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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: March 2019

By Dr Ian Dodds FRSA – Lotus Award winner 2017 for Lifetime Achievement in Pioneering Inclusive Cultures

An inclusive, whole systems approach is key to delivering major change

I first learnt the importance of an inclusive, whole systems approach when I was working with an international chemicals business employing 11,000 people globally and it was unprofitable. The CEO was tasked with returning it to profitability in 3 years. He believed that its problems were caused by it not meeting the needs of its customers; because it was too inwards looking and technically focussed. We began by setting up a Fighting for the Customer (FFTC) Steering Group. The FFTC Steering Group was given a remit to devise a vision and strategy for success to deliver the mission of returning the business to profitability by it becoming much more customer facing and responsive. It was chaired by the Sales Director and was composed of senior managers from across the business.

The FFTC Steering Group decided that it would find out what the business needed to do to fight for the customer by interviewing purchasing representatives from the 20% of the customers that generated 80% of the business’s turnover. This demonstrated that customers required it to deliver Right on Time, i.e. the right products in the right quantities and with the correct labelling, and these had to be delivered on time; often within 24 hours of the order being received. It decided to approach this by building what was to be an inclusive culture and taking a whole systems approach. It did this by:

1. Developing a vision of future success of a profitable business in 3 years’ time based on right on time delivery to its customers. This vision was agreed with the leadership team and was then cascaded down the management lines and every manager was required to obtain feedback from their team members of what would help and what would hinder the delivery of the vision. This feedback had to be written on flip charts by each manager.

2. The flip chart feedback from the vision cascade was analysed and the FFTC Steering Group used it to formulate a strategy for delivering the vision. The strategy was approved by the executive and included the following:

i. Each manager discussing the strategy with their teams and formulating with them a team plan for delivering their contribution to the strategy.

ii. The setting up of task groups to formulate plans and steer their implementation for:

- Delayering the organisation and structuring work teams to improve collaboration across the organisation and speed up responses to meeting customer needs;

- Re-engineering business processes to improve response times to meeting customer needs;

- To manage and promote a Fighting for the Customer Suggestion Scheme.

3. All managers were trained to be able to be better at: listening to people; empowering them; helping them identify their talents and developing them.

The Organisation Streamlining Task Group adopted the Elliott Jacques model for delayering the organisation so that it consisted of 6 levels between the CEO and the front line and could respond more quickly to customer needs. We also needed greater collaboration across the business and the Work Structuring Task Group brought in Work Structuring Ltd to ensure that teams at all levels were able to plan, do and evaluate whole transformations of work, including training internal work structuring agents. Our business processes needed to be agile and the Business Process Reengineering Task Group took training in business process reengineering and set about reengineering all of the key business processes.

The FFTC Suggestions Task Group initiated a programme in which key customers would visit sites accompanied by the relevant sales manager to bring the need for Right-on-Time delivery to life. These visits also encouraged employees at each site to submit suggestions to the Task Group concerning how we could fight better for both external and internal customers. It received over 3000 suggestions and responded to all of them and set up a number of improvement projects as a result.

We also wanted to upskill managers in listening to people, empowering them and helping them identify their talents and an extensive management training programme was introduced to achieve this.

Business results and progress with FFTC Strategic Priorities were communicated across the whole business at 6 monthly intervals. Particular emphasis was placed on positive progress and the sharing of success stories. The organisation was very successfully delayered, work structured and business process reengineered and soon after a year the business was succeeding in meeting most of the orders placed on it Right on Time. Within

eighteen months the business had become profitable and after 3 years was successfully meeting the profit targets placed on it by the Executive Board. This success demonstrates the importance of:

1. Building an inclusive culture in which people are listened to, affirmed and helped to perform to their best is critical to the success of delivering major change programmes.

2. Taking a whole systems approach so that the change was aligned throughout the business, including its organisation and business processes.

3. The need to train managers to listen and dialogue effectively and to empower people and help them develop their talents, i.e. manage inclusively, is vital as managers often have weak skills in these areas.

Please contact Ian Dodds Consulting if you need to successfully deliver a major change and are interested in this powerful approach.

Dr Ian Dodds FRSA

29 February 2019

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