Footsteps journey mapping

Change management: How to take 5,000 people on a journey


Organisational changes do not just affect the way a business is run, they affect each member of staff individually. David Williams outlines the five principles of organisational change, which senior managers need to implement in the workplace before change can be a success.

16th May 2008

Everything is changing! This is a simple fact of life and one that every company will have to face at some time or another.

Organisational change is a big upheaval in any business, but it often hits senior management harder than it does the rest of the employees. This is because it falls down on them to guide employees successfully through change, whilst they themselves are caught up within the uncertain midst of it.

Organisational change is not one journey, it's multiple journeys. If you've ever looked in the pocket in front of you on a plane, there’s always a map that shows all the routes that the aeroplane runs. Company changes are like this; there are multiple employees starting from different places, who are required to end up at the same destination.

The aeroplane provides a good example for another factor of change: the captain can influence the behaviour of everyone on his plane. People entrust reaching their destination in him. Therefore one man can potentially influence, say 200 people. Consequently, senior managers need to think, not how to move 5,000 people, but how to train up to 25 captains and their crew to successfully take their passengers on this journey.

Senior managers are responsible for ensuring they have everything they need for the journey and are agreed upon how they want things done. They must also have the same shared vision for how they want things to turn out following the change.

So first of all, when initialising change, have the 25 captains been identified? Do they know where they are going? And have they been trained up so they know how to fly their plane and deal with all eventualities?

Organisational changes do not just affect the way a business is run, they affect each member of staff individually and real change is about the individual and their influence upon others. Managers actually pose the biggest resistance to change, because they have the most to lose by the changing status quo. What is essential is that those in managerial positions do not let their personal feelings and anxieties affect their leadership skills – they are in the position they are for a reason after all.

Staff need to be able to look to their seniors to create conditions where change poses the least upheaval as possible, and where ideas and innovations to enhance change fall on fertile ground. If management fail to do this, they could unfortunately find themselves losing a lot more than they bargained for.

As discussed, change is not a step, it is a journey. And a big mistake companies make when delivering change, is to focus too much on the end vision and not enough on the first few steps. For example, if you're planning on taking a holiday by rail, ferry or air, the first part of the process is deciding how to travel out of the country.

A good metaphor for change is to look on it as a recipe that needs four essential ingredients, without which the dish cannot be created:

  1. Pressure for change: are we hungry enough?
  2. A clear shared vision: are we clear what we want to eat?
  3. Capacity for change: is there too much on our plates?
  4. Actionable first steps: how should we start to make it?

There are five principles of organisational change, which senior managers need to implement in the workplace before change can be a success:

1. Create winning teams

For senior management, one of the most important things is that they make sure the organisation works together in effective teams. Effective teams operate in an environment in which two-way trust and open, honest communication exist. As effective teams working together around new goals – you will be unstoppable. In order to visualise a high performing team, The Red Arrows provide an excellent example. They demonstrate complete trust in one another through mutual accountability and a shared way of working.

To manage such an effective team there needs to be a commitment to a 'core purpose'; every member of the team needs to have a clearly defined role, and all need to be focused on achieving an organisationally recognised goal.

Effective teams mean structure and unity - staff must not be left to their own devices. Managers may initially think that by doing this they are making employees working lives easier, but staff need boundaries, the same as everyone does in all areas of our lives. Lack of parameters can only lead to chaos.

2. Align, lead and direct change

Real change is about the individual and their personal influence on others. It's about company leaders delivering day in, day out through line management.

  • Managing down a level: Only through doing this can managers discover the issues really affecting their employees, and intervene to help them to do their jobs and make the right decisions and trade offs.
  • Guerrilla warfare: Leaders need to use the informal networks to influence and cajole employees. When under the wrong leadership, staff can often be more than resistant to change and the negative opinions of a few can commonly influence the masses – if this happens you will have a tough battle on your hands, which unfortunately is likely to bring more problems than you are able to resolve.
  • Flexibility: Operations work well when demand is in line with resource, so building flexibility is really important, especially if your organisational changes coincide with a number of job losses. Multi-skilled teams are extremely effective in times of change, as staff can be switched between jobs, as and when demand commands it.

3. Prioritise staff as well as customers

Leaders need to ask themselves 'how do my staff deal with everyday dilemmas?' When this has been worked out, a decision making framework then needs to be put together, dependant upon the company's values and visions. For example, the company Disney do this brilliantly, by putting in order of importance the behaviours they want to see. Disney's overarching vision is to make people happy, but this is tied in with safety being the most important thing. For example, if Mickey Mouse is part of a Disney Land parade, but he sees a lost family in distress, it is absolutely OK to go and help them out, because although the show is important, courtesy is more so.

Customer satisfaction ultimately comes first in all companies, because let's face it; customers are the livelihood of any company. However, many employers miss the vital link between satisfied employees and satisfied customers.

Managing employees and managing customers is one and the same. Commitment to a brand needs to come from both sides of the fence in order for you to run a successful business. You can't make customers passionate about you, unless you yourselves are passionate about everything you do everyday.

4. The people's choice

Management have to make it real for staff and be authentic in the way they go about delivering change.

Great leaders choose wisely to work with people who harbour certain values, in particular honesty, humanity and empathy. In return, employees need seniors to be honest with them, as there is nothing worse than being misled in an already unstable and uncertain circumstance. It is also extremely important that they feel senior employees are 'on their side' and understand and identify with the issues they are facing.

  • WIFM: Employers need to know that their employees will always remember the 'what's in it for me?' package. Leaders need to ensure they work this out and present it alongside a set of benefits that are relevant to individual members of staff and not just the company.
  • Tailor: Leaders need to tailor their internal communication and engagement efforts to staff and endeavour to make them relevant and interesting.
  • Involve: It is imperative that leaders involve every member of staff, from each team along the customer journey, in defining what customer focus actually means in practice. They need to know the answer to two very important questions: 'what do I have to say?' And, 'what do I have to do?'

5. Back to Basics – Tesco (Case Study)

Tesco is a great example of getting the basics right. Queuing time is a major driver of dissatisfaction in the retail sector. The move to 'One in front Queuing' was a critical part of a complete change in the operating model of the store. It wasn't about incremental change... getting queuing time down from 10 minutes to eight minutes. It was a step change solution to the whole problem.

To achieve this transformational change in service standards, it required a set of changes. These included resourcing, roles, task design and competencies as well as structures and facilities, supported by technology and point of sale support. A fundamental redesign; exemplifying how organisational change is a journey of many steps. If you want fundamental change you need to look at the whole system, even if you don't change it all at once.

The transformation started with one store in Newcastle. Once piloted and proven, it was rapidly rolled out. It took six months to develop and two years to implement. This was a deep review and allowed for a fundamental change to grow from proven results. Leaders from any company need to take the same approach when initialising change.

Therefore, understanding the steps in how to successfully manage change is as crucial as applying its theory on how to get there. Once this is done, the follow-up should be fairly straightforward, albeit done with patience. As Charles Darwin once said, "the species that survived were not the most intelligent, they were the most adaptable to change".


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By PeterAHunter
19th May 2008 21:45

Change is definitely a journey and the essential first step of that journey is that the journey belongs to the workforce, not the managers.

When managers decide what the workforce need to do then try and change their behaviour, it is the managers behaviour that causes the resistance with which the workforce are blamed.

The workforce are always bright intelligent and energetic, it is the behaviour of their manager that makes them difficult unresponsive and resistant.

Involve the workforce in the change and support what they want to do, should be the first steps of change.

Assume that management know best then ram it down the workforces throats has never worked in the past, why should it now?

Peter A Hunter

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