Is culture change a busted flush?

By Stephen Jolly, Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Transform, and Calvert Markham, Director of the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence.

On Tuesday 2nd July, M&C Saatchi Transform will host a panel in partnership with the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence.

Our four panellists, Mark Babington, Financial Reporting Council; Megan de Klerk, Pennon Group; Christian van Stolk, RAND Europe; and Baroness Thornton, former CEO of The Young Foundation, will share stories, practical advice and discuss organisational culture transformation - an issue high on the agenda for any company which recognises the urgent need to continually adapt to the rapid rate of business, environmental and political change.

It is clear that traditional approaches to culture change need re-thinking. 81% of change and transformation programmes fail (Smith, 2002). In many organisations, change is seen as something that is done to people, rather than driven by people.

All of us now conduct business in a highly competitive environment fuelled by fast-changing technology (AI and blockchain are just the tip of the iceberg); economic and political disruption; increasingly complex legislation and regulation; new challengers and disruptive business models; and changing societal expectations. In response, organisations across the public, private and third sector need to boost workforce agility, resilience, innovation, wellbeing and engagement. Those who fail to do so will simply be left behind.

For too many years, we have taken the same approach to change, but expected different and successful outcomes. A focus on the ‘hard wiring’ of the organisation without a clear understanding of the drivers of human behaviour, has meant impactful and profitable change is unlikely to be achieved.

Time and time again, we prioritise process over employees’ behaviours, needs and motivations and fail to involve the very people most affected by the change. Lack of employee insight and leadership support are two of the biggest offenders and are both well-researched kryptonite to change programme success.

Workforce insight

People act socially, not rationally. In our heart of hearts, it’s something we’ve always known but the advent of behavioural economics, neuroscience and behaviour change as an industry has repeatedly demonstrated that we are social animals, acutely aware of group dynamics, peer group influence and, in this case, organisational norms.

Organisations must gather data to get under the skin of their workforce and understand the behaviours and motivations of the people who will feel and deliver change. Organisations should then use this insight to identify critical behaviours to be encouraged or deterred in line with your objectives. Then, they must constantly measure as the organisation goes through its cultural evolution to prevent the change programme from slipping off course and to demonstrate meaningful evidence of improvement.

Lack of leadership and management support

The role of the sponsor in modelling and positioning culture change as vital to business strategy cannot be underestimated. Without active recognition from leadership, the rest of the workforce is unlikely to take notice. Change practitioners must also remain keenly aware of middle ranking leaders, who can often be a bigger threat to change than the C-suite. Alvesson (2002) highlighted the majority of managers do not have a bird’s eye view of the entire organisational culture. Instead, they “manage within cultures and affect or negotiate the meanings and values of their subordinates, peers or immediate superiors”.

Guests and panellists joining the discussion on the 2nd July are coming together, because they want to see a better approach to change. They believe, and many have witnessed, how a people not process approach is proven to deliver behaviour change that is more likely to meet an organisation’s strategic objectives. Click here to find out more and register for the discussion.

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M&C Saatchi Transform, combines rigorous research, a deep understanding of the social aspects of human behaviour and legendary creativity to help ambitious leaders identify and drive the behaviours they need to deliver change and enhance performance within their organisations.

The Centre for Management Consulting Excellence, promotes leading edge thinking in management consultancy by linking academic research and practitioner experience, and is our partner for this discussion.

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Alvesson, M. (2002) Understanding Organizational Culture, Sage, London.

Smith, M. E. (2002) – Success rates for different types of organisational change. Performance improvement, 41 (1), 26.


Do. Feel. Think.

Using behavioural change to drive employee engagement.

By Stephen Jolly, Managing Director, M&C Saatchi Transform and Mark Mason-Jones, Managing Director, Personal Presentation Ltd.

Nobody’s ever learned to ride a bike from reading a book.

Such a book (if indeed one has ever been written) would probably give you a theoretical understanding of the process: where to sit, how you transfer your energy to the back wheel via pedals and a chain, how to use the handlebars to steer, how to brake, but by the time you have finished reading you still would not be able to ride a bike. Until you actually get on one and have a go, all of that knowledge and understanding will be practically meaningless.

Classroom learning has an important role to play in the education process, whether school, higher education or professional development. However, it has its limitations. It does not suit everyone’s learning style and there are some things it just cannot teach.

Much of our conventional education system is based on the belief that thinking – and developing the faculty of thought – is an end in itself. If action is required, it is predicated on thought – we’re taught to think before we act. Our feelings barely get a look in, typically being bypassed or suppressed as unnecessary interference - Think – Feel– Do (or TFD).

It’s strange that we have persisted so doggedly with this model, because we have known of its shortcomings for a long time. Over a hundred years ago, experimental psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus formulated the ‘forgetting curve’, which plots memory against time. Ebbinghaus found that our retention of information absorbed in a lecture, for example, drops to around 40% in the first couple of days and then to 2‐3% after 30 days.

