For most large organisations, there was a time when we “lived above the shop”… when we knew everyone by first name, where communication was easy as we could just press the stop button to talk to each other and when it was so much clearer what we were meant to be doing and what was important. Making change happen was easy and we could be nimble and flexible.
Fast forward to now. The organisation is much bigger and the benefits of scale are sometimes outweighed by the challenges that size brings with it. People may feel less connected, communication may be a recurring issue on the employee survey and ensuring people know what is important and how they fit in is a constant challenge. Making change happen can feel like a slow and difficult process and smaller competitors seem to be much quicker than we are.
Sounds familiar? I have observed this phenomenon over and over again.
However, I’ve also worked with and supported leading organisations across the world who have been able to turn this phenomenon on its head. I have seen what really works when it comes to making big organisations feel more connected and agile again and I’ve collected these ideas and approaches together. Here are 5 ways to spark life back into your organisation (we will be following up in more detail on each tip over coming weeks):
1. Shape conversations
As the saying goes, “What gets talked about gets done”. In the same way, what gets talked about indicates what is important to the organisation. Help managers to understand the role they have in shaping the conversations of their teams. Create mechanisms for them to discuss what matters most to the organisation on a regular basis. Go beyond “cascades” and “team briefs” and help them to engage their teams in real discussions.
2. Get clear on what matters most
I see so many teams within organisations buckling under the pressure of initiative after initiative. It is a key role of senior managers to filter out the organisational wheat from the chaff and to insulate their teams from fads, short term crisis and whims. Get clear on priorities and identify no more that 3-5 key projects that your organisation will concentrate on over the next 12 months… projects that you will prioritise above all others.
3. Show them the lid of the box
Working in a large organisation is a bit like having a load of jigsaw pieces but no lid. We all know our own individual pieces but have no idea how they all fit together. Find ways to connect individual’s roles to the bigger picture and help them see how they connect with customers, colleagues and the direction the organisation is heading. Tools like learning maps are excellent for this.
4. Deal with the “Tough Stuff”
Most managers in large organisations have got where they are through technical ability. Making the step from technical expert to people leader requires a big shift in mindset… one that many struggle with. One of the key skills new “people managers” struggle with is managing tough conversations and giving feedback. Having managers who feel confident and are effective at tackling performance issues can make a huge difference in large organisations.
5. Change behaviours not just processes
I see huge amounts of energy being expended on large-scale process driven change in big organisations. They become obsessed with systemisation, repeatability and standardisation at the expense of common sense. PRINCE 2, Lean, SAP etc. all become the ends rather than the means. In all of the successful process roll-outs that I’ve seen, the organisation has realised that they need to change behaviours to make these processes deliver what is intended. The difference between compliance and conviction is significant and sustainable change only comes from the latter.
We will be picking up on these themes individually over the coming week. Make sure to keep coming back to our blogs.