Leadership - Case Example

Client

The client is a large Belgian organisation, part of a larger foreign group, with over ten thousand staff. Over time, staff numbers have shrunk and some functions have been either outsourced or moved to lower labour-cost countries. The organisation is profitable and has one of the most well recognized brand names in the country.

Situation

To stay competitive, the organisation has realigned every 4 to 5 years, creating new reporting lines and apparently, new objectives. We were engaged by a significant division of the organisation which, over time, reported more and more within the largest division, which was shrinking and less profitable. Many expressed fear that their organisation might be assimilated by the main division, losing their identity, losing their differentiation in the market, and being evaluated on parameters that did not square with what was required in their business. There was a real perception customers might potentially be unsatisfied.

Although the perception of many was as described above, the organisation did not have the intention to execute the said changes along these lines. They

understood the importance of keeping the businesses separate, but wanted to make a strategic move to share costs wherever possible and avoid the two divisions fighting for the same customers at each other’s peril.

ATC’s value

The organisation was characterized by strong management with detailed targets in many areas, tracking and measuring both financial and non-financial parameters in great detail and with high frequency. Co-workers were losing sight of what was important. Given the overall vagueness and fear, they reacted negatively to the change.

As the underlying message was unilaterally positive, it was important to bring that message across. To do so, we set up a leadership programme with first-line managers, focusing on the importance of vision, decision taking, and engaging with staff. We subsequently coached every individual first-line manager. This increased the likelihood that the key elements discussed during the leadership seminar were applied.

Within a period of 12 to 18 months, the co-workers in the subdivision changed from attacking the new model, to defending that model with pride. The key was the clarity of the objectives of the organisation and linking each and every potential activity or request to the overall message. Once co-workers had understood the decisions, previously seen as chaotic, they recognised the single tune and the main theme. That theme subscribed to a vision they could believe in and were willing to 'fight' in. It turned co-workers around. First-line managers had to be sufficiently decisive to ensure all of this worked. Some were more so than others, but on the whole a major shift in the collective behaviour underlined the success of this programme.

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