Could you use a Changemaker?

I have been working with a large organisation recently who are suffering from what I like to call as ‘Nose to the Grindstone Syndrome’.  I was brought in as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to help in a crisis, but I have become ‘a pair of fresh eyes’ and Changemaker, providing a vision for the future and a clear route map for the next few years.

This organisation (who shall remain nameless) struggles to keep up with demand.  The day to day pressures are such that it seems impossible to take a step back and review where it is and where it’s going. But this is exactly what it needs to do.

This organisation provides key services and over the years demand has grown without real planning.  Some 10 years ago, it merged with several other like-minded businesses to support demand over a much larger geographic area.  However, instead of planning the merger, it was decided to retain all the individual offices together and work it out from there.

The result today is that services are duplicated, whilst each office continues to run on slightly different lines due to historic practice.  The service, whilst still very valuable and in demand, is running at a loss and the workforce are feeling disillusioned and dispirited.  Its future is threatened.

A Fresh Look

The advantage of being an outsider is that I can take a step back, look at the bigger picture and draw up a new vision.  Not being bound by historic practice, my approach is to think about how we would design the organisation if we were starting from scratch and then work out how we can shape the current service to fit that model.

Change is often difficult, and many people avoid it at all costs.  However, if we don’t change how we run organisations, they become outdated and irrelevant and often go out of business – we only have to look at some large retail businesses who failed to understand the impact of internet shopping and have disappeared.

Having been brought in to provide some management support, it quickly became clear to me the organisation was in difficulty.  Year on year, it was struggling to stay within budget, morale throughout the organisation was low and team members were leaving at an ever-increasing rate.  Despite this, customer feedback remains high and demand is growing.  It isn’t that the concept was wrong, it’s that the method of delivery hasn’t evolved to suit demand.

A Fresh Start

The diagnosis is the easy part.  The hard part is putting together a concept that will enable the organisation to continue to deliver its quality service and support in a way that meets budgetary requirements, fulfills customer demand and doesn’t alienate staff and lead to further demotivation.  Instead, the new model must engage and involve staff and provide them with a more fulfilling and rewarding role.

At the moment, I am still at the consultation stage.  I am spending time talking with all parts of the organisation, getting their views and engaging them in the process.  This is the most important part – everyone needs to feel they have been involved and listened to.  It’s likely some will be upset by the changes, but at least if they feel they have had an opportunity to input into the decision, there is some consolation.

A Fresh Vision

Once I have gathered sufficient input, I will be preparing a Strategy Document that will clarify what it is the organisation is trying to achieve and what changes need to be made in order to reach this outcome.  As I said earlier, my starting point is how would the organisation look if we were starting from scratch, and what resources are currently in place to achieve this.

It’s likely that the outcome will be an organisation that looks significantly different to the current one, with fewer bases but a wider spread to reach more people.  The means by which the service is delivered will change, utilising the internet more and reducing face to face contact.  The service will be built to reflect customer demand and budgetary restrictions, and on the way hopefully provide staff with more meaningful and rewarding work.

A Fresh Approach

Once the new ways of working have been agreed, the hardest part is making the changes work.  It can be disruptive and often takes longer than anticipated – it’s easier to return to ‘business as usual’ and thus constant attention is needed to avoid this.  The key to success is to have a team constantly monitoring and communicating with the workforce – positive reinforcement and encouragement, along with the ability to identify and rectify problems as they occur, is essential.

Change comes at a cost, and it is likely that some members of the team won’t like the new ways of working and will move on.  Whilst this is regrettable, it is inevitable, and when I have managed situations such as these previously, we have found that the team members who have left are often those that needed to move on anyway.  New staff are recruited in knowing nothing different and the organisation adapts.

If your business or organisation is struggling to cope with demand or is facing new challenges that you don’t have capacity to plan for, then give me a call.  If nothing else, it’s good to share the burden, but hopefully we will be able to work together to provide you with a clear pathway for the future.  Using a Changemaker can revolutionise the way you do business and make sure you are ready for the future.

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