Try Before You Buy

This case study describes how an organisation used Interim Management to identify substantial cost-savings and at the same time create a catalyst for organisation development.

Background

This London-based FTSE 100 company had established itself as a leader in its field, internationally recognised for its integrity, accuracy and speed of service for both private and public sector organisations. The new Chief Executive recognised the need to create significant change in their management of resources without losing the benefits of their strong values built over generations of success. He initiated an organisational change process in which the infrastructure was moved from a regional to a functional basis, focusing on customer segments and service excellence at the front line.
Fundamental to this new focus was a review of the human resource development plans to support these company-wide changes. This review included an analysis of the training and development function which was not integrated with the HR function and had decentralised reporting lines through different managers.
However the immediate appointment of a new full-time manager to centralise the functional reporting lines could have alienated those affected. This in turn would have slowed down the change programme. The senior management team therefore decided to create an Interim Management post of identify if and how a full-time jobholder could add value to the organisation, and bring together diverse managers under simpler reporting lines.

Finding An Interim Manager

In order to maximize their existing supply chain relationships they commissioned their existing search and selection agency to find, assess and recommend candidates to work with them on a short-term basis to determine the viability of this new strategic role.
The agency Managing Director short-listed candidates who were then interviewed by the senior managers. The top candidates were given a “try before buy” assignment to enable the senior management team to assess candidates effectiveness at diagnosing issues and establishing priorities for action.
The main decision criteria was based on their practical experience in implementing change and their ability to establish relationships with key people in the training and development department. After four days of assessment and reports back from managers they selected an independent qualified management consultant, Clive Bonny.
The consultant explicitly described his methodology to:
  • Respect legacy
  • Build on strengths
  • Explore opportunities sensitively
  • Link team agendas
  • Sell change benefits
  • Communicate programme and projects
  • Involve and support others
He also gave a presentation on strategic principles linking their vision, mission, values and goals, and drafted objectives for the full time jobholder to achieve.

Diagnostics Analysis

Bonny undertook a survey with a broad spectrum of key people inside and outside the business unit using structured telephone and face to face interview techniques. The results of this survey identified strategic priorities and was followed by an analysis of operational and tactical processes. This also provided benchmark performance management data comparing their performance against a similar organisation and against an international standard of best practice.
The analysis identified the need to:
  • “Sell Learning” and link self-development to recognition and reward strategies.
  • Supply management with the skills and tools to develop on job coaching capability.
  • Reposition the role of trainer to become facilitators and management coaches.
  • Create a training plan linked to the business goals and to individual appraisals.
  • Introduce new processes for training needs analysis and evaluation.
  • Structure career development planning with a competency based assessment process.
  • Clarify and communicate the organisations values.
  • Provide more training in recruitment and retention techniques.
  • Set up a forum for staff to communicate their development needs to managers.
  • Make available low cost open learning materials to support E-Learning tools.
This diagnostics analysis was shared openly within the training function to stimulate feedback and discussion for improvement. This led to a meeting with the training managers to build on successes, review customer needs, share tools and techniques to improve processes, and commit to an action plan.

Improvements Recommended

The diagnostics review produced a number of recommendations:
  • Internal delivery of management training to save an estimated £250,000 per year and improve quality.
  • Internal design of technology-based training, to maximize on a £3 million investment in new IT.
  • Redesign trainer roles into business improvement coaches.
  • Train managers in legal changes related to recruitment and appraisal.
  • Create a management development centre to help managers assess their own skills and create their own personal development plans.
  • Develop an industry benchmark standard in specialist skill training.
  • Setting up a Profit Centre to supply training and advice to their market.
  • Restructuring reporting lines to a central point to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach, aligning their development strategy to overall organisation priorities.
  • Develop Partnership Alliances on Corporate Social Responsibility to support cultural change.

    Outcomes


    Bonny was contracted for 9 months to help senior managers decide if the post would add value by being a permanent part of the organisation change programme. Bonny recognised that the changes required could not be accepted or implemented over such a short timescale within an environment of strong traditional ways of working. Involving different stakeholder groups allowed a wider buy-in for change, although it meant less day-to-day control and a longer period to influence different cultural and political dynamics.
    There were regular reviews above and below Bonny’s reporting lines, and time was taken to establish strong relationships with the larger group of 12 department heads responsible for a variety of different functions. A clear training strategy was developed with the commitment of training managers. The role was confirmed as an important part of the organisation change programme. And a full time Global Training Manager was recruited to lead the function and implement the changes recognized as important, following the Interim Manager recommendations. The final job specification listed almost all the key objectives measures and outcomes initially drafted by the consultant at the start of the project.
Posted in HR Management