Reflections on 30 years of Change Management and Business Improvement Consultancy
Get the basics in place in your own world,
before trying to change the world of others
I started my career as an Electrical Engineer. I was well qualified and thought that was my path for the rest of my career until retirement. I worked in a medium sized company in Worcester and understood Electrical Engineering (to a point!) but my “worldview” was, as I reflect very limited.
In my mid-twenties I had the opportunity to apply for a position as an Electrical Engineer at Procter and Gamble in their Manchester operation. I got the job and moved the family up to Manchester.
I went through a very thorough assessment before being successful employed. But the role I was recruited for, an engineer in the start-up of their “Paper Plant” (making Pampers, Always, other paper tissue products etc) was delayed. I thought that was my opportunity over.
But on the contrary, I was found a post in another part of the business and due to the assessment at the interview stage I was offer the opportunity to study for a degree, but one not in Engineering. A degree was a prerequisite for a managerial position. I studied “Systems Management” and that was a start of a new career for me and the world of “systems thinking”.
I became a manager after completing my degree (another round of intense interviewing and assessment) and because I had never had a life plan to become a manager in one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world, I had a very open mind to learning. In fact, more than some of my contemporaries who expected to be there! If you have a very open mind to learning….P&G will provide every opportunity available. I took them!
So, this series of blogs starts with the three key things I learnt immediately when entering the world of professional management. The series continues with more learning from P&G, my understanding of Systems Thinking and 30 years of helping companies manage change and improvements.
None of this is highbrow, high tech sophisticated thinking, but 30 years on I still see the lack of these fundamentals in many businesses we work with.
1. ALL MANAGERS SHOULD WORK ON ACHIEVING RESULTS AND DEVELOPING THEIR PEOPLE
Almost immediately I learned that all managers played a part in driving improvements in the organisation. All managers developed plans and those plans reflected strategies and tactics to improve their department and beyond.
That’s not radical. But, with a strong discipline, all managers followed up on these plans every few weeks by attending 1:1s with their Boss and the manager took a simple one-page summary of what they had done since the last meeting.
The simple sheet was divided into two.
On one side, the “Business Results” achieved and on the other side “Building the Organisations Capability”. This immediately forced the manager to focus on their improvement plans as well as day to day challenges. It wasn’t acceptable for a manager to spend time only on achieving results, they must build and improve the capability of people and processes in their business. The basic assumption is that the manager when leaving the department to join another department as part of their career development must leave that department in a better shape than when they joined it. Also, this was building more capability within the supervisory/team leader level of the business. The people who stayed in that area on a more permanent basis.
This approach created a strong team of team leaders and employees within the manager’s part of the business to be self-sufficient for most day-to-day activities. Managers remained flexible with time and enabled them to focus on more strategic activities.
Below is a simple example of the 1:1 sheet.
2. MANAGING BY NUMBERS ISN’T MANAGING. MANAGING BY PRINCIPLES IS.
Looking at results and checking performance obviously is a very important part of being a manager, especially when the manager has the capability to look for trends and worrying signs within the data.
However, fundamentally, I learnt that managers need to be amongst the activity and amongst the workforce to enable them to really understand what is going on in that business. Nort be sat at a desk or in meetings all day.
I also learnt very early on, asking the workforce their opinion was a powerful tool in my armoury. But I also learnt, I didn’t have to react on every comment I heard. Just listening and not committing was valuable.
Far too often since becoming a consultant, I’ve worked with clients who rarely walk around the workplace. Instead, spend many hours in meetings and reviewing masses of spreadsheets to the point they rarely connect with the real activity. Sadly, bad decisions are made and the workforce can be alienated and disengaged because of this.
Another key learning I gained was to say to people “I don’t really understand this can you explain it” and I started to build great relationships with people especially team leaders who had experienced other managers trying to over manage and make decisions that they weren’t qualified to make. I soon built a reputation of being someone who worked well with teams and I had the “common touch”. I wasn’t sure I liked this title until I realised I could make a massive difference in the business just by working with other people….. the ones close to the coalface.
Walking the floor is also key to practice soft skills (listening and other general communication techniques). Without doubt, leading by example can’t be done in an office looking at numbers, but it can be by being out there “walking the talk”
In my early days as a manager, I bumped into a senior manager who had just been promoted to Plant Manager, a role in Manchester that had 1500 people employed there and reporting to him. I congratulated him on his promotion and said “what’s it like having 1500 people reporting to you” He replied by saying “ I don’t see it like that Martin, I have 1500 people I’m responsible for, that’s a lot of mortgages that need paying” One of those throw away comments you don’t forget.
At P&G there were two sets of Principles. The principles were a clever way of hundreds of managers across the world being able to manage in a similar way. Although these principles have been adapted to modern English they did in fact originate from Mr Procter and Mr Gamble sitting at the dinner table working out how they were going to expand once the business got larger than their immediate family and new managers would be able to make similar decisions to them.
Below are the principles for managing day to day activities.
We Show Respect for All Individuals
We believe that all individuals can and want to contribute to their fullest potential.
We value differences.
We inspire and enable people to achieve high expectations, standards and challenging goals.
We are honest with people about their performance.
The Interests of the Company and the Individual are Inseparable
We believe that doing what is right for the business with integrity will lead to mutual success for both the Company and the individual.
Our quest for mutual success ties us together.
We encourage stock ownership and ownership behaviour.
We Are Strategically Focused in Our Work
We operate against clearly articulated and aligned objectives and strategies.
