The Change Factor - The business catalyst
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Archive for November, 2009

Wrong Change Right Reason?

I bet that there isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t think that we live in a fast paced world. Everything needs to be done quickly ,now, yesterday doesn’t it? If you take too long to think you’ve been overtaken by the competition or you’ve lost the sale because someone else got in there.

You need to change your business quickly too don’t you. Flexibility and adaptability are the key these days. No time to wait and analyse and think it through. Just make the change happen. In fact if I suggest taking some time to review and reflect on why the change is needed and what we need to deliver to meet that why I find clients groan! ‘Its adding more time’ they say. Lets get on with it!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a pretty fast pace, ‘doing’, kind of guy and I don’t like to take years to analyse and review. In fact putting things off to tomorrow ‘just to see if we get more data’ or ‘just in case something else turns up’ is not my style and frankly drives me crazy. But I have seen some disastrous change programmes and some of those have been disastrous even though they took a lot of time to deliver.

So I am not talking about the time you take to change I am talking about ‘what’ you change. Let me give you an example.

If you are in logistics or sales you will know that there is always tension between the two. Its always stock you hold (tied up cash) versus ability to get what the customer needs when they need it. If ‘sales are king’ in an organisation then its tough on the stock guys and if ‘cash is king’ its tough on the sales guys. A few organisations that I have worked with tend to push their sales guys now and again in sales drives. You know the thing, competitions, targets, bonus, sales-person of the month etc. Or sometimes if the Sales Director sees that the quarter end target is not being hit she gets the sales guys to get out and sell harder, offer discounts etc. Sometimes what this means is that the sales volumes peak close to the target or quarter end date, making it near on impossible for logistics to plan their workload, or production to plan their output or the buyers to bring the freight across.

So what happens if this goes on regularly. Well, if the sales director has the power then Logistics or Production has to change what they do. This can mean putting on extra manning or carrying extra stock or even allowing the sales guy just to pick what he wants off the shelf.
If the power is elsewhere then the Sales team has to change. This can mean fixed sales levels with rules set for no changes to plans of less than a month ahead or saying no to ‘opportunity’ sales.

My question is not whether any of these are good or bad, but whether they are right or wrong for the business as a whole (and in general when one division inflicts a change on another I tend to find that it will be wrong for the business). All of these will be for the right reason, but will they be the right change i.e produce the right result.

Lets think it through. The business is there to make sales to make money, service its customers, manage cash flow, minimise cash tied up in assets etc.

So the changes above might keep one of these happy but not the other: Wrong change Right reason

With probably the same amount of time that it takes to plan one change properly, you can conduct a simple root cause analysis, risk analysis and model the impacts of possible change scenarios i.e you can think through “what’ really needs to change to get the result you are looking for. And you don’t need to be a big business to do this.

Nor do you need a lot of people and a lot of time. You just need a different mindset to produce a different answer; Right Change, Right Reason, Right Results


Ready to play Poker?

Preparation for successful change is vital, particularly if you are restructuring. If you are changing peoples jobs you are changing a big part of their life so you need to be sure of the proposed changes, whether they be the purpose of the role, it’s scope or the big one-whether the role is actually needed.

That prep takes a little time if you want to manage the change well. Its not always about having the decision worked out fully (and of course your local laws on consultation changes of employment will govern a lot of that), its about prepping your managers for the questions they will face, the risks that might occur and the impact on people of a change.

I am not going to blog on that today, but the aspect I wanted to raise was the impact on your managers of walking around with all this information in their heads before the change is announced.

Its hard going to meetings and keeping the intentions of those meetings secret. Its hard to manage the questions that come your way; the ‘What are you up to boss?’ questions. Its even harder to look at people whose lives you are affecting without that showing or the new reality that is in the managers head from creeping in to the conversation. I have heard managers begin to talk about duties, that were being worked up in new job descriptions behind the scenes, as if they were a reality. I have known managers who began thinking that people had begun to suspect something, so in turn they began to suspect that people were looking at their files. I have met managers who tried to hide every moment of he day so that they did not bump in to anyone in the corridor in case they were asked a question.

If your organisation recognises that people truly are their biggest asset, you will be aware of the impact of change on the receivers and you will possibly prep leaders in how to deliver announcements of change, manage bad news etc (if you don’t then contact me!). So if you are doing that its maybe not a big leap to recognise that you need to prep your managers for the pre-announcement phase. How they handle themselves, how they deal with the possible stresses of knowing what they know and how they deal with curious questions that come their way before they are ready.

Not everyone has a poker face. Not everyone can separate themselves from the emotion of the change, not everyone can handle questions smoothly on the run. Not everyone is a born change manager (managers don’t do this every day, thats what people like me are for).

Are your managers ready with their poker faces? Or do they need prepared?