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Strategic approach to high performance - Case study

A global service solutions organisation revised its mission and vision in a response to the Global Financial Crisis. OB Consulting was asked to support the COO engage with and reinforce the change to its UK-based employees. We first spoke to middle managers, supervisors and workforce to understand what they knew and felt about this new direction and the potential implications for their role, for their part of the business, and for the relationships they had with both internal and external parties.

Analysis of findings revealed that mixed messages about the reasons for the change, lack of clarity from leaders on a number of strategic issues, and an absence of empowering language from those same leaders resulted in low levels of confidence amongst employees – they believed their executive had “not thought this through”. This led to a paralysis; middle managers were failing to proactively forward plan for these changes.

In addition, employees felt disaffected because the changes would result in losing long-standing customers and having to enter new markets, and supervisors didn’t know how to respond to the drop in morale, increase in non-productive behaviours and the resulting reduction in productivity. Working with the COO, OB Consulting provided initial and then just-in-time support as the change unfolded, including:

  • Facilitated workshops with cross-organisational groups of employees, led by a director. The groups were introduced to a simple organisational lifecycle model, identified where the organisation was on the cycle and explored how things might play out for a range of different strategic decisions made by the executive. The workshops gave leaders the opportunity to reinforce the key strategic messages and thereby demonstrate their support for the new direction by, allay concerns over short-termism by providing evidence of the rigour behind their thinking, and start the dialogue on what success will look like and how the changes will affect current roles, practices and behaviours.
  • Scenario planning workshops with groups of managers and supervisors from each business unit to begin creating robust local management responses to each scenario followed by thorough analysis of the transformation to identify the change management issues they will most likely face. The presence of a director at the beginning and end of each workshop provided an opportunity for clarifying understanding of the likely scenarios and reassurance on their proposed management response.
  • A series of short follow-up action learning sets and workshops for managers and supervisors to explore key personal challenges and identify and rehearse the leadership behaviours and actions required to steer their part of the organisation through the next phase of the change.

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