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Transformation or Transition

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Transformation or Transition

  1. 1. 16 pm | November 2015 management focus T raditional approaches to change struggle given the speed and complexity of business today. New technology, new distribu- tion channels and new competitors are forcing clients to respond more quickly than ever. Professional service firms not only need to adapt to support clients but also to respond themselves as new business models disrupt their landscape. Cloud based services are replacing traditional accountants, associate models provide lower cost consulting and technology- enabled legal services disrupt the legal profession. How is it possible to manage change in this environment? Our models rely on the basic assumptions that trends can be identified, causality can be defined and plans developed and monitored. But according to McKinsey three and five year plans are a thing of the past. This article outlines some conversational approaches to change that may be more relevant in these times. Transformation or transition? In the last 20 years the number of mobile phone subscriptions has grown to 7 billion – one for each of us on the planet – while the value of the top 15 internet companies has grown from $17 billion to $2.4 trillion. Spotify with no CDs, Uber with no taxis, and Alibaba with no inventory are three high profile examples of how areas such as music sales, personal transport and retailing have transformed. We can Mike Pounsford describes ways in which firms and their clients can navigate through turbulent times. Transformation and transition climate changes will transform busi- nesses and our lives over the next 10 to 20 years. Navigating change Conversational approaches to change are increasingly important in order to enable firms to build their capability to respond to complexity. Three approaches are outlined below. Polarity management: The polarity management framework developed by Barry Johnson helps address the dilemmas inherent in all change. Classic polarities are: • Do we centralise or decentralise deci- sion-making? • Do we recognise individual or team effort? • Do we focus on client service or finan- cial performance? The challenge facing firms now is the planned versus emergent change dilemma. The table opposite – one group’s view – illustrates that the upsides of one polarity tend to be the downsides of the other. Firms typically flip from one to the other. For example: “We tried empow- ering people but they failed to grasp the problem so we took back control; now no one is buying in to the change”. Johnson’s key insight is that there is no right answer. The objectives on both polarities are ‘good’ objectives, but they are interdependent. The tool helps leaders aim for the upsides of both polari- Winning hearts and minds, quickly, in transformation efforts is key in the professions. now assemble our own online music collections, design our cars, check ourselves onto flights, and manage banking transactions on our phones. In the last three years the numbers of us going into bank branches has fallen by 30%, and our ability to manage routine transactions change the role of the branch and the skills and capabilities needed to meet our needs. What appears like dramatic change over the last five to six years is just the beginning. The Internet of Things, growing connectivity, the changing popu- lation profile, increasingly international competition, political challenges and This article originally appeared in PM magazine. For further details go to www.pmforum.co.uk
  2. 2. pm | November 2015 17 management focus ties. There is no ideal solution at either ‘end’ of the polarity and the solution for one firm depends upon the personalities, politics, skills and constraints relevant in their situation. Large group interventions: Large group interventions were developed in the 1980s to accelerate change and minimise resistance. As an approach they may hold the key to longterm success in turbulent times. In essence they involve bringing together different stakeholders within an organisational system in order to find common ground and plan rapidly for the future. Different approaches (eg. open space, future search, whole scale change, search conference) share important principles: • Get the whole system in the room (eg. span hierarchies, practice areas, geog- raphies and firms – include suppliers and clients) to work on systemic change • Seek active participation and learning from representatives of all players in the system to develop effective plans • Identify common ground in order to develop common purpose and a vision/s for the future. Over recent years these approaches have been used to help the BBC, NHS, General Electric, Boeing and others plan for their futures. Big conversations: Big conversations and strategic dialogues enable teams to translate strategic plans to their role in supporting them, in real time. They avoid PowerPoint and talking at people, instead using visual or other approaches that are memorable, accessible and relevant to stimulate debate. Big conversations help engage leader- ship groups in the development of a shared strategic narrative and then trans- late this visually to keep people focused on the bigger picture. They help bring together different teams under a common purpose and link a number of initiatives, including some of the uncertainties and ambiguities inherent in planning today. These kinds of conversations enable service firms to discuss client issues and needs in the context of the firm’s strategy and link local marketing and business plans to the bigger picture. The use of visuals makes the process more memo- rable, engaging and productive. Implications for marketers The most important driver for effective marketing in professional service firms is the engagement of the partners, consult- ants and other client facing and support staff. This is particularly critical because professional service firms are charac- terised by: • People who have high levels of loyalty to their trade often above loyalty to their firms or partnerships • Large numbers of highly intelligent and highly qualified people who want to work in democratic cultures with consensual decision-making • High levels of client contact throughout the business • Simultaneous consumption and production – the ‘product’ is the time of the people and therefore the people, and the way they work with clients, shape the way the firm is perceived – perhaps more than in any other service sector. Winning hearts and minds, quickly, in transformation efforts is therefore key in this sector, and expertise in facilitation and group processes a key enabler. What are the tangible outputs from these kinds of processes? Each firm will differ but one group of marketers and global relationship partners emerged with an agenda to support clients including: • Action learning (not just knowledge sharing; deep discussions about industry trends and active workshops and meetings within the firm’s networks) • Strategy workshops for the clients with scenario planning and outside experts • Leadership surveys within industry sectors to analyse drivers of change and readiness to change • Numerous internal conversations about how we can bring strategy to life driven by self-directed teams • Thinking ahead of the curve so that partners could be seen to be providing advance insights and knowledge on industry trends and developments. Conclusions Conversational based approaches to change will become more important in the next two decades because they achieve the dual goals of developing the plans for change while developing the capability of the business to continuously update these plans. Service firms will increasingly help their clients in this more facilitative approach to change where planning is managed in partner- ship, and marketers will need to design these conversations and support them using the new social technologies that are becoming ever-more prevalent. Mike Pounsford is the founder of Couravel, an organisational change and communication consultancy founded in 2001. Contact: 07860 196343 or visit www.couravel.com Do we plan change? • People naturally look to top for direction • Start with clear need and table issues early • Easier to manage workloads; clear milestones gives sense of progress • Feels safe • Process hinders innovation and slows down change • Inefficient: need to ‘sell’ implemen- tation rather than co-creation • Seeking consensus dumbs down; leads to a vanilla model that’s not as useful. Do we support emergent change? • Flexible and responsive • Generates energy, more creative • Creates and maintains own momentum • Fits/mirrors organizations – sprawling, complex, fast changing, etc. • Encourages volunteering and empow- erment • People deal with symptoms, not main issues • Empowerment, liberation, etc. can be uncomfortable • Disproportionate impact of a vocal minority • Lack of sense of achievement or mile- stones, etc. DownsideUpside

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