A dislocated approach to organisational change

What brings you to this article?

  • Having to down size and make tough choices
  • Running lots of projects
  • Chasing impossible targets
  • Too many things to do
  • Working too many hours
  • Losing employees due to poor morale
  • Or is something else that’s bugging you

Here is a short article that Phil wrote based upon his own life experience that holds a mirror to organisational life as a senior leader. How much of it can you relate to?

Sitting in Urgent Care nursing a dislocated collarbone.

Don’t ask – boys will be boys!

I began to wonder after the pain had subsided how I would cope with one useful arm.

It’s amazing how much we take for granted in our everyday lives.shoulder sling

For most of us normal everyday functioning is achieved at the level of the subconscious. Automated routines are played out by our bodies every second of our lives without any major reference to the conscious mind.

We could not function without such programming.

All of a sudden I was faced by the reality that my left arm would be out of action for a while, and I would have to figure out how I could run my life.

Automated routines running in my subconscious would only cause me pain, and result in a failure to get even the most basic of activities completed.

I began to think about the parallels with modern organisational life: blame the strong painkillers the nursing team prescribed me at the hospital.

It dawned upon me that most organisations operate on autopilot to get things done.

Policies, procedures and practices are prescribed within the hierarchy to set up the organisations ‘subconscious behaviour’: it’s culture.

Of course in practice employees form the organisations sub conscious – they learn the routines, cues and responses until they too become automated in to everyday actions.

In truth anyone that has been in the same job for more that a few months will be performing mainly on autopilot, largely unaware of what they are doing, and how they are doing it.

I believe that the analogy also holds true for the approach to efficiency savings, and organisational change.

For years now we have been taking cost out of our organisations – slimming down, chopping back, reprioritising. Caught in the world of benchmarking, best practice, and inspection we see the same mistakes often repeated over and over again across business and commerce.

In my experience leaders often fail to see an organisation as a living entity.

It is the physical actions and responses of people employed on behalf of the organisation that bring it to life. A living system that runs on autopilot until something catastrophic happens to destablise the current situation.

Now dependent upon the size of the catastrophe we can fall back on coping strategies.

In the case of organisations we have a tendency to look back in to the past to see what we have done before, and if we can make it fit this time.

Someone scrambles to sort out a temporary fix; Just like the sling and the drugs that the nurse gave me in the treatment room to make me feel more comfortable, and to take away the pain.

In many organisations a series of temporary fixes have been put in place over time to make things work.

The problem is that the closer you get to the front line the more dislocated the functioning of the organisation becomes; the more ‘work arounds’ are put in place at a local level to enable the system to continue to work.

Unlike the human body the ‘corporate brain’ in an organisation tends to be isolated, away from the immediate functioning of the core operation.

The pain and discomfort of the impact of indiscriminate action e.g. salami slicing budgets over time upon the customer and the front line is not directly felt by the ‘corporate brain’ and so actions carry on regardless of the pain suffered at the front line.

So, organisational leaders genuinely have a tough job to do to continue to figure out how to make ends meet going forward.

It would be wise to spend more time understanding the real impact, and unintended consequences, of the decisions already taken; with the help of colleagues on the front line to figure out the damage that may already have been done.

The equivalent of a sling and a few painkillers is not a sustainable solution.

We help leaders to purposefully reflect upon their current challenges, and identify practical and pragmatic ways of getting balance back into the demands upon your life, and delivering positive results in life and work.

Our one to one support will help you to cut through to the nub of your personal challenges and help you to facilitate a way forward that will give you: –

  • Clarity around the key business issues that you are facing and a clear plan to tackle them
  • New capabilities, and capacity to meet future challenges 
  • Greater personal job satisfaction
  • Strategies to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations in your working life

To find out more about how we can help you move your business forward please follow this link. Helping leaders develop new habits

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We would like you to come back to us…

One afternoon I reflected upon how much we were spending on watching TV.

We had been loyal customers of Sky for 13 years.P1040211

We needed satellite because we are in an area that gets poor reception, and for a long time Sky was the only option. Then someone told me about free sat boxes.

As Sky had been my supplier for a long time I phoned them to ask them what they could do for me to reduce the cost of my TV package. Of course the phone number you call in to cost me money as I was not a sky phone customer!

The usual IVR sent me in all directions and I eventually got through to speak to a human being. It was quickly very clear that my customer loyalty stood for nothing.

The agent spent 35 minutes trying to up sell me broadband and a phone package and tried to trade my TV package down by turning off elements of the current deal. She was evidently targeted to up sell to customers rather than listen to the customers nominal value

In the end I gave in, and served the 31 days notice required to terminate my relationship with Sky. In the meantime I purchased a free sat recordable box, easy to install.

The free sat channels are brilliant and the recording facilities are equal to, if not better, than the Skybox.

It’s been about a month since we became free from Sky. Guess what – as a ‘valued customer’ I have just received a flier through the post telling that I was a loyal and valued customer, and that they would like me to come back to them with a 25% discount for a year!

What a pity that they don’t empower their frontline agents to offer such discretion to existing customers a false logic if ever I saw one. I bet that they have a target to get former customers to return to Sky. It will be a different department. I cannot wait to see what they send me next…. What a mad world we live in.

Then the inevitable happened. I received a phone call from Sky asking me if I had received the flier about discounts for valued customers.

The agent I spoke to obviously had no information about me as a client, or the recent history. Obviously not, she was probably from a different business unit, with a different set of objectives to the other teams that have contacted me in recent weeks.

I quietly explained what had happened, and the irony in her phone call. She quit the call quickly as she was clearly not going to meet her target to get me back as a Sky subscriber. It’s obviously not her fault, she has a job to do and bonuses to make.

A crazy world –  a company is prepared to  waste so much resource losing my custom,  and then trying to get it back! Multiple that by hundreds or probably thousands.

They have an internal industry of worker bees who in systemic terms are adding no value to the bottom line.

How different is your organisation I wonder?

Experience suggests that a better understanding of what is actually going on at the front line from a customer perspective will give leaders a more informed diagnosis of the real problem that exists and the actions that can be tested to solve it.

We help leaders to purposefully reflect upon their current challenges, and identify practical and pragmatic ways of getting balance back into the demands upon your life, and delivering positive results in work and life.

Our one to one support will help you to cut through to the nub of your personal challenges and help you to facilitate a way forward that will give you: –

  • Clarity around the key business issues that you are facing and a clear approach to tackle them
  • New capabilities, and capacity to meet future challenges 
  • Greater personal job satisfaction
  • Strategies to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations in your working life

To find out more about how we can help you move your business forward please follow this link. Helping leaders develop new habits