Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tackled school cafeteria food in the “unhealthiest city in America” – Huntington, West Virginia – in his television show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. A recent article in Booz and Company’s Strategy + Business examines how Oliver’s journey toward promoting healthier ways of eating in Huntington provides great lessons for leaders looking to effect change in their organizations.

The article outlines these important principles for making change happen and making it stick:

  • Learn the local culture – Change doesn’t happen by forcing your views and beliefs on others. Rather, change happens when you can speak the language of the people you are trying to influence and demonstrate your understanding of their local challenges, strengths, pride, beliefs and culture. For example, Oliver’s encounter with a strong-willed school cafeteria cook who saw nothing wrong with the highly processed food she served brought to light the need to take a different approach. By spending time understanding what was important to the people he encountered, acknowledging them, and focusing on their role in achieving his goals, Oliver was able to make progress.
  • Demonstrate success – What behavior changes are you hoping to elicit in your change effort? Look for opportunities to promote the changes you are aiming for and evidence that they are leading to greater results. Understanding, modeling, and rewarding the right behaviors will create the momentum for the kind of environment you desire. Oliver dressed up in a green pea costume, handed out stickers to kids who tried new foods, and showed how eating better was a good thing.
  • Identify key influencers – The best catalyst for change is getting the visible support and action of the influential peers and informal leaders present in your organization. Oliver’s allies were trusted teachers, student ambassadors and eventually, even the tough cafeteria cook.
  • Use both informal and formal mechanisms – Successful change efforts are those that are infused throughout the organization using informal elements – such as sharing a vision for success, recruiting influencers, and creating opportunities to connect with the change effort – and formal mechanisms, such as goal-setting, redesigning policies and procedures, and creating new organization structures. Oliver used both informal and formal means, such as the fun green pea activities and working with the state to modify nutritional policies, to make healthy eating a part of the Huntington community’s way of life.

Managing change successfully is a fluid and holistic process. Those organizations that can look beyond the numbers – head count, budget, productivity – when leading through a major change effort and focus equally on the people, the messages, and the underlying impacts and motivators for change will, like Jamie Oliver, create lasting change.

Click here to read the full article.

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