Experience tells us that very often it is precisely the opposite of TFD that’s at work, like when we first get on a bike. Here it is our body, through the intermediary of our feelings (a rush of adrenaline, as we feel we’re losing balance and need to correct) that is teaching our brain. Do – Feel – Think.

There is a mass of evidence (not to mention intuition) to suggest that effective, durable learning lies somewhere between these two extremes. Kinaesthetics is a learning system that advocates learning through carrying out physical activities rather than listening to lectures, or indeed, combining intellectual learning with physical activity, so that the learning is ‘embodied’. Its proponents argue that “learning doesn’t happen from the neck up, it happens from the feet up. Educators can no longer place movement, emotion, and thinking into separate ‘compartments’. Many students feel awkward when they want to move around or express emotions when teachers want them to sit, be quiet and learn. Educators would see their classrooms grow by leaps and bounds, once they realise that what their students are experiencing is a healthy integration of mind and body.” [1]

Designers and implementers of organisational change initiatives would see the same benefits. Behavioural change is in essence learning, retaining and acting on something new. So, a holistic approach to initiating and sustaining change – in which TFD, head, heart and body are all aligned and engaged simultaneously and without an imposed hierarchy – makes as much sense here as it does in the classroom.

That is why M&C Saatchi, world leaders in behaviour change, have joined forces world-class communication transformers Personal Presentation Ltd to revolutionise the all too conventional world of employee engagement.

On Thursday 20 June, we will be hosting Transforming Change, a 90-minute experiential breakfast workshop and discussion.

Date: Thursday 20 June, 08:00 arrival. 08:30 – 10:00am workshop and breakfast.

Address: M&C Saatchi, 36 Golden Square, London, W1F 9EE.

Together, we will share our new approach and explore:

  • Why 81% of organisational change programmes fail
  • How collaboration and transparency – two vital ingredients in any behavioural and cultural change initiative – can become lost in face-to-face interactions and how they can be re-established
  • How blockers to change can occur as a result of pre-conceived notions of people and what their behaviour represents. Plus, how a heightened awareness of these blockers can open the door to mutual understanding and a positive outcome
  • The power of energised articulation to give people the impetus, connectedness and confidence to engage in new ways of thinking and doing
  • The role of technology in measuring, sustaining and embedding change

Please contact Flick Hardingham, Senior Adviser at M&C Saatchi Transform on flick.hardingham@mcsaatchi.com, if you would like to attend.

[1]  Mike Kuczala, Training in MotionHow to Use Movement to Create Engaging and Effective Learning.


Transforming Change, an experiential breakfast workshop on 20 June 2019.

M&C Saatchi Transform, the leader in organisational behaviour change, has formed a new partnership with communication experts Personal Presentation.

Together, we are driving a radical approach to culture change, using cutting-edge social science alongside experiential techniques to equip employees to drive new behaviours.

On Thursday 20 June, we will be hosting Transforming Change, a 90-minute experiential breakfast workshop and discussion.

Date: Thursday 20 June, 08:00 arrival. 08:30 – 10:00am workshop and breakfast.

Address: Berkeley Room, M&C Saatchi, 36 Golden Square, London, W1F 9EE.

Together, we will share our new approach and explore:

  • Why 81% of organisational change programmes fail
  • How collaboration and transparency - two vital ingredients in any behavioural and cultural change initiative – can become lost in face-to-face interactions and how they can be re-established
  • How blockers to change can occur as a result of pre-conceived notions of people and what their behaviour represents. Plus, how a heightened awareness of these blockers can open the door to mutual understanding and a positive outcome
  • The power of energised articulation to give people the impetus, connectedness and confidence to engage in new ways of thinking and doing
  • The role of technology in measuring, sustaining and embedding change

The workshop will be interactive, enabling you to understand the power of our work.

Please contact Flick Hardingham, Senior Adviser at M&C Saatchi Transform on flick.hardingham@mcsaatchi.com, if you would like to attend.


Is culture change a busted flush? panel discussion on 2 July 2019.

On Tuesday 2 July, M&C Saatchi Transform is hosting a panel discussion in partnership with the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence.

Date: Tuesday 2 July 2019, 18:00 – 20:30.

Address: Carnaby Room, M&C Saatchi, 15 Golden Square, Soho, London, W1F 9JG. See Google Maps.

Transport: Nearest underground is Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus.

In many organisations, change is seen as something that is done to people, rather than driven by people. With this approach, it is unsurprising that 81% of change and transformation programmes fail (Smith, 2002). In the context of increasingly rapid business, environment and political change, it is clear that traditional approaches need re-thinking.

The evening will be a panel discussion with drinks and canapes moderated by Calvert Markham, Director of the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence. Our panellists include:

See below for our panellist's biographies.

Together we will explore how behavioural science and a people not process approach can deliver behaviour change that is more likely to meet the organisation’s strategic objectives.

Please contact Flick Hardingham, Senior Adviser at M&C Saatchi Transform on flick.hardingham@mcsaatchi.com, if you would like to attend.

