Welcome to what I plan is a four-part blog based on a case study from my experience working with a global organisation. I was engaged as a change program director, providing change management experience, facilitating the implementation of a change program designed to improve service delivery. reduce costs and restructure the function.
There was a disconnect between senior management expectations and what the function had allowed itself to be held accountable, basically anything loosely and not so loosely associated with service delivery.
Functional Management were unsure of their responsibilities as managers and leaders, acting in response to senior management requirements for production support and short-term technical requirements often coming as a surprise to Functional Management.
Additionally, technical staff often went about their day-to-day support activities as suited them personally. Often their day-to-day tasks were in response to production management rather than a part of a planned service delivery programme discussed and agreed with their line management.
In short, the Service Function had little or no - sense of Functional identity, little sense of professional standards, had allowed their organisational position to be defined as a cost centre rather than professionally delivered technical services.
This situation was in all terms of organisational change, a tough one.
However, by taking a planned approach and creating a mind-set that accepted an emerging reality (even the best of plans requires to change. Why would you want to get “back on plan” when the reality was clearly emerging differently?
(I do understand the practical benefits of a robust plan (allows resourcing, budgeting, measurement, alignment with organizational strategy and more…)
A practical definition for Front-end Loading is defining what resources are needed to give a “fighting chance” of success once the predictably brief honeymoon period is over, using Risk & Issue Management processes to identify what to do in the likely event of not getting all the resources that are needed and taking time-out to reflect on “is this do-able” before starting.
The first action associated with Front-end loading is to recognise that the change team have more time than they think. This time is likely to be different i.e. longer than the expectations from senior management regarding “is it changed yet?”
Q. What to do about this “space-time continuum” disconnect?
A. Firstly recognise this is likely to exist in very real terms e.g. you’ve been working on this for X, why isn’t it further along?
Again, my approach could be seen as counter-intuitive.
Do not respond to the “why not further along?”, rather be courageous and have the first of likely many difficult conversations (it’s really good to get early practice with these, there will be many!).
This conversation is about closing the “expectation –time to delivery” gap.
There is much more to implementing effective, successful organizational change than senior management implying or saying “..make it so…”
These were frequent and lively during this case study!!
Secondly, be really, really careful about who is appointed, selected, pushed on the change team.
One of the reasons I was appointed as Change Programme Director was of my experience “under fire” i.e. I had significant CM experience and a reputation for effective and successful delivery. This isn’t about “the great I am” more about credibility. When situations get tough and they most certainly did in this case, being credible buys time, gets you a hearing and allows some push-back regarding change team appointment.
To quote an old football (soccer) saying …” it’s better to play short, than play with the wrong player”
There is a very real requirement for a balanced team. What was required in this case was credibility. Specifically, people who had reputations for delivery (time, cost and quality…they did exist!).
Then came the balancing act: who were technical experts, who were those with organisational awareness skills and who understood or were capable of understanding the complexities associated with organisational change.
An example of getting the correct people and listening to them came from one of our early change team meetings.
We had been having a series of conversations with those affected by the change aimed at finding out what they thought. This gave us some very useful insights.
The point here about teams and listening is when one of the most process-oriented team members said something like “…we’re asking the wrong questions. We should be finding out what worries/scares people about this change.”
This somewhat obvious statement changed how we approached our rollout plan and how we viewed and interacted with those affected by the change programme (A practical interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)
More to follow in Part 2…..