Chop chop when will the restructure stop?!

IMG_8911 copy.jpgIt seems that almost every day the Australian Financial Review is reporting on a major Company reorganisation with each newly appointed CEO routinely restructuring the organisation on the way in and then again after a few years.

In Australia this problem is exacerbated with the average CEO tenure now below 5 years and 30% of CEO’s in the top 200 fail to last 3 years. As a result you can see how some organisations restructure every year.

The conflicting structural thesis to centralise for cost control or decentralise for speed of decision making, to be customer centric or product centric, manage with a disruptive business environment or manage efficiently within a stable environment or my favourite “to break down silos” are often used to justify a major change. Unfortunately most (two thirds based on Bain & Co study) fail to deliver any meaningful result.

Should the Board be concerned about this trend? They most certainly should be very, very concerned. The damage caused can be very difficult to repair and include:

  • Protracted distraction of employees as they jockey for position. They are not focused on the customer, market and competitor.
  • Breaking and reforming of operational bonds within the organisation means it can take up to 18 months to settle down into a fully functioning operational rhythm.
  • Weak handover protocols mean that important controls are broken and corporate knowledge is permanently lost. This can manifest itself in significant audit items being raised.
  • Learning energy is spent patching the organisation back together rather than the higher value work of improving service, product etc.
  • Scarce financial capital is consumed for no return.
  • Employee engagement crashes with focus on self-preservation and self-interest. This can become a long term problem rather than a transitional one (as it is often reported).

If a restructure happens once no big deal (as long as it is a true solution to a well understood problem) but if it happens often organisations are unlikely to get better they just get different.

Boards and their executive team are better served by focusing their energy on:

  1. CEO and Executive talent development to reduce disruption of leadership changeover
  2. Coherent and ongoing strategy development and execution rather than lurching from one position to anonther.
  3. Clarity of team and individual purpose to achieve better alignment
  4. Building and maintaining a deep learning, collaborative and performance culture so each employee is able to deal with whatever is thrown at them.
  5. Sufficient flexibility in the performance management framework to support the “best decision in the moment” rather than a fixed set of objectives.
  6. Internal protocols that are fit for the conditions.
  7. Replacing people when needed rather than “restructuring them out” retaining a stable organisation structure.
  8. Create effective metrics and board reporting to ensure the 7 items above being actively achieved.

In summary, organisation restructuring is a lever that should be used sparingly as the damage it causes often exceeds the problem purported to be solved. Focus on the conditions within the organisation are more likely to yield performance results.

Chop chop when will the restructure stop?!

Let every interaction be an inquisitive one!

IMG_6784.jpgBy their very nature large organisations can be difficult things to navigate. Knowledge is not perfect despite the emergence of digital social systems. The role of managers, and all of us for that matter, is to make sure we fully participate in the success of the organisation and part of this means that knowledge, insights and contribution move as quickly as possible to those that will benefit from it.

Senior executives have a critical role to play because they have a privileged perspective/ vantage point and can act as role models to the behaviour that will achieve this end.

The question is HOW? Start by using the ingenuity that got you to the top of your organisation!

The following is the approach of one successful executive that did just that.

  • Instead of people coming to the executive to meet he went to them. This created many opportunities to bump into people along the way he would not normally come in contact with.
  • He would walk a different floor each day and speak to people he would not necessarily have cause to speak to. His excuse to interrupt was to offer a lolly (sounds corny but it worked for him). It proved to be so popular he would be stopped regularly and asked why he had not been to a particular floor for a while! Even this enquiry was another opportunity for another interaction.
  • Breach the unspoken elevator protocol and strike up a conversation. It helps to know that all floors of the building were occupied by the same organisation.

These are just some examples of the chance interactions that this executive exploited to great business advantage each day. The content of these conversations was critical and structured. The opening questions would drive the conversation.

  1. What are you working on right now?
  2. What challenges are you facing?
  3. What are the 3 things that would make a big difference to the outcome?

From this simple exchange the executive had the opportunity to offer an insight or perspective, re-frame the problem in a way that the problem may be solved in a better way, suggest a person to speak to because that person had solved it before or are working on a similar or related issue, reinforce the importance of their work and offer encouragement or to just say thank you. Notice that none of this adds to the executive’s workload.

You could easily have 50 or even 100 of these high value interactions each day without consuming any more of your time. Through your inquisitiveness you let people know you are interested and care, their work is important, help them in ways they will only fully appreciate and can complete your day knowing that the gift you gave each one of these employees will positively impact their day. In a time where 76% of workers in Australia are NOT engaged with their work (Gallup State of the global workplace report) what possibly could be more important!

Let every interaction be an inquisitive one!

Create the conditions for success

Success ladder

What does it mean to create the conditions for success? On the surface it sounds vague or even a motherhood statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose is to cause reflection on the situation. It is about leverage, impact and not doing the work of others.

How often as a leader do we get stuck in a behavioural pattern and not recognise it? Or if we do recognise it, do something about it? I constantly observe the leader solving other people’s problems for them. This may be because the leader can, it may be that the leader sees it as part of their valuable contribution or that it is just expedient to do so.

As a behaviour pattern is this the best you can do? It may work for a while but at some level it can be seen as a selfish pattern in that it does not encourage development in others and limits your availability to do the work that you are uniquely placed to do. Eventually it will limit your own growth path. In summary the full potential of the individual is thwarted. You may be OK with that but this is not sustainable long term and results will be under par.

The real leadership work is to ensure that the question is answered with a demonstrable YES.

Yes could mean:

Yes the right brief. The right objective and solving the right problem is obviously critical to success. Defining it in an empowering way will stimulate a better understanding of the challenge and will be approached in a more effective way.

Yes the right resources are allocated. This is both a quantity and characteristic question. Here skill, motivation, knowledge, time etc come into play.

Yes the right measure is in place. it is important to project into the future, picturing real success. Then construct appropriate measures to reflect the  identified success is actually the  outcome. For instance, a call centre . A common measure of success is call duration. This encourages operators to make each call as short as possible. Whereas real success maybe first call resolution and customer satisfaction. Be on the lookout for behaviour distortions.

Yes the right support is in place. The predominant posture will encourage and question, rather than make statements and direct action. This should flow, assuming you have addressed the above effectively.

Yes you are monitoring the situation. As time goes by the nature of the situation may change and therefore the cycle should begin again and the YES retested.

If I had to make a single statement to characterise the above it would be to create and maintain a success system rather than a point solution unnecessarily dependant on your management. Success for you is keeping out of the flow!

Create the conditions for success