Panellist biographies

Christian van Stolk, Vice President, RAND Europe; Research Group Director, Home Affairs and Social Policy

Christian van Stolk is vice president at RAND Europe and director of the Home Affairs and Social Policy research group. He has worked extensively on social and employment policies and recently finished a review for the UK Government on improving employment outcomes of those with mental health conditions.

Christian has led studies on active age management in the workplace for the European Foundation; employment priorities until the year 2020 for the European Commission (DG EMPL); and a major project on health and well-being at work for the Department of Health in the United Kingdom. He was also lead author on the INSPIRE project for DG EMPL, looking at the future of social policy and protection in Europe. He currently manages RAND's work on the Britain's Healthiest Workplace competition with Vitality Health.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Megan de Klerk, Group Leadership Talent Lead, Pennon Group

Megan de Klerk is a business psychologist, studying an MSc in Occupational and Business Psychology, holds a post-graduate qualification in Business Leadership, is registered with Business Psychological Society for ability psychometric administration and will be qualified in personality psychometrics.

With a 16-year career analysing and transforming organisations globally, Megan possesses experience in the private sector (FMCG through to Financial), the public sector specialising in transport through to local government and the higher education sector, in both global and local markets.

Megan has achieved recognition for her excellence in change management through the Association of Business Psychologists in the UK (Award Finalist – excellence in Change Management), with the programme having strengthened internal executive movement by 50% in just over a year at Westminster City Council (including CEO), and increased the gender diversity in the Council.

As an artist Megan looks to the greats for inspiration, not just for her next painting, but to learn from their courage in challenging the way things are, look and can be. Megan takes inspiration on how they drive through results that are either loved or hated but still these results create emotion, followers and ultimately movements. Megan knows it is essential to establish a culture of collective commitment and a climate of positivity, by creating positive energy networks through building a climate that exudes compassion, has space for forgiveness and embodies gratitude.

She has recently returned from a year in South Africa delivering a transformational programme for the South African Typographical Union (SATU) and government agencies, to decrease poverty and increase opportunities for women, through completing an industry review of the typographical sector of South Africa and SATU’s culture. Megan is now working with Pennon Group, in Exeter, as their Group Leadership Talent Lead, around a culture change, that will bring two disparate cultures, under one group.

Megan understands the complexity of human behaviour, within culture change programs, that impact the adoption of new ways of working. Taking the time to understand the business readiness, not just from a process/structure/hand-off point of view, but the behavioural readiness of the individuals impacted, is imperative to understanding the interventions needed to support effective culture change. Taking people on the trajectory as it starts, by employing high levels of engagement, opening two-way dialogue and being honest, even if the messages are hard, will mean your employees will be with you at the end.

Mark Babington, Acting Director, UK Auditing Standards and Competition, Financial Reporting Council

Mark Babington is the Acting Director of UK Auditing Standards and Competition at the Financial Reporting Council. He is responsible for the FRC’s UK Audit Policy programme, measures to support greater competition in the UK audit market and work to support the reform of international standard setting for auditors, by global regulatory authorities.

Prior to joining the FRC, Mark had a twenty‐year career in audit and was a Director at the UK National Audit Office, where his responsibilities included the audit of HM Revenue and Customs, Energy and Nuclear and Defence. Prior to that he was a technical advisor to a number of EU capacity‐building programmes. He was also involved in the audit of the United Nations.

For five years, Mark was a member of the UK government’s counter‐fraud taskforce, He led the NAO’s work on Financial Management, Counter Fraud and Money Laundering. He is a former Chairman of the International Colleges of Auditors of a number of European defence‐related organisations. Mark is an Independent Governor, Board Member and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which is the UK public body dedicated to supporting democracy around the world.

Baroness Glenys Thornton, former CEO, The Young Foundation

Baroness Glenys Thornton is a member of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament. She is Opposition Health spokesperson, and a former Health, and Women and Equalities Minister. In recent years she has been the CEO of The Young Foundation in London’s East End, called after the great social innovator and sociologist Lord Michael Young. Glenys worked as a project director for Michael Young at what was then called the Institute of Community Studies in 1978 and is a proponent of the value of ethnographic research and its use in developing deep understanding of communities and the challenges they face. She is a dedicated and enthusiastic social innovator and supporter of Social Enterprise. In 2001 Glenys founded and chaired Social Enterprise UK, and the All Party Parliamentary Social Enterprise Group, which helped to lead the policy, legislative and development social enterprise sector in the UK with cross party support.

She is a Patron of SEUK, A Senior Fellow of The Young Foundation, an Emeritus Governor of the LSE, Hon Doc of the University of Bradford and a Lay member of Camden CCG.

Calvert Markham, Director, Centre for Management Consulting Excellence

Most of Calvert Markham’s career has been as a management consultant, specialising mainly in the performance development of consultants and practices. The business he founded specialising in this area has trained thousands of consultants from hundreds of organisations around the world. Calvert has been President of the UK Institute of Management Consultants and Vice Chairman of the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes.

He is a Visiting Fellow in the practice of management consultancy at Cass Business School in London and has had teaching engagements at many other business schools. He is also the author of several books on management consultancy.

He is currently Director of the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence, and a past Master of its parent, the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants.