My insights from facilitating transformation labs (guest blog written by Karolina Lewandowska)

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    Hello everyone,

    Exciting news: Today's blog post is written by a very special guest of mine - Karolina Lewandowska.

    Karolina is a member of my International Change and Transformation Team here at Google and I've asked her to share some insights with you all from the transformation labs that she's been involved with recently.

    Karolina Lewandowska, Change and Transformation Specialist, Google for Work

    Karolina: Over to you!


    Happy Wednesday everyone!

    First of all, I would like to thank Kim for inviting me to write a guest post on this wonderful blog.

    Kim has asked me to share my insights and observations from the transformation labs that I have facilitated recently.

    I’d like to start with a short story:

    Three months ago, I facilitated a communications focused transformation lab with one of our UK customers within the food and beverage industry. Their initial deployment was four years previously. We often see that post deployment there is appetite for team-specific transformation labs. In this particular lab we had eight participants, and they came up with 12 prototypes of how to use G+, Sites and Hangouts to improve the way they share information internally. Some of the solutions included collecting employees’ feedback on ideas via G+ (G+ polls), communicating factory updates / alerts via G+ communities and sharing health and safety procedures via Sites. The group estimated that by implementing the above solutions the comms team would save up to 3 hrs / week per person.  

    My personal highlight from the lab was when we had a real ‘lightbulb moment’ with one of the attendees. This lady was the manager of 620 factory workers and was very sceptical about Google Apps. She was not keen on exploring new ways of communicating with their employees, and said that G+ would be ‘yet another channel’ and that people are already bombarded with too much information via emails. When discussing the psychology of change, we talk about the '4 faces of change': ‘the critic’, ‘the victim’, ‘the bystander’ and ‘the navigator’. The aim of every change program is to turn the first three profiles into change navigators. This lady fell firmly into the 'critic' category! As we went through the stages of the lab, the group came to the conclusion that the majority of current communications channels and messages could be unified and posted on G+ (via communities) rather than sent via emails and this would enhance transparency and collaboration within the employee groups. By showing tangible examples of how their communications workflows could be improved with Google Apps, all the lab participants felt more empowered to explore the full potential of Apps and what it could be used for day to day. By the end of our session our 'critic' was coming up with her own ideas on how they could use the technology and even mentioned that she was going to start reading her G+ notifications that she had ignored to date. She 'got it' during the session and through seeing the value of the tools for her and her team she truly turned into a change 'navigator'.

    This is a very simple example but demonstrates the value of transformation labs. They are about  inspiring people, helping them find their personal ‘aha moment’ and shifting mindsets around what is possible with the tools.  As Astro Teller from Google [X] says “Shifting your perspective is better than being smart” and this was a great example of that theory coming to life.

    I’ve been involved in many labs, with different organisations, different industries and different team challenges. Here I’d like to share a few of my suggestions on how to make your transformation lab successful:

    Tip 1: Start the transformation conversation early. Once the decision to switch to Google has been made, make sure to socialise the idea of transformation labs not only with your senior stakeholders but with all employees as early as possible. This will help you build a strong case for change that will fit into your strategy and vision and will get people thinking about the potential business processes that need improvement.

    Tip 2: Identify a transformation lab sponsor. You have probably heard it many times before but having executive sponsorship for your transformation journey is essential. Ideally, the transformation lab during deployment should be sponsored by someone at executive or director level. And post-deployment labs should be sponsored by the department head / team lead. The support from senior leaders will not only increase the participants’ motivation but will significantly contribute to faster and smoother implementation of the identified solutions.

    Tip 3: Choose the right participants for the Lab. From my experience, it’s crucial to choose the right audience, especially for your initial transformation lab as it will set expectations for the labs to follow. So who are the ideal participants? Ideal participants for the lab are those grounded in or representing the business where collaboration, efficiency or innovation are important. I recommend that you limit the number of people from the IT who participate, and have them focus on helping with the prototyping elements of the lab. This will help keep the focus on solving real business challenges and demonstrating the value of the products to employees outside of IT. From my observations, the labs that have worked best are smallish, with 10-12 attendees, where you can divide them up into two or three working groups on the day. Larger numbers work fine too - but you’ll need additional helpers and facilitators.

    Tip 4: Let the participants lead. Oftentimes the outcome of the lab depends on creating the right atmosphere in the room to facilitate creativity and innovation. That’s why we start with an inspirational section where we show the art of the possible and get the people in the room thinking big. In order to have a productive brainstorming and prototyping session, it’s important to keep the session as informal as possible so that everyone can freely express their ideas. Transformation is not an event, it’s a process - and the lab is just the first step. We want to plant the seed of innovative thinking so that attendees will continue transforming once they leave the room.

    Tip 5: Recognise the lab rock stars: There is nothing worse than an orchestrated effort that goes unnoticed. That’s why it’s important to say ‘thank you’ to all attendees and recognise the most active and enthusiastic ones. Saying ‘thank you’ can take various forms: from posting attendees’ names on G+ community, calling out their names at the department / team meeting or distributing goodies. Just make sure that it fits well in your recognition & reward system as it will be the best incentive for your future lab participants.

    These are my tips for facilitating an impactful and inspiring lab that results in exciting and tangible ways that Google Apps can be used at the organisation, I hope that might provide you with some ideas and tips about how you can run your own labs.

    I’d love to hear your feedback, comments or thoughts on this topic - as per usual - you can add these to the discussion forum here.