Accent Housing, with help from Ascent Development, has been using ‘colour workshops’ to improve communication and collaboration within and between its technology team and other departments.
Accent Housing’s digital team of around 30 people includes business analysts, data analysts, technicians, product managers and developers as well as team members working on the service desk managing the needs of their internal customers. The internal customers comprise a variety of people including senior managers, finance, housing officers, the contact centre staff, HR and the communications team.
Accent’s director of digital transformation at the time, Steve Dungworth (see below), wanted to find better ways of collaborating with the digital team’s internal customers and improving coordination within the ICT team. In particular, when dealing with internal customers, it was often felt that ICT and the wider business were speaking different languages (after all, ICT professionals can sometimes be seen as different and reserved or defensive).
A one-day ‘Insights Discovery’ personal-effectiveness workshop was initially held with the digital leadership team, coordinated by Suzanne Shaw from Ascent Development. This was designed to explore the Insights Discovery colour model of behaviour, with all of the ICT managers completing an online questionnaire so that their personal profiles could be produced.
Self-awareness through colour
The model is based on the work of Carl Jung and enables individuals to increase self-awareness with the simple yet highly-effective use of colour. This enables individuals to better understand others and adapt their communication and behavioural styles accordingly, creating more productive and effective working relationships. It can also be the bedrock of developing ‘emotional intelligence’.
The exercise was widened to include the whole team and a ‘team wheel’ was produced to show the team members’ different behavioural preferences which helped them to understand why some working relationships were easier than others, both within the team and in the wider business.
‘Light bulb’ moments
The first workshop had an immediate impact. A couple of people had ‘light bulb’ moments when they realised they were opposite types; there had been some previous irritation between them because one of them needed precise, detailed information whereas the other colleague’s preferences were the antithesis of that. Their new-found understanding enabled them to agree how to communicate with each other better which had a massive impact on their working relationship.
As a result of the first workshop, Steve Dungworth understood why different strategic views occurred with his right-hand man, Simon Green, because they were opposites (Steve is what is known in Insights terminology as a ‘motivating director’ whereas Simon is a ‘supporter’). Similar stories emerged as people finally understood why some of their intra-team relationships had been strained.
People now have a common language which enables the team to work better together. As other teams within the business started to work with Insights Discovery, understanding other people’s behavioural preferences helped to improve communication with internal Accent customers.
As well as the way in which people communicate, Accent’s digital team has developed some ways of working which has helped embed the language. The digital team’s aims and objectives have been ‘coloured up’. Senior managers now have responsibility for the area which plays to their behavioural strengths, and ‘red’, ‘blue’, ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ team meetings are now held.
For example, the red meeting is a 30-minute Monday morning meeting where service-desk performance is reviewed and the priorities for the week are decided, whereas the blue meeting is the more in-depth CAB style where details of projects and changes are examined in detail.
Steve Dungworth said, “We revitalised the team and have come away with tangible working practices that have really helped our business. Insights Discovery has completely surpassed our expectations – it’s a really inspiring and practical way of working.”
Accent’s digital team is much more aware of their strengths and areas for development. They are great at the technical and analytical aspects, being able to react to incidents and crises, and looking after each other as a team. The areas which need some work are marketing themselves, communicating with customers, saying ‘no’ (politely), and not allowing meetings to run on and on and on…
Ultimately, performance is driven by behaviour. Now that the team understand their behavioural preferences, they are more in control of driving performance excellence, particularly when working with customers and each other.
Having been Accent Housing’s director of digital transformation until April 2019, Steve Dungworth has since set up PeopleDataTech (peopledatatech.co.uk). Simon Green is the interim director of digital transformation at Accent Housing. Suzanne Shaw is a facilitator and trainer at Ascent Development.