This true story draws a parallel between the private and the business world to demonstrate that visibility through collaboration can promote, drive and sustain good behaviour and can also deliver value to stakeholders along the way.

The old adage “you get what you measure” is the basis of this article. On the flip side however is the risk is that if you don’t do something with that measurement, value is likely to erode, the change will often undo and stakeholders could begin to disengage.

All change journeys are different but the common thread is value. If value can be translated to all areas of the business and people can sense a positive “whats in it for me” then they are likely to want to be involved and a natural convergence seams to occur.

So lets get on with the story…

My 16 year old son was born with an allergic reaction to school work. This allergy can be brought on suddenly by Surfing, Skateboarding, Guitar, YouTube, FaceBook, Tumblr, SnapChat, Girls and his mate up the road who will yell out to him from the front yard “what are you doing?” (at any hour of the day).

We have tried pep talks, discipline, empty threats, reward, overseas trips (just kidding) and recently we bought him a new desk so he could create the ideal scholastic environment in which to study.

My son is in his final years of senior high school here in Australia. It is an important period of his schooling and will decide if he can go straight from school to university. He has his heart set on a particular career path but as grandma used to say 10% aspiration PLUS 90% perspiration equals result. (i.e. all ideas don’t just happen, they require effort).

As parents we too are guilty because school work has always been the focus at the start of the term then due to the usual distractions of life taking over, school takes a backseat. Like many parents we assume that school work is still the number one focus for our kids as they disappear into their rooms and magic happens. (There is a saying that “culture is what happens when management isn’t there”). Could that mean that true culture is what happens behind his bedroom door?

The hardest battle my wife and I had was to instil new behaviour in our son. This challenge is made harder as my wife and I have our own businesses and we aren’t always at home at the same time. The best we were doing was to ask what homework or study was completed for the day during dinner. If I had a dollar every time I heard that statement, “I don’t have any homework tonight” I would have a new car by now. (Especially as this is our fourth child).
My wife and I poured a glass of inspiration (red wine variety) and set out to understand how we would drive change, deliver value and change behaviour with our son…And perhaps with ourselves??

My wife is a personal trainer so the use of measurement and results is key to changing mindsets with her clients. Driving change is my passion and value is something that we both align to but what was going to bring the sustaining result we required?

The secret (well not so secret now) was visibility! We needed to have sight of what our son was doing. When he was doing it and the quality of what he was doing. This was compounded by the fact that it was unlikely that we could do it at the same time with our busy timetables.

The answer was underpinned by technology. Collaboration in fact. Being an ex-techie I built a simple blog site for my son (a free wordpress site). The deal was that in return for us driving him to the beach and the other privileges he was required to blog at the end of every school day what he had heard, had read, learned or was even confused by. Each daily blog would have the days different subjects as sub headings and a few bullet points under each subject. At first the blog was very thin but over time it has started to grow in depth and detail. My son blogs his day, my wife reads it and acknowledges, I read it and acknowledge and the next time we are in the same room we have a positive discussion on where things are at.

So what does this mean for us and what is the real sustaining change here? Does this parallel ring true for change leadership and change management in business?

Driving Change

  • Focussing on the goal keeps us out of the weeds.
  • An idea remains an idea until it is delivered.
  • We adopted and adapted a new way of doing things.

Delivering Value

  • My son has a canvas to privately record his school thoughts and learnings.
  • His recording of his schooling is stored in one place.
  • He can use it as a library before assignments and exams.
  • We have a tighter communication channel even when we are apart.
  • It has also brought us closer together.

Changing Behaviour

  • My son routinely records his school day.
  • My wife and I are obliged to engage and respond.
  • We start to trust and rely on the communication as being mutually beneficial.
  • We now have an appreciation on what is urgent vs what is important.

We are all human. We are driven by what is important to us. I hope my story demonstrates the parallels that exist between home and work and that the leadership approach taken could work anywhere (perhaps minus the red wine).

If culture is in part the result of what happens when there isn’t supervision two way engagement and trust appear to be two simple remedies…

Martin Kerr (Structured Change)