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                  MANAGEMENT OF ...

Change management (or people transition management) is seen more and more often as a critical
Once the change team finalised a comprehensive stakeholder analysis, they implemented stakeholder
engagement mechanisms to...

Industrial theatre serves as an excellent communication tool to convey complex and often emotional
Photo 2 “The venue”

The performers invited employees to participate in the interactive event by holding the large paysli...
He is holding a piece of paper in his hand and he is shaking his head. The dancer notices the other
“The theatre was quite effective; the reason being that it was 15 minutes and no longer. That was
         very good...
a one-way process or by excessive dependence on mass communication channels, but to seek as many
opportunities as possible...
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The Use Of Industrial Theatre As A Communication Tool Eriaan Oelofse April 2009


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March 2009. Industrial theatre and change management. ETD. (Online Magazine).

Published in: Business, Technology
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The Use Of Industrial Theatre As A Communication Tool Eriaan Oelofse April 2009

  1. 1. TO DO OR NOT TO DO… THE USE OF INDUSTRIAL THEATRE AS COMMUNICATION TOOL DURING THE MANAGEMENT OF CHANGE IN THE PROJECT ENVIRONMENT. by Eriaan Oelofse, Ph.D., ChangeWright Consulting, Johannesburg, South Africa Published in the March 2009 edition of Knowledge Resources' ETD online magazine. INTRODUCTION Change management in the project environment is challenging at best, and most change management consultants have at least one “bad” change story in their repertoire of “never to be repeated again” files. As change management practitioners we know that it is quite challenging to deliver effective change management on “good” projects, but on “bad” projects this becomes impossible. There is a saying that you can not compensate for poor project planning, ineffective leadership or seriously flawed technical solutions with good change management. Stated differently, change management is not a magic bullet: It cannot compensate for a shaky business case, a poorly thought out project plan or poor design of the future state of the organisation, its processes and/or systems. Due to so many nuisance variables affecting the delivery and effectiveness of change management, the purpose of this article is to present a high level overview of a change methodology as applied in project environments, followed by a description of how industrial theatre was utilised as a communication tool to mitigate one of the identified change impacts on the project. A qualitative analysis of the telephonic interviews that were conducted with eight respondents, one month after the industrial theatre intervention, is also presented. BACKGROUND The Human Resources (HR) department within a diversified South African mining company faced various risks and challenges, mainly due to the fragmented and highly customised nature of their HR and payroll related business processes and IT systems. This lack of integrated business processes and an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system caused a number of business risks and inefficiencies, specifically referring to statutory and non statutory reporting, forecasting, budgeting and planning. From an infrastructure perspective, it also became more difficult to maintain the (often duplicated) legacy IT systems. To address these inefficiencies, the company launched a programme with the vision of bringing about standardisation of all HR processes, - business rules, - standard operating procedures and - policies across the organisation, enabled through a fully integrated HR IT systems environment. The systems alignment project stream on the programme utilised the above-mentioned business processes as input to design and develop a standard HR systems solution and selected SAP (version ECC6) as the ERP system to replace the legacy payroll and HR systems utilised by the various mines across company. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 1
  2. 2. CHANGE MANAGEMENT Change management (or people transition management) is seen more and more often as a critical component of any project where behavioural change is required for successful project implementation. The purpose of the change management stream is to position, manage, enable and sustain changes brought about by new business processes, technologies, systems and structures and to ensure that all stakeholders, be it managers, employees, or end-users of the new system, are informed, ready, willing, and able to correctly perform their new roles post project implementation. Durable behaviour change, necessary to realise the benefits associated with the planned initiative, is not only influenced by people’s ability to understand the change (cognition), but also by their ability to cope with and/ or adapt to the change (emotion). It is therefore critical to understand, plan for and implement necessary, practical steps that support the behavioural, cognitive and emotional components of stakeholders during the transition, by utilising a robust change methodology and supporting change management tools. Although the change team is responsible to execute the change methodology, it must be emphasised that it is not only the change team’s responsibility to “do” the change management to the organisation; it is a joint responsibility with other project - and business resources. Preparation The preparation phase lays the foundation of the change initiative. During this phase the change team spent a lot of time with project and business resources to not only position and align the initiative with the business strategy, but also to develop shared clarity regarding the scope and nature of the anticipated changes. The team also engaged extensively with senior leadership located at the company head office and at the various mines to ensure leadership alignment and commitment. From a project ownership and sponsorship perspective it is imperative that senior leaders understand the project timeline and approach so that they know how, where and when they should participate. Execution This phase takes place in support of the main part of the project that will result in the transition to the “to be” solution – in this case the implementation of SAP ECC6. The four main focus areas of this phase mostly occur concurrently, but will be discussed separately so as to clarify the main activities. Manage the process In order to effectively manage the change process, the change team developed and implemented a detailed change, communication and stakeholder strategy and plan. The team also provided mechanisms for issue surfacing and tracking of these issues through to resolution. Manage the stakeholders It is not possible to manage stakeholders efficiently if they have not been identified and prioritised in terms of their influence on the outcomes of the initiative as well as the impact of the initiative on them. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 2
  3. 3. Once the change team finalised a comprehensive stakeholder analysis, they implemented stakeholder engagement mechanisms to make sure that all key stakeholders had an adequate understanding of the project objectives, timeline and processes, and that stakeholders who would be significantly impacted by the initiative had a clear understanding of how and when they would be affected. Furthermore, the change team also conducted a number of “people radar assessments” to establish an effective feedback loop between the stakeholder group and the project team. Enable the change The focus of this dimension is to develop individual and/or organisational capacity to deal effectively with the anticipated changes. The change team facilitated a number of work sessions where many change impacts were identified, analysed and validated with the help of project and business resources. The team also discussed and developed plans to deal with the anticipated resistance to these changes by means of a change enablement plan. The identified changes focussed mainly on communicating to HR and payroll employees across the various mines and training them in the newly developed HR and payroll business processes and the new SAP ECC6 system functionality. It came as no surprise that the integration and alignment of a number of payroll offices and stand-alone payroll systems was identified as a major programme risk; inadequately trained SAP ECC6 end users could have an impact on all employees and result in negative changes to their salaries. One of the identified changes that impacted all employees, referred to payslip layout changes (generated by the various legacy payroll systems) as a result of the implementation of a SAP generated payslip. Since this change related only to the layout of the payslip and not to any differences in calculations (e.g. the nett pay, deductions, etc. would stay exactly the same), this was initially seen as a change that could be managed by a detailed and informative pamphlet attached to the new payslip that compared and explained differences between the two payslips. Being a mining company, a large proportion of the impacted employees were mine workers, with varying degrees of literacy. It also transpired that many of these (often illiterate) employees could only understand isiZulu. Furthermore, employees also had to understand the new concept of receiving interim payments during the month (e.g. leave or bonus payouts) that were going to be reconciled on their month-end payslips. In a highly unionised environment, often characterised by distrust between employees and management, it became evident that a pamphlet attached to the newly generated payslip would not adequately address the change impact. Although the change team implemented a comprehensive multi-channel (electronic and face-to-face) communication plan to convey the reasons for, impacts and benefits of the SAP ECC6 implementation, it was apparent that the project had to find an alternative methodology to communicate these payslip layout changes to approximately 3800 employees. Communicating in both English and isiZulu, over a period of less than two weeks, in a highly visible, interactive fun and understandable way posed additional challenges. The team approached Chehan Ideaneers to develop and deliver an industrial theatre production that could be used to effectively communicate the changes in the payslip layout and the reconciliation of interim payouts on the month -end payslip to all employees. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 3
  4. 4. INDUSTRIAL THEATRE Industrial theatre serves as an excellent communication tool to convey complex and often emotional issues in an engaging, interactive and logical approach. Since all the senses are addressed during a show, industrial theatre is a very powerful and enabling experience, which not only reduces resistance to change, but also positively influences mindsets, beliefs and behaviour. The change team selected industrial theatre as a tool to communicate the payslip related changes due to its flexibility and the fact that it can accommodate diverse and often complex communication needs in a simplistic way to create awareness and understanding. Intervention Industrial theatre is not only useful when addressing complex social or organisational issues like diversity, AIDS, or re-structuring. Similarly, industrial theatre does not necessarily have to be a glamorous production, making use of a full range of theatrical resources that can cost a huge amount of money. To keep the costs as low as possible, the show made use of only two performers, fluent in isiZulu and English, and one creative director/sound engineer/production manager. The performers dressed as mine workers (overalls, safety boots and hard hats) and the only props were large printed banners of the old and new payslips (see Photo 1). Photo 1 Props As can be seen in Photo 2, the industrial theatre was taken to where the employees were. The eighteen shows, conducted at four different mines, were performed on the back of trucks, in canteens, recreation halls and sometimes in the open between workshops, where employees from all levels of the organisation were reached. The shows could not be longer than 15 minutes and had to be performed at 06:00 and 14:00 according to the shifts on the mines. Due to the time constraints, it was not possible to have separate English and isiZulu shows. To deal with this, the show was performed in such a way that both English and isiZulu speakers could follow the content of the discussion. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 4
  5. 5. Photo 2 “The venue” The performers invited employees to participate in the interactive event by holding the large payslips (Photo 1) while they explained the changes from the old to the new payslips (using a number of soccer- related analogies) and then rewarding the volunteers with soccer balls after the show (See Photo 3). Photo 3 Soccer balls for volunteers At the end of the performance all audience members also received a detailed and informative pamphlet containing the same information regarding the payslip layout changes that were discussed during the performance. The following is an excerpt of the script developed by Chehan Ideaneers: Opening scene: One very happy employee is dancing to the tune of elated and energising music. The employee is super cool and life is a breeze. Another employee approaches and looks very troubled and worried. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 5
  6. 6. He is holding a piece of paper in his hand and he is shaking his head. The dancer notices the other employee, switches off the radio and walks towards the worried employee. Before speaking to the other employee, he engages with the audience. Once he has the attention of the audience, he turns to the worried looking employee. Sipho: Good morning my brother, you look very troubled. What is the matter? Bongani: Good morning. Yes, I am very worried. HR is now using a new computer system. The computer system is called SAP. Look at my payslip. It has changed. I do not understand the changes. I wish somebody can explain these changes to me…” QUALITATIVE INTERVIEWS To examine the effectiveness of the industrial theatre as a tool to communicate payslip related changes to employees on the various mines, the change team conducted telephonic interviews (lasting between 5– 10 minutes) with eight respondents (the HR managers and internal communication practitioners stationed at each of the four mines where the industrial theatres were conducted), one month after the intervention. All respondents not only attended the shows, but were also involved in onsite support after the new payslips were implemented. Marketing of the event A number of the respondents mentioned that the marketing of the theatre was crucial to the success of the event: “I think the day of the theatre itself, is not as crucial as the preparation that goes before that; the • things that you do to prepare and market it. I think it went well, and that it is important to understand the culture of the people. You also need to warn them of what is coming and get their leaders in your confidence” (Respondent 4) Due to unrelated labour unrest at one of the mines, it was not possible to market the event properly. Employees received work instructions to attend the theatre as part of the compulsory safety meetings and did not really know what the theatre was about until the show started: “They tried to involve us as much as possible but some people were still confused and had never • seen this before. They withdrew a bit” (Respondent 2). Logistics and props Some respondents remarked that the theatre was well supported by management at the mines, due to the fact that the performers were able to take the situation at the various shafts into consideration and still perform without any additional requirements. The length of the theatre event was another aspect mentioned by many respondents: Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 6
  7. 7. “The theatre was quite effective; the reason being that it was 15 minutes and no longer. That was • very good” (Respondent 5). Respondents also confirmed the view that industrial theatre does not need a plethora of props to be effective, but that the simplicity of the props actually accentuated the message: “The way it was done made it easy to understand and was done in a fun manner. The tools or • props they used were great. The big thing was that it was visual. People could observe. This bridged the barriers of literacy” (Respondent 5). “The way they did it, it was like watching TV and very entertaining” (Respondent 2). • Advantages of an interactive event The positive impact of staging such an interactive event was highlighted by a number of respondents. Respondents, furthermore, mentioned that the message of the event was clear and comprehensible: “The audience participated and were not just observers. They were involved and part of the • group. I received very positive feedback from my colleagues. But to me, the message was more than clear, and the participation I saw, means that they understood the message” (Respondent 4). “The message was very clear, the people were happy and it was a success. The point of the • theatre was reached and it was overall very good and the actors did so very well” (Respondent 3). Benefits of the industrial theatre intervention The ultimate test of the effectiveness of the industrial theatre was in the reaction of employees when they received their new payslips. According to most respondents, the new payslips were well understood: “They understood the message and when they were given their new payslips, I can say that there • were very few problems. The message was crossed to the audience” (Respondent 1). “I do think that the theatre was one of the best ways to communicate. It is entertaining and still • has the message” (Respondent 2). DISCUSSION The analyses of the qualitative interview data and the fact that there were very few reported problems after employees received their new payslips, emphasised the effectiveness of industrial theatre as a communication tool when implementing changes in complex and diverse environments. Change practitioners should always keep in mind that communication is so easy to get wrong. The description of the one line item in the change impact assessment referring to the payslip layout changes almost disappeared amongst the other identified project change impacts. It would have been far easier to only make use of pamphlets to explain changes in the layout of the payslips as is generally the case. The success of this intervention reiterated the importance of not always treating communication on projects as Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 7
  8. 8. a one-way process or by excessive dependence on mass communication channels, but to seek as many opportunities as possible for dialogue and interaction. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 8