Super Business - Project Management Articles


Getting started

Getting started

The whole change started with a comprehensive strategy review and the generation of a programme plan with specific projects covering areas such as brand development, systems development, business lead generation and defining the customer experience. This was kick started by the senior management team with some input from relevant stakeholders. However initially it was a ‘top-down’ process which drew a lot from the machine metaphor. Using Kotter’s terminology a sense of urgency was created (‘with the market as it is we cannot carry on as we have been doing’) and an overarching vision developed.

The next layer of managers below the senior management team were enlisted to form part of the guiding collation. A change management team was formed, tasked with managing the transition from both a task and people perspective, with sponsorship from and direct reporting line into the senior management team. Quite soon however the changes picked up their own momentum.

Gaining commitment

It became apparent that not everyone was dissatisfied with the status quo. People were a little unclear about the desirability of some of the changes, and some of the more impractical aspects of the proposed changes were accentuated. The senior management team by now had extended the members of the guiding coalition to involve a critical mass of 85 ‘strategy leaders’. It was their task to reinforce the need to change, and to develop a clarity of vision that could be translated into tangible objectives and behaviours throughout the organization.

This translation process occurred over several months, and became an iterative process with all staff. Conversations were had, which set out what the managers wanted to see but involved staff at the front line talking through the practicalities. This process raised some points about the original thinking which needed amending, and enabled staff to get a much better idea of what was required of them.

Breaking the mould

The transition from the old to the new was effectively dealt with by the good use of programme management, led by the senior management team, and supported by a specially constituted change management team. Feedback loops to and from key stakeholders including staff were an integrated part of the process.

The generation of a set of values which were translated into behavioural imperatives, coupled with values workshops with all staff, set a benchmark for the organizational culture. The values helped to minimize organizational politics by encouraging ‘straight talk’. This was impressively role modelled by the senior management team and the change management team, who were open and honest with both good news and bad.

A key aspect of the new way of doing things was the openness to ideas wherever they came from and the development of an enabling and empowering culture. Creativity, risk-taking and learning were encouraged through the co-option of diagonal slices of staff onto change initiative working groups and by scheduled reviews throughout the transition period.

Self-esteem and performance can drop during periods of change. In a sense this is unavoidable – a natural and normal reaction to change affecting individuals (see Chapter 1). Key interventions here included demonstrable listening to staff concerns and many examples of staff issues being dealt with in a way that satisfied them but did not compromise the general business direction. In addition objective third-party consultants were used as additional support for individuals and groups of individuals who were most affected by the changes. Line managers were prepared with full communication of the changes to pass on, and open access was given to more senior managers to tap into their knowledge and experience. Greater emphasis was put on coaching through the line, which quickly enabled managers to tackle performance issues arising from the change.

Building new teams

The realignment of the organization as a result of the new strategy had a number of knock-on effects on different teams. The senior team was a newly configured team at the beginning of the strategy review process, and acquired a new sales director part-way through the process. An important component of the time its members spent together was attending to their team development process. The development process was focused on the tasks in hand – strategy review and strategy implementation – but on a regular basis members took the time out to look at where they were as a team, and how they were performing and inter-relating.

The generation of the values was both a real and a symbolic act for the senior management team. Having generated the values, they translated them into actions for themselves. They offered this to the rest of the organization as a guideline, but wanted different parts of the organization to discover what the values meant for them personally as a part of a team. This, together with the senior management team role modelling the values, was seen as a crucial part of the process.

The realignment within the organization meant that other teams and groups throughout the organization were affected to a greater or lesser degree. For example, the increased focus on savings, investments and mortgages led to a division of labour and separate reporting lines for staff within the branch network. In addition the centralized contact centre was required to develop greater links and better lines of communication with the national advisor salesforce. Both these examples necessitated a breaking down of old groupings and the development of a new set of teams and consequent relationships.

Supporting individuals

People processes formed a large part of the change plan. This included a communication strategy that was in line with the new values of openness, honesty and straight talk. Processes were put in place to ensure that individuals displaced had clarity around their situation and guidelines as to how things would progress. Selection to new posts was made using an equitable process, and the new reward scheme was aligned to the new strategy and values.

Outplacement was provided for those leaving the organization and counselling provided for those who needed to talk their situation through in a confidential setting. Coaching and mentoring were provided for more senior managers who had to take up new roles and needed to make sense of the changes and make their own adjustments within themselves.

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