I often hear alpha type leaders tell me with pride that they intend to fire those that do not get on board with their plans for transformation. This is not an act of courage and decisiveness but rather a failure in leadership. Very few people come to work with the intent to do poor work or sabotage change efforts. When there is resistance there is a reason. There are real and perceived barriers preventing people embracing the transformation. Barriers that have been put, or left, in place by the same leaders who are so eager to fire the change laggards. It is an essential leadership responsibility to create the right environment that dissolves resistance and nurtures enthusiasm. Sustainable transformations require everyone to feel they are equipped, enabled and empowered. At the same time the program needs to deliver results. This is not an easy leadership task – harder than simply firing the people “getting in the way”. How to make this happen? Design a program that is T-shaped.
A T shaped transformation has 2 components…
The first is the broad top section of the T. In a T-shaped approach, change programs are designed to engage the breadth of the organisation. It is important to lower the barriers to entry, reward participation over outcome and develop a feeling of contribution to the overall results. At DBS when we started our decade long transformation we created a program of improvement workshops called Process Improvement Events or PIEs. No pre-requisites were required. Training was given as part of the workshop, people were empowered to make change and ideas were implemented immediately. We created an iconic success measure for the program – the customer hour – a measure of customer waiting time whether it be in branches, at ATMs or receiving new credit cards. It was something everyone could contribute to and was a fantastic way of communicating progress. Rather than auditing the outcomes we recognised people for having the courage to participate. Over 2 years we ran 200 workshops reducing overall waiting times by 250 million hours per year – if you go back in time 250 million hours you end up in the stone age – it was a lot of time. Our customers noticed the difference and we went from the bottom of the customer satisfaction scores to the top in the space of 12 months.
The second part is to go deep. Leaders choose 5 – 10 areas that are most critical and apply management oversight and investment. At DBS we identified the Big 6 – the six most urgent areas for us to fix our customer service. We put dedicated teams in place, top level governance and investment.
This two pronged approach yielded results. We improved the service in each of the Big 6 focus areas. A couple of years after starting we went back and reviewed each of the PIEs to ascertain how many had actually delivered results. We were delighted to find that around 75% had had a significant impact on reducing waiting times. More importantly we had unlocked the passion of the company and we now had an army of people enthusiastic about, and capable of, driving change. We had built the foundation of the success that would follow. The T-shaped approach became the template for all the subsequent transformation programs we ran. And we never fired anyone for not getting on board.
If you experience resistance from some of your people the chances are that you have not created the right environment.
For a sustained transformation you will need to engage everyone and unlock their passion through a program designed to both engage and deliver results.
Define success and communicate progress by creating iconic measures that everyone can contribute to.
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