MANAGEMENT
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Management

Can your managers manage change?

In a constantly changing world, it’s the companies most able to adapt that will survive - and that’s where good management comes in

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 9:43pm

In this new world of volatility and constant change, it is not the biggest or the strongest who will thrive. It is those who are the most agile and adaptive to change.

As a result, companies are starting to rebuild their businesses for agility, with a variable cost base and flexibility built into their DNA.

This starts with the people. Embedding change activity as a small part of all managers’ and employees’ roles, and training them to handle change, can make change the norm rather than an exception. Training up experts within your company about how to manage change can be essential.

For example, a global insurance broker had highly decentralised and inconsistent processes and wanted to fix this. Working with the client, we assessed the opportunities to eliminate non-value-adding activities, streamline end-to-end processes and automate standard tasks. Lower complexity and lower-client-value activities were moved offshore to reduce the cost base.

Most change is technology-enabled, and digital innovation is changing industries as far flung as oil and gas to health care and financial services

At the heart of this program was a central “people and transition” change team that worked side-by-side with the human resources leadership and programme management to effect a timely and collaborative decision-making process which engaged key parts of the organisation and helped to embed the change.

To ensure a smooth transition to this new operating model, integrated change teams were established across the four business units. These teams used proven business readiness and change transition methodologies to ensure a smooth knowledge transfer to the new operating hubs.

The client selected high-performing individuals within the business to be the change leads within these teams. We coached and led the client through the first two transition phases. Then, using the embedded learning from these phases, the client took the lead for the remaining transition phases.

No matter how you attack change, what is imperative to understand is that speed is of the essence

This approach ensured that the client’s own change capability was expanded throughout the programme, leaving the organisation with a team of capable change managers.

Change teams often need to be the “glue” that binds together different delivery partners to make change successful. These partners can include compliance, HR, communications, facilities, procurement, finance and, most critically, IT. Most change is technology-enabled, and digital innovation is changing industries as far flung as oil and gas to health care and financial services. IT and business change teams are separate but symbiotic capabilities.

Other changes can be made to enable a more responsive and agile organisation. A great example of this is the rise of cloud-based services, which now allow banks to roll out new services at a fraction of the cost and time, and with a constant stream of innovation.

Management teams need to be agile, which involves tight multi-disciplinary teams working together on sprints. The key is collaboration both at a departmental and programme team level. Amazon, for example, works to a “two-pizza” rule: in the company’s experience, teams that are small enough to be fed with two pizzas are more innovative and higher-paced.

Each sprint delivers a change or part of a change that is self-contained and valuable to the business and the customer. Sprint teams involve business stakeholders, subject matter experts, change management teams and IT. Critically, agile delivery needs much greater participation by business stakeholders and the end-customer/user, both in the sprint team and using techniques such as iterative prototyping and model office testing.

No matter how you attack change, what is imperative to understand is that speed is of the essence. Long gone are the days of waiting three years for a payback – this is not possible, particularly in capital-constrained industries such as banking and insurance, which dominate Hong Kong’s landscape.

Andrew Woolf is Accenture’s global talent and organisation lead, financial services

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