Major changes such as the re-structuring of an organisation or M&A activity are cited as failing between 50 and 80% of times (depending on definitions) because of poor cultural integration.
Alchimie has a rigorous approach to the cultural dimension of major change. We call it Transition Leadership.
Some of the problems:
The purpose of Alchimie's approach is to convert the planning and transition phase into an opportunity for creating new thinking and taking the re-formed organisation to a heightened level of strategic and cultural clarity. It is an opportunity for renewal, and for authentic leadership. It is a phase when the future leaders of the organisation get a unique chance to craft the future in a way that they own.
Our approach is to use the interval between the decision and the change to have all managers step into a leadership conversation, stewarding the change irrespective of their own ultimate position in or departure from the organisation.
Whilst working on change and in business planning conversations, we openly have managers explore their head space and the counter-intuitive choices they may need to make. These include, but are not limited to:
Leadership for the future of organisation is more important than the individual’s future. Being driven by survival gets you nowhere in the long run. The leader’s job is to lead the organisation and fulfill their role for the benefit of the organisation. It is a contractual duty, and a moral duty. If an individual demonstrates good leadership for the sake of the organisation and still leaves, they would leave on a good note, positioning them well for their next career move. It may be the opposite from what the sub-conscious ego wants, but it will give greater chance of a future job, greater chance of success and greater pride.
We deliberately focus on setting the context for the restructure / merge, facilitating robust engagement with the purpose, vision and benefits, creating a succinct and meaningful context for all that follows. We recognise that leaders are being asked to choose service in support of the long term benefit of the organisation – in order that people will look back on events and recognise the fine job done by leaders during the transition, and how they set up the successful future, instead of being consumed by the short term issues caused by anxiety and resentment.
In a typical re-structure, much has to happen in a short time. There are many decisions to be made; many conversations to be had, not least with customers, and existing business needs to continue uninterrupted. The challenge is enormous, and potential for overwhelm is high. Our approach takes a pragmatic view on strategic needs, breaking this into specific ‘must have’ implementation initiatives. Each is defined in a plan-on-a-page “brief”, that succinctly and clearly outlines the intent, the benefits, and what has to happen and by when (at an outcome level only), together with who is accountable.
We support those accountable for successful execution of the implementation initiatives. This usually entails facilitating meetings with small “tactical teams”, ensuring implementation conversations are focused, effective and deliberately linked to the values and strategic framework of the future organisation. In effect, we help bring discipline to implementation, reducing the wastage caused by “noise” and political in-fighting.
Transition Leadership creates visible signposts and regular milestones – charting a pathway to success, and creating sense of momentum and pace along the way. This also helps drive a culture of accountability, as well as sense of hope and belief in the future.
An organisation is as good as its people. Amongst the critical decisions to be made are those about which people will be taken forward and have a place in the future organisation. We can support robust objective conversations about talent and capability, using existing HR systems or bringing fresh frameworks to the discussions. But it is not just the analysis that is important; it is the spirit in which the conversations and decision-making are conducted. Through our facilitation we bring objectivity and clarity to the conversations, ensuring linkage between context, strategy and decision. Through this approach, decisions are more likely to be understood and accepted as being fair.
Transition Leadership is results-focused. It is about achieving results with the least wastage. It also provides the opportunity to develop leadership – the collective leadership of the future organisation, and also the competence and skills of the individual leaders. We capitalize on this unique (and unlikely) opportunity to generate developmental growth, awareness and talent in all involved, by providing real time coaching whilst working on the business.
Thinking can get clouded and diverted by “either/or” thinking. Whilst acknowledging and accepting real issues, our focus is to keep conversations creative by generating the thinking necessary to find solutions and outcomes that make what is possible a reality. We help leaders see issues with fresh eyes; being alert to judgmental assessments and binary thinking, we ensure a generative dialogue that delivers outcomes more quickly and with more substance.
Transitions will rarely happen perfectly. There will always be issues that could have or should have been avoided. “S..t happens”. We would create opportunities to acknowledge stuff – let go of resentment, and move on. Our approach ensures that fears and anxieties can be aired, and that honesty and truth is safe. From a big picture perspective, organisations go through lifecycles, much like humans. There is always a time for renewal and a next phase in life. We use Adizes’ Organisational Lifecycle theory, to help people appreciate that what is happening, also happens in many other places, and is inevitable. This helps them reduce the emotional angst that fuels resentment about execution issues.
To have a transition happen well and rapidly requires a fine balance between chaos and order. Ensuring that conversations happen at the right level and at the right time, is as important as planning what needs to happen when. By managing conversations deliberately, and commitments being fulfilled, means people can make decisions in real time but know that they are working in tandem with others – in effect dancing spontaneously, but knowing they won’t tread on their partner’s toes! Regular communication means that the organisation can truly experience being a learning organisation – creating a culture of wonder and discovery in the transition, rather than anxiety and fear.
Things will change for every individual. Change is external and internal to the individual. We provide a framework for “talking about change” – namely
By building awareness onto “attention and focus” we can help generate a sense of more time. By having attention directed on the whole, rather than the individual, we have leaders break through their pre-conceived ideas about their limits; there is always more to give. We also engender in them a sense that commitment is not complete without follow through and feedback. It is not just the action that is important, but the result – and that requires feedback and agreement from all relevant stakeholders. We help create a culture where there is as much energy in the follow through as there is in the planning.
Mention of the customer has been left till last in this list, but only to emphasise that it is too easy to get so obsessed by the internal issues of an organisation that people forget that the whole point is to deliver a better service to the customer. The change has to “make sense” for them – and that needs to be front of mind in all decision-making. By having the customer and service-led thinking forefront in their minds, managers will achieve far more coherence and congruity with how the organisation will need to be after the change.
Transition Leadership - Together stronger greater