By: Kueh Jinhao Ryan
This article was written by a Yale-NUS College student. Carousell had partnered with a team of the university’s Organisational Psychology students to deep dive on how we can better improve on engagement as an organisation.
I had never expected to do an external consulting project as part of a university assessment. When I first heard about the project, I was intrigued by the opportunity to consult for Carousell on a topic I was studying about. This experience reinforced two key principles in influencing organisational change: Transparent communication and encouraging change adoption.
#1: Transparent Communication
One should always be straightforward with your client and understand their needs and difficulties whilst sharing your own. Only through clear communication can both parties tap on each other’s complementary strengths, to achieve the mutual goal of positively changing the organisation.
After the first few correspondences with Carousell, I was personally taken aback by how open and transparent Carousell’s culture was. The team was expecting a little resistance, or perhaps nonchalant behaviour, seeing as we were students, but everyone was open to honest collaboration. Each interviewee was willing to share about their various work streams in detail and approached the project with a collaborative mindset. This gave my peers and I a confidence boost, as well as the impression of a healthy organisation culture with high psychological safety.
Through our interviews, the team found that the current Internal Communication culture of Carousell was relatively healthy. There was a presence of well-defined communication channels, and despite the various complexity of squads and functions, most communication channels facilitated prompt communication and were well adhered to. The salient problem was ironically a negative spillover of such an overtly healthy communication culture. Too much information was generated, and this manifested itself in two ways:
1. Employees had to sift through copious amounts of information to find actionable intel.
2. Current knowledge management systems were unable to keep up with the rate of content generation.
To address this issue, the team first attempted working through a multitude of theoretical frameworks and literature. The issue of over-communication was an issue not studied extensively in modern literature, which proved a huge obstacle in our project. We soon realised that assessing the issue theoretically and prescribing recommendations failed to regard the complex dynamism of the company. As we didn’t have a clear understanding of the issue, any recommendations from this prescriptive approach would not have been effective.
For example, senior managers often reported new employees finding it hard to catch up with the team’s multiple workstreams. Too often were they flooded with too much information, with no context or knowhow of which pieces of information were important to their delegations.
The team thus tried to better understand this predicament with the People Team, where we shared our apprehension of prescriptive recommendation, while assessing the issues with previous solutions. Through honest discussions and ideation, the team realised a range of solutions were attempted by the People Team. Some of the previous recommendations were the introduction of new knowledge management softwares, setting meeting guidelines and introducing good communication hygiene practices. This however, was met with a lack of compliance which seemed to be the overarching pain point. Thus, the team needed to change our approach.
#2: Encouraging change adoption
Rather than focusing on introducing a new knowledge management software or ideating more possible recommendations, the team remained cognisant of the main issue. There are two parts to any solution, the implementation itself, and the adoption. In the case of Carousell’s Internal Communications, the number of quality solutions were not the issue, as multiple tangible solutions were already in place. The salient issue was the lack of adoption/compliance to the recommendation. The team thus shifted our focus on understanding and effecting desired behavioural change.
The goal was to understand the roots of change aversion. We researched literature on methods of influencing organisational and individual behavioural change. Through a better understanding of an individual’s cognitive inclinations, the team thus came up with recommendations centred around minor adjustments, which complemented an individual’s current working habits. This minor adjustment required minimal effort from the individual, and thus assisting and promoting the adoption of new initiatives. The recommendations manifested itself in a form of a toolkit, where managers could enact desired change in a more efficient manner instead.
#3: Final Notes
This project illuminated to me the inertias and challenges of organisational change. It has influenced me as a critical thinker, a leader and a student. I’ve learned that adoption or execution of an idea is equally as salient as the idea itself. As a consultant or problem solver, one should always seek to understand what has worked and what hasn’t. Why was this particular measure adopted and not the other? One has to be open to new ideas, while being cognisant of the culture of the organisation. With these guideposts in mind, one can then address the issues appropriately and deliver tangible recommendations. This ensures that the solutions are complementary, and ultimately useful to the organisation. Understand that the goal here is not to find the most issues within an organisation. Anyone can do that. The goal here is to solve them!