Our work with a FTSE 50 multinational demonstrates how strategy, insight, and action can be the power triad of organisational change.
The insight/action dilemma. On their own, neither is effective.
One can set goals, create strategies, envision success; but fail to root plans in a clear understanding of the current state of the people who constitute the organisation.
The result: the plan stays just that – a list of abstract lines forgotten in the depths of a report or PowerPoint presentation, never really seeming to fit in with the operational bustle of daily reality.
For reality-based action, we first need to achieve clear insight.
One region of a multinational FTSE 50 company, our client came to us for help with executing their 2020 strategy.
It was ambitious, but achievable if the Exec could work across functional lines. The two major strategic imperatives were the establishment of the company, both internally and externally, as a ‘most loved’ brand; and an integration of the service and product offerings – achieving scale while nurturing customer experience.
The times, they are a-changing
The backdrop was a previously struggling economy and an executive committee forced to focus on cost-cutting and short-term thinking to survive.
As the economy picked up, these ‘hard’ qualities were becoming less necessary; the climate called for a maturation of the team into long-term thinking. They could now shift from a relatively individualistic way of working to a more trust-based, cohesive model.
“They needed help to make the move from an emphasis on functional delivery to the wider perspective of creating organisational value,” said Alex Marples, Director of Consulting at Indigogold.
Picking up the pieces…
While the team was not ‘broken’, they needed help aligning themselves to the new strategy. We set out to define exactly what these changes should be.
Using the Hogan Suite of psychometric assessment tools, we produced personality profiles for each team member. Together with one-to-one coaching sessions, these tools are designed to identify how an individual behaves at their best, how they act under pressure, and what motivates them. (See here for our take on a worrying recent trend in personality assessments).
The idea was to make the opaque transparent, and reveal what lay underneath the habits and patterns that characterised the individuals’ interactions.
“Although I was initially unsure, the one-on-one sessions quickly helped me realise that the guys at Indigogold really know what they’re doing, both technically and ethically. I could listen to what they had to say.”
Operational versus strategic speed
We then aggregated the individual data to produce a team profile, outlining the likely motivators, stressors, and behaviours of the team when they function as a unit.
We presented our findings in a team session. “We knew we needed to hit them hard with our feedback to make them sit up and take notice. These were difficult truths, but worthwhile ones,” said Daniel Vacassin, Founder Director of Indigogold.
The team, we had found, were pushing for greater and greater operational speed (moving quickly), at the expense of optimising strategic speed (reducing the time it takes to deliver value on an organisational level). They were aligned vertically within their functions rather than across the organisation, which was stifling their ability to collaborate with the bigger picture in mind.
The ExCo was split into two tiers. Everyone felt it, but no one was talking about it. As a result, trust was often lacking, reducing the ability for consensus and agile working.
“IG managed to bring some issues and ideas to the surface that we all recognised but had struggled to properly identify or name.”
Translating insight into action
The highlighted issues needed to be tackled on several fronts to create tangible results.
The contract was clear: confidentiality within the room, no singling out of people unless they offered a personal view, but no pulling of punches when it came to raising issues that lived across the team.
The team went through denial, bargaining, arguing, and finally to acceptance. But as facilitators our job was to take that to action.
We helped the ExCo come to a commitment to agile working, encouraging a culture of accountability – a CEO mentality amongst staff further down the organisation. This would help with collaboration, bridging the divides between the vertically aligned functions.
We also facilitated the formulation of a precise calendar and structure for the more technical aspects of the strategy over the coming year.
Using our Change Matrix, we then mapped out these actions to create a timeline based on their impact versus do-ability.
What the ExCo said after this short intervention:
“Indigogold have been very clear that this is a starting point for further progress. That said, gaining a shared understanding of what’s going on round here, naming some key issues, and getting both individual and team commitment to do something about them feels like a really solid foundation.”
“Indigogold were brave in the way they presented their content. They never stopped being supportive, but they were unwilling to let us avoid things.”
“I was a bit skeptical at the start of the process – I wondered how much we were really going to get into it. I have seen these things before and they can end up as a nice conversation that doesn’t go anywhere. But I came around as the session went on; we have reached a new level of openness. However, we still need a clearer set of actions and deliverables to make sure something happens in the future.”
Mirroring a microcosm
We knew that the changes we had made were only the beginning of ongoing team effectiveness. Many interventions don’t stick because they aren’t carried through and grounded in commercial reality.
In particular, we had noticed that the same developmental areas that had come up in the ExCo profile seemed to be underlying shortcomings in delivering the Talent agenda. A shortage of talent at certain levels, low ‘bench-strength’ (i.e. the capability and readiness of individuals) and a poor succession pipeline were stifling opportunities for recruitment and development.
These characteristics were a manifestation of the operational rather than organisational speed, vertical alignment, and lack of team cohesion that we had already highlighted in the ExCo team effectiveness session.
In other words, the insight we had gained set a solid foundation for effective, relevant and timely action.
We now plan to address these issues with a team effectiveness intervention with the executive committee. Working with the summit of the organisation, the effects can cascade down and create systemic change.
A team’s effectiveness is not in a plan. Not well-meaning words about changes in behaviour. Not even in a revisiting of promises at subsequent meetings.
Find a live issue and more often than not you’ll see the ‘old ways’ creeping back in faster that a rat up an aqueduct. Use that same opportunity to hold a mirror up and work on practising new ways, and the team has a fighting chance of real change.