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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: April 2016

By Ian Dodds – The Inclusion Builder

The key to delivering complex change successfully is taking a Whole Systems approach

Recently, the Harvard Business Review had an article in it claiming that the change agenda for the US Health Service had been unsuccessful because a Whole Systems approach had not been adopted. I believe that this is the cause of failure of many complex change programmes.

Some years ago I was the Organisational Development Manager for a complex change programme to transform a loss making international chemicals business, employing 11,000 people, into one which was profitable. I guided its management through the following Whole Systems steps:

  1. I worked with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) to help them develop a vision of future success for the business in 3 years’ time by providing ‘right on time’ services to its customers worldwide. The mission in that vision was ‘Fighting for the Customer’.

  2. This vision of future success was communicated via the management lines to every team in the business and each manager and team leader was required to ask their team ‘what will help and what will hinder the delivery of this vision’. The responses from the team members needed to be recorded on flip charts and forwarded to me so I could collate them.

  3. An off-line Change Steering Group (CSG) was then established and the Sales Director was appointed as its chair. Its role was to successfully steer the delivery of the vision.

  4. The CSG developed a strategy for delivering the vision of future success, taking account of the collated feedback from the cascade communication of the vision. This was then presented to the ELT and agreed by them.

  5. The strategy for delivering the vision was then communicated across the business, via the management line, and every manager and team leader had to agree with their teams what their plan would be to contribute to the delivery of the strategy. These strategic plans had to be agreed with each relevant Head of Department.

  6. To enable managers to engage their staff and gain their commitment the CSC introduced an extensive programme of management training to develop their skills in: effective listening; empowerment and coaching in the moment.

  7. The CSG then set up some task groups with mixed membership from throughout the business. An example was a task group established to put together recommendations on how we could reliably provide ‘right on time’ delivery to customers.

  8. Another task group was established, with me as a member, to simplify the organisation. I guided them on adopting Prof Elliott Jacques approach to establishing a minimum number of 7 management levels across the entire international business, and including its board. We also adopted an approach by Christian Schumacher of organising teams throughout the organisation around whole transformations of work activities.

  9. The CSG set up a task group to encourage employees to submit suggestions of how the business could best ‘Fight for the Customer’. It received and progressed over 3,500 employee suggestions.

  10. The CSG also initiated a programme of business process reengineering to ensure that the business systems enabled ‘Right on Time’ delivery to customers.

  11. Progress was monitered by the CSG and communicated throughout the business at 6 monthly intervals, together with success stories gathered from across the business.

Three years after the initiation of ‘The Fighting for the Customer’ Change Programme the business was again profitable and continued to be so. This had been achieved through a Whole Systems approach to complex change which had: offered visionary and empowering leadership; engaged the whole of the workforce; delayered and simplified the organisation and reengineered the business processes to ensure ‘Right on Time’ services to customers.

This success is one I have repeated many times using a Whole Systems Approach. In fact, I have never had a failure and yet 70% of complex change programmes fail (McKinsey, 2013). Please contact me if you want to deliver complex change successfully by taking a Whole Systems Approach.

Dr Ian Dodds, 29 Apr 2016, www.iandoddsconsulting.com, www.thepowerofinclusion.com

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