People Change's founder explains key to successful transformation

16 July 2019 8 min. read

The name ‘People Change’ is no coincidence, according to its managing director, as it is important to spell out in black and white what companies must prioritise to complete a digital or organisational transformation. Speaking to, Rogier Offerhaus explains why the coaching of individuals and teams, staff and executives alike, must form the base of any change effort, if it is to succeed.

People Change helps its clients with the complex processes of organisational or digital transformations in their business. The chief focus of the change consultancy is to put the transformation of all levels of a client’s staff at the centre of such work. After all, Rogier Offerhaus, founder of People Change explains, “that’s why we are called People Change.”

He then states, “Our first question is, ‘How do you want to transform yourself?’ It’s a very serious question, because leadership doesn’t want to transform themselves, and so it becomes much more difficult to deliver the transformation across different levels of the organisation. A CEO has to know what it means to transform personally, and how much energy such a transition requires. Also, they must understand what their personal role is in the process of transformation.

The change consultancy is so committed to this idea that the leader of a company should be willing and able to adapt, that the consultancy will always work with the CEO of a client for some time before moving on to the wider business. Usually Offerhaus or one of his colleagues will commence the process with the CEO (and a few selected others) via one-on-one work for a period of about six months. Only then will the firm “move on to the wider organisation after that period of preparation.”

Rogier Offerhaus, Founder of People Change

People Change Scan

Key to all of this, though, is the People Change Scan which commences the process. The company developed the framework and tool to help prepare and monitor change processes and to coach employees in their personal development. The scan supports companies in better understanding the organisation, teams and employees, gaining insight in mind-sets and change skills of employees when preparing for change strategies.

According to Offerhaus, the scan will evaluate a company to offer up a summary of the mind-sets exhibited by its workers toward change. There are six main variants of mind-set which the scan picks up on, of which most people have between one and three dominant mind-sets. “The importance of this is that if you can pick up on all six of these mind-sets among different people, when it comes to finding solutions during a transformation, you can then navigate and consult with six different points of view. The more options you have, then, the more chance you have to be successful, because transformations are ultimately about finding your way (in unchartered territory).”

Pointing out that this relates back to why work must begin with the CEO too – Offerhaus says this is how culture gets changes in an organisation. “The six mind-sets can influence the culture of the firm.” If the CEO is open to them, the boss’ endorsement can go a long way to building a culture where there are six different cultures – and importantly, a diversity of opinions and mind-sets which can help the company come to successful conclusions. Offerhaus summarises that this helps, “because then you can be agile, and see changes as options, not as something which controls you. Diversity means you can keep control of change, and don’t need to fear it.” In this way, the tool takes data from the company to see where it is, as well as where it wants to be on individual, team, and organisational level. Along with explaining six mind-sets and operational structures, People Change’s tool also adapts to keep track of changes along the way which may alter what a company is looking for in their transformation end-states.

“Our consultants are in the organisation for one, two or three days per week, in what you could call a coaching role”, Offerhaus says, “so that our clients can then develop the kinds of organisation they want for themselves. We go from coaching to structure. On the structural side you have six structures. Most of the time we use three widely-known structures, either top-down, bottom-up or a matrix approach. We have three more; agile, network structure and more of a family structure. Based on the outcome of the scan, what the CEO and management team agree, the client can then decide which structure is best to use.”

“People are difficult.”

More important than simply plumping for one new structure as a kind of silver bullet to heal all ills, though, is that thanks to People Change’s coaching, the firm should also know how to change the structure in line with the desired culture when needed. The tool also captures changes in the market, so it “helps us and the leaders of a client go to the next level, the strategy level,” which Offerhaus suggests can help clients evolve their most strategic objectives. At that point, he asserts, “that is when we have delivered the full package, an end-to-end (digital) transformation, and change can then be on-going, because people have sustainably increased their change capabilities”

When asked for examples where People Change’s model has been successfully deployed, Offerhaus points to a diversity of cases, both large and small. Thanks to its agile capabilities, People Change’s tool has been applied to everything from sales for international airline Transavia to the abilities of the Belgian men’s hockey team. “At Transavia, we helped their sales teams undergo a transition from offline to online sales. Traditionally, Transavia used to tickets for their flights through travel agencies, while in today’s digital world they sell most directly via the website. Their sales teams now have to tap into changing consumer behaviour, and master a complex array of pricing factors amid the dynamic pricing used by airlines and platforms.”

“As a change consultant, if you want to focus on people and take them as a starting point, you first have to understand yourself.”

The Belgian hockey team, which consist of 25 professional hockey players and an physical and mental entourage, was supported with understanding more mind-sets. “They wanted to gain insights in the different mind-sets of players. With that knowledge, they have more options, and therefore could take advantage of certain situations easier than competitors, becoming more agile and flexible.” The team eventually became World Champions, “and I’m definitely not saying there’s a direct link with the insights we gave them, but we definitely helped them to express themselves.”

Based on experiences spread across his career, Offerhaus remains convinced that putting people at the heart of change is of the utmost importance. Despite this, other firms do not seem to have gotten the message. Between 50% and 70% of change projects are estimated to fail because they are unable to meet or can’t sufficiently achieve the predetermined objectives. In transformation projects the latest reseerch, from IMD university in Lausanne, shows that 95% fail. The most important factor why they fail is teh organisation culture. Transforming the culture is the key to a succesfull transformation and cultural transformation can only happen when the people transform.

When asked why others are still steadfast in refusing to follow his example, Offerhaus proffers the explanation that it is because “people are difficult,” before adding, “I know that much – I am also complex; it took me years to understand myself. It’s a complex matter then, and I think that’s a positive thing, but I think if you want to help others transform, it is that self-knowledge that is key.”

Summarising the philosophy at the heart of his own firm, Offerhaus concludes, “As a change consultant, if you want to focus on people and take them as a starting point, you have to understand yourself, and that can be an emotional approach which the more rationally minded consulting industry struggles with. Ultimately though, if you first change your mind-set, it’s much easier to change your skill-sets after.”