing the understanding to inform this.
Developing our understanding enables us to ask searching questions about our leadership behaviours, such as;
- What do we need to do more?
- What do we need to do less?
- How can our leadership behaviours become ever more aligned to the ways of working; enabling us to work more consistently towards our shared purpose.
- What are our priorities? Where are we stuck? Who can help?
- What are we learning that can help others on a similar journey?
In our workshop, the group had a go at reflecting on the value of their work and their approach in the context of things they could count, feel, see, hear, and the connections and relationships they observe growing.
Here’s an attempt I made earlier when I spent half an hour on a train last summer reflecting on some of the (potential) value of my work as GM Moving lead, if I were able to recognise it and capture it…
What could we count?
- Numbers of people engaged in ‘rooms’.
- Numbers of different sector spaces I’m in.
- Ratio between asking and being asked in.
- Diversity of places and people.
- Number of key GM and local strategies that embed ‘moving more’ or talk about moving as mattering to them.
- Number of local/national/international events to share learning at.
- Change in footwear in meetings and at work! #activesoles
- Social media engagement – amount and diversity of sectors, places and layers.
- Speed of response to new connections that I try to make.
And less visible..
- Number and diversity of people talking about GM Moving and my work in their rooms when I’m not there.
- Return on investment for the role.
What change you feel/see/observe/touch? (tangible)
- Narrative, language and diction
- Ways of leading that we observe
- Attitude and openness to change in leadership
- The way ‘meetings’ look and feel, what’s on the agenda, how the agenda is put together and by who. The way papers and presentations are written/delivered.
- More people asking different questions, opening things up.
- People challenging assumptions about ‘rules’ and less seeking permission or being afraid to do things differently.
- Feel and notice more work aligned to the principles for practice, less transactional ways of working.
And less visible…
- How it feels in ‘other people’s rooms. (more comfortable, understand their language, talking same language?!)
- Who is delivering the message
- How well the message lands (and how we can tell)
- What change is created by my input
- Increase in confidence of others’ delivering the ‘move more’ narrative and the learning.
- People more comfortable with distributed, adaptive collaborative leadership approaches.
- Change in how we communicate- more relational/creative. Less transactional/linear. More conversation less tag email.
- Sense of excitement about the work- day to day and overall
- Reduced friction in the system (things happen more easily, people are aligned in their thinking and approach).
- Change in key relationships- diversity, breadth and strength
Finally, What connections are being made? What relationships are being built? What is the transformational potential of what is happening now, for the future?
- The conversation and interactions in the room before a meeting starts.
- How long it takes to quieten people down after a coffee break or a round table conversations.
- The way people move around a room and who they talk to.
- Whether people ‘stick together’ at multi sector events (or do they open up conversations and relationships with ‘others’? Are we confident to engage with people from other sectors)
- Who talks to who in meetings (notice seniority, hierarchy, interrelationships).
- How much people smile and laugh together.
And less visible…
- Transformational potential of the way of working (vision and excitement about where it’s going).
- Transformational change that we influence outside of GM Moving/GM
- Connections made.
- Growth of future networks.
- Diversity of future networks.
- Future potential for distribution of leadership- GM Moving ‘everyone’s business’.
- Relationship strength, breadth and depth.
- Social connections and strength of relationships between people in the system.
- Changes in how things get done.
- Disruption to norms.
- How the ‘movement’ moves without me, and without me being aware…
What does all this mean for how we evidence change?
If we understand, notice and capture the full value of our work, then we would develop richer insights and learning, which would enable us all to make a bigger difference.
The next question is how do we capture evidence, how much time and effort do we put into capturing it, analysing it and sharing it? And in what format?
Data might become more of a collection or collage of evidence, rather than a simple dashboard of numbers which are RAG rated or turned into graphs.
This could include outcomes stars, social media captures, network maps, videos, photos, stories, case studies aswell as spreadsheets, numbers and graphs.
All of these can show progress and evidence of change as we beautifully capture the value of what we are doing together. We can take this approach as we develop our system indicators, organisational indicators and personal indicators of change. If we look at the work through this lens, we’d see value differently. of course, we would then need to find ways of capturing, collecting, sharing and objectively evaluating the data.
A question for another day is how we do this with rigour, objectivity and in ways that are proportionate to the time and energy we have to do the work!
What’s the appropriate ratio between doing : capturing : learning : sensemaking : sharing?…. and if we are a true learning system, how do we do this in real time, fail fast and keep moving ever onwards and upwards together.