We only do work and only ask for work that adds value to the business.
We simplify, standardize and streamline our current work whenever possible.
Innovation is the Cornerstone of Our Success
We place great value on big, new consumer innovations.
We challenge convention and reinvent the way we do business to better win in the marketplace.
We Value Mastery
We believe it is the responsibility of all individuals to continually develop themselves and others.
We encourage and expect outstanding technical mastery and executional excellence.
We Seek to Be the Best
We strive to be the best in all areas of strategic importance to the Company.
We benchmark our performance rigorously versus the very best internally and externally.
We learn from both our successes and our failures.
We Are Externally Focused
We develop superior understanding of consumers and their needs.
We create and deliver products, packaging, and concepts that build winning brand equities.
We develop close, mutually productive relationships with our customers and our suppliers.
We are good corporate citizens.
We incorporate sustainability into our products, packaging and operations.
Mutual Interdependency is a Way of Life
We work together with confidence and trust across business units, functions, categories and geographies.
We take pride in results from reapplying others’ ideas.
We build superior relationships with all the parties who contribute to fulfilling our Corporate Purpose, including our customers and suppliers, universities and governments.
I’ve seen examples in other organisations where they have produced a set of principles, framed them and put on the wall (or in a draw!) but sadly a lack of understanding or discipline prevents them actually being used as a tool.
At P&G these principles were used in many training events especially “on boarding” training for new employees, but also in 1:1s and other meetings to aid the process of appropriate decision making.
So it’s not a case of having them it’s a case of how they are used!
3. IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AND AGREE YOUR ROLE, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT?
We had eight management competences in the business and recruitment, development and promotion was based on measuring these in individual managers so we all knew where our strengths and improvement areas were.
The eight competence is were;
Thinks in terms of creating quality and value for customers.
Defines who his/her customers are; seeks to understand their needs; sets priorities with these in mind.
Recognises the most important issues; makes effective plans; gets resources in place to achieve key objectives.
Works with the end results in mind, despite obstacles.
Thinking and problem-solving
Sorts through complex data; gathers other relevant viewpoints; identifies important issues; thinks through alternatives.
Integrates intuition and data from a variety of sources; makes well-reasoned conclusions and develops a solid plan of action.
Learns from success and mistakes to solve problems better.
Recognises developing problems and handles them well
Initiative and follow-through
Gets going on important priorities; overcomes obstacles and takes appropriate risks; keeps moving towards objectives.
Handles multiple priorities well.
Sets specific, stretching objectives and meets or exceeds them.
Finds improved ways of getting results.
Recognises opportunities; forms a vision of what can be achieved, then challenges self and others to get the desired result.
Champions ideas and people to get breakthrough results.
Uses a variety of resources effectively
Working effectively with others
Demonstrate integrity and high personal standards.
Respects and works effectively with diverse people; enables all to contribute their best work.
Builds and maintains productive working relationships, even in difficult situations.
Works across organisations to develop the best approaches and get the best results.
Seeks first to understand, then to be understood.
Organises and expresses thoughts clearly and concisely, both in speaking and writing so that others can understand.
Expresses ideas in ways that build commitment to them; even when unfamiliar or unpopular, involves and fully informs others in a timely way.
Recognises cultural differences and communicates in ways that work.
Creativity and innovation
Takes a broad view; finds meaningful connections; uses both logic and intuition to define problems and solutions.
Goes beyond the accepted ideas; finds new improvement opportunities; generates ways to get better results.
Searches out and reapplies proven ideas and methods to new situations.
Translates new ideas into workable solutions; encourages others to do the same.
Achieves technical mastery and develops it in others.
Converts technical skill into practical applications to better meet consumer needs.
Integrates linkages with the business process of suppliers and customers.
These were used for assessing training needs during 1:1s and content for appraisals.
Apart from that all managers were expected to coach others and consider these competences throughout the coaching process, so these competencies were alive in the business. The corporate Education and Training process designed training at three levels in line with these competences. So again, the system was alive.
You will see that one of them is Priority Setting. Very early on all managers were expected to manage their time effectively. This was highlighted in 1:1s with your Boss.
Using Steven Covey’s four quadrants below it was a basic expectation that the managers only worked on important things and especially Quadrant two. Which we called “building the organisations capability”.
So, time management and working on the important things can only be done when you know what is important and again over the past 30 years of being a management consultant, as simple as this is, it is still missing in some organisations. Managers simply do everything because they think everything is important.
This shows itself in two ways; one in the day-to-day managing of diaries and secondly in the development of long-term strategic plans.
In the day-to-day management of time I learned quickly to leave about 20% of my time free. I would look at my diary weekly and assess what percentage of time was spent on “building the organisations capability” versus achieving results. This was a discipline that has stayed with me today.
I learnt a tip from a more experienced manager when I was discussing how hard it was to find time to work on a project. He told me block out two hours on a Wednesday afternoon and mark it as Martin Time. I would then find a free room and treat it as important as a meeting with my Boss. Another tip that’s never left me! It creates a good habit which leads to blocking out half the week to work on Q2 items.
You can only do this when you have negotiated with your Boss and stakeholders what is really important. Your job title won’t tell you that but discussions with people that have expectations of your performance do.
In next month’s blog I will continue with early learning that positioned me to become one of the pioneering members of the “Integrated Work System” (IWS) internal consultants supported by JIPM and other important coaches.
If you would like to know more about NewLeaf International and the work we do, please make contact for an informal chat.
Tel: 01905 425209
Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd