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We all know that change can be challenging, so anything that helps simplify the situation can only be a good thing. 44’s Tom Abbott shares some of his go-to models for communicating change and explains why a whiteboard is the most effective way to go…

It’s a truth of working life that you’re regularly presented with brilliant new ideas, theories or pieces of research filled with exciting shiny new models that promise to easily explain a complex communications theory or practice.

Implementing new thinking

These models will often grab attention for a while and teams will furrow their brows as they seek to implement this new thinking before moving on to the next brilliant explanation!

And I’ll admit here that many of those reading this who know me, know exactly how much I love a good business model. I think at one point in my previous role, my team suggested my leaving gift should be a whiteboard and a pack of pens. To an extent I remain disappointed they didn’t go for it…

In fact, here is a picture of the whiteboard closest to my desk right now.

Trust me, this makes total sense.

I have collected many of these models over the years, but there is a small group that I find myself constantly referring to. They are often very simple, visual ways to make points about a communications or business challenge.

Creating value

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle is one that keeps creating value every time I see it or use it. It’s almost so popular that I’m now surprised when it doesn’t crop up in a communications or strategy discussion!

I have also been known to produce a good number of models myself, often in collaboration with some excellent thinkers I’ve worked with over the years. I have a particular fondness for what became known (at least to the people I shared it with) as the Pool Model for Intranets. This was named after Graham Pool, with whom I shared a lot of coffee while we wrestled with how to simply define what an Intranet needed.

But the one I’d like to share in this post is one of the simplest models shared with me. It was given to me by Neil Pullen when we working at National Grid together. I’ve never figured out where he got it from or if it was from his own brain, but it’s come in very useful for explaining a reality about change programmes that can otherwise be a bit of a struggle.

Here’s the model:

Most change programmes assume everyone starts at line zero (current state), define some future state (line 1), and then work to move people from 0 to 1. The problem most change programmes and leaders forget is that the majority of people in their organisations are actually at line -1. They don’t know about the need to change, they’re focused on the day job, often distracted by the hygiene factors that get in the way of doing a good job as it is.

The wonderful future

Most leaders and change champions don’t start at -1, they are usually at 0. But they need to be aware they’re starting from a different place and appreciate the need to get people from -1 to 0 BEFORE they can start to pitch in this amazing change programme that will get them all to the wonderful future.

I find this model effective. It’s a really simple way of visibly demonstrating something about change that can easily be forgotten in the buzz of an exciting project. I’ve drawn it many times and it often gets a ‘yes, I see what you mean’ response, which is what a good model should do.

So, which models do you find reliable – the ones you keep coming back to? Are there old favourites that you reach for time and again, or has something new crossed your path that has really made you think about some aspect of communications or business in a new way?

We’ll be sharing more of these favourites in the months ahead, and we’d love to see which you rely on.

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