Job title changes or real organisational change?

Kirsty_Walden– Posted by Kirsty Walden

How much time and resources do organisations typically spend explaining changes to ways of working rather than announcing changes to the organisation’s structure?

It’s universally agreed that to get people to change their behaviours on a sustainable basis, winning their hearts and minds is equally important as just sharing the logical arguments (if not more so). But how often is this thinking applied to the restructuring process in organisations?
Consider the following scenario. Does it sound familiar?

As part of its annual planning process, fictional company Made-up Ltd, has decided to set a strategic priority for the year ahead to reduce operating costs.

The new strategic priority is announced at Made-up’s annual conference to its top 100. Directors are tasked with reviewing their current ways of working (including their employee headcount and team structure) and identifying where savings could be made.

Following the annual conference, the procurement director holds a planning meeting with his senior team to discuss the new strategic priority and review their ways of working to identify the savings.

After lots of discussion and debate, the procurement senior team decides that the way the department is structured isn’t aligned to the new goals and priorities. They believe there are lots of opportunities to save money in the way various business sectors are engaging with suppliers.

Currently, different parts of the organisation deal with a different buyer depending on the goods or services they are tendering for. The senior team’s idea is that a better approach would be to introduce ‘business relationship managers’, meaning each business division will only deal with one dedicated person for all their procurement needs as a type of ‘account manager’. The new business relationship managers will deal with the specialist buyers on the business’ behalf. The senior team’s thinking is that the new business relationship managers will become trusted experts in the different needs of the business sector and will be able to identify and recommend opportunities to reduce procurement costs further.

This proposal is taken to the operating board and gets the go-ahead to proceed for implementation (with a pat on the back for creative thinking).

The senior team then approaches the HR department for help in how to implement the new structure and advice on the right approach. One of the HR advisors is assigned to them and a meeting to discuss implementing the new restructure is arranged.

Ahead of the meeting, the HR advisor does his homework and compares the existing structure with the new proposed structure, noting where he believes individuals will be affected by the changes and will need to be consulted with.

At the meeting the HR advisor presents his view of how the proposed structure will affect the department’s employees. He recommends that the procurement director first presents the proposed new structure to the whole team, before following up with all affected individuals to explain in detail how their role will be changed. He recommends this is done through 1-2-1 meetings with their immediate line manager and HR.

The procurement director duly schedules a meeting with the whole procurement team to unveil the new structure and explain how the restructuring process will be managed. 1-2-1 meetings with all affected individuals follow, with many moving into new ‘business relationship manager’ roles.

Now, reflect on the scenario described here.

How much time and effort was spent determining and implementing the new structure? We can assume the time was given at the annual conference for the senior leaders to discuss and debate the new strategic priority and to shape how it should be implemented. Equally the senior procurement team were given the time (and mandate) to consider how best to implement the target. But what about the people ultimately affected by the structure changes? They weren’t involved at all – the end result of this process was simply announced to them.

Given that the individuals in the procurement team are those most affected by the changes, wouldn’t it have been better to provide some opportunities for them to shape the final structure? After all, often it’s the operational people who know their role best and have the knowledge to identify the best opportunities for improvement.

And what about what the new structure means for day-to-day processes? Where was the time to consider how the new structure would change these?

To truly change the way the procurement team operate (and ultimately deliver the cost savings), surely a change in the hearts and minds of the people taking the new roles is needed too?

Did the account from Made-up ltd sound familiar to you? How do you ensure that real change is delivered rather than shuffling people around and simply changing their title?

We’ve recently worked with one of our clients to do just that. We created a suite of workshop tools that ask participants to review processes and explore how they should behave differently in a range of scenarios.