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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Dec 2014

By Ian Dodds – The Inclusion Builder

Succeeding with major change needs frontline voices to be heard

In recent blogs I have explained how building an inclusive culture significantly enhances the likelihood of success in delivering major change programmes. This time I want to explain how important it is to include and obtain the views of the people on the front line and how to do this.

My experiences of successfully doing this are derived from work I have done with different retail chains and manufacturing organisations. In the former, the front line people often have important insights into the needs of customers and in the latter they have day-to-day experience of key operational requirements. In the various examples that I have experience of I have partnered with the leadership to help them deliver the following 6 steps:

  1. The leadership team articulating a compelling vision of success in a given number of years’ time, usually 3 years or 5 years. These visions involved excellence in service to customers in the retail examples and operational excellence in the manufacturing ones.

  2. They then briefed their direct reports on the vision and asked them to arrange to cascade this brief down their management lines. In some examples we had an artist create pictures to illustrate the vision of future success and to be used in the cascade briefings. This can be powerful in gaining buy-in and understanding; because people often think in pictures.

  3. In the cascade briefings each manager and team leader was required to brief their team on the vision of future success and then ask their team members what they thought would both help and hinder the delivery of it. They were also required to flipchart the responses of their team members. This enabled the team members to know that their views had been listened to. They were also informed that the flipcharts would be forwarded to the change steering group so that it could formulate a strategy for delivering the vision taking account of everyone’s views. In the case of one highly successful change programme on a large chemicals manufacturing site Bradford Business School did a follow-up study. They discovered that the front line people had really valued and appreciated that their views had been sought and used to formulate the strategy for such an important change programme.

  4. The change steering group then formulated a strategy for delivering the change programme taking account of all of the feedback it had received. They then had this signed off by the leadership team.

  5. The strategy was then cascaded down the management line and each manager and team leader was required to agree with their team a plan for their contribution in delivering the strategy to realise the vision for future success.

  6. The delivery of the strategy was monitored by the change steering group and the progress on delivering against intermediate targets, e.g. six monthly targets, made known. These communications also informed people of success stories arising from progress on delivering the change.

In all the cases that I have used this process a major change programme has been successfully delivered resulting in excellence in customer service or in manufacturing operations. Essentially, it has involved creating an inclusive culture where everyone’s views have been sought and listened to and taken account of. This, in all examples, proved highly motivational to front line staff who felt that their knowledge and experience had been valued and respected. As indicated earlier, engaging front line staff in change programme consultations is especially important in de-centralised business models where regional or local sites (e.g. plants in the manufacturing sector, or store sites in the retail sector) operate relatively autonomously with little direct contact with the people in the central functions.

If you would like more information about this approach please contact me.

Dr Ian Dodds, The Inclusion Builder,



29 Nov 2014

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