Leading through change with a people focus

by Peter S. MD of UK subsidiary of US owned company
(Manchester, UK)

After 2.5 years into a change initiative I am now at the stage where I can honestly say that I have 80% of my team doing 90% of the work - rather than the 20% of the team doing 80% of the work as it was 3 years ago.

Thought you might be interested to hear of my experience with this.

I took over as MD of this company 3.5 years ago. We are an I.T. company providing desktop solutions to consumers and business users. We have 150 staff.

There were 2 teams with a lot of duplication of effort and process. The consumer team were very successful and the business team were not.

My challenge was to bring the best of the consumer team and apply to the business team - and to cut a long story short this involved a complete organisational restructure.

The driver for the change was the underperformance of the business team which was danger of dragging the whole UK operation down - and which had in fact ultimately cost my 2 predecessors their jobs.

I have to say that when I started out on all this I was NOT well prepared. I did not know anything about the processes of change management and it was very much a case of trial and error and "learning on the job". I didn't even have a clear handle on what constituted good leadership.

Maybe because of my sales background and certainly because of my interest and active involvement in team sports I decided to apply the classic "team coach/sports mangager" approach and put my main focus on the people.

In my view it always comes down to the people.

I employed an executive coach who was also an organisational development specialist to work with me and specifically to undertake team building and leadership development.

The very first thing I did was take them all on a series of "away-days" to get the truth across to them. The truth about how we were underperforming, the consequences of that, and how and why we needed to change.

Looking back, that was a big turning point.

I also spent a lot of time working very closely with the HR Director who acted as my "eyes and ears" to find out what people really were doing (as opposed to what they said they were doing). Then we put a lot of energy into detailed assessments of skillsets - we created a matrix and plotted where people sat on this.

I have to say this focus on skills analysis was absolutely vital.

The other thing I did was spent a lot of time with them training them, coaching them and developing them. I guess I must have spent a good 12-18 months focusing very much just on the people - and developing them.

As I said at the outset, the majority of the team do the majority of the work - so I guess the culture must be OK now - the acid test is "what happens when the boss isn't there?"

So that's been my experience - in summary: leading through change by focusing on the people.

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People focus
by: Stephen Warrilow

Thank you for that - very interesting - especially the total people focus.

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