Not Fade Away: Life after the programme.Why I think organisations with a large fieldforce struggle to truly transform and achieve results

Posted by Rachael Pullen on April 18, 2017

Not Fade Away: life after the programme

So, perfect scenario, the transformation programme completes, we have achieved our milestones, everyone involved celebrates a job well done, and we get on with the day job. In reality, what happens too often is that people work hard when the pressure is on, then over time, we revert to shortcuts (‘old ways of working’).  Furthermore, field/mobile workers often feel secondary to the process. Just a few examples are:

  • We believe that few outside of our team understand or appreciate what we do, and our challenges (scheduling, ability to fix the first time, asset management, supplies/logistics, and skills related)
  • We have different needs and issues; for example, access to mobile data and systems, in areas of poor or network coverage. Or distance from supplies (especially if increased centralisation of stores to reduce costs)
  • We feel very far away from management when it comes to developments and plans, reviews and decision making; we’re just told what we have to do, when we feel we know the best way
  • We offer ideas for improvement, or feedback on systems and then never hear the outcome,
  • In summary, some may say, “You don’t understand my customer, how we interact with them, my challenges and theirs.So why should I get behind the change that will only benefit you, and doesn’t address our needs?”

Fast forward a couple of years, after the Programme. We have further business reviews. Another consultancy firm comes in, and they make very similar recommendations as the last. The cycle begins again. Often with transformation, companies run a good 100 metres, yet fail to get around the whole track.

To quote former American footballer, Joe Namath “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?”

Making the change stick in companies with large, field-based or disparate workforces is notoriously difficult. I believe a mindset change and continuous improvement are key factors. Many businesses are now using Transformation, instead of Change as a term. Change Management, including the involvement of the change team, is critical. This is because it helps involve people in a structured and manageable way, helps ensure that there is a clear case for change which resonates with people, and ultimately increases the likelihood of success.

However, a Business Transformation mentality is critical to making the state permanent. I like to differentiate change as temporary (e.g., a programme or project – which ends), whereas Transformation is permanent; i.e. it becomes the fabric of how we achieve success. Change is hard for many of us, and it is even more difficult to achieve when field staff perceive a disconnection from the Board and ‘head office’. A mindset of turning the organisational pyramid upside down (see below) and removing them and us culture is critical. Employees need to feel their ideas and energy are making a difference, and each team is driving results.

Once, during a day out (Day In The Life) with a Utility team, one blunt speaking manager said to me, “This is the first time anyone has ever visited my team and asked my opinion. Management should be doing what you are doing.” By turning the pyramid upside down, this includes using the people that know our business better than anyone, to own and drive results that will benefit all of us. Including those that allow us to exist (i.e.customers).

 

 

I have lost count of how many people shy away from doing a Day In The Life (day out with teams), or do it just once; partly because they just think they’ll hear a “Whinge-fest”. Passion beats apathy every time. Ignore passion at your peril, even if some employees don’t share your view. If you engage your employees (and I don’t just mean the annual Employee Satisfaction Survey), then you help address the ‘them and us’ culture.

If you are several hundred miles away from many hundreds of your people, it can be harder to engage with them.

Read my full thoughts in our latest Whitepaper:

http://info.leadentsolutions.com/not-fade-away

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Rachael Pullen

Creative yet methodical in her approach, Rachael is passionate about providing an exceptional business support function to Leadent and our clients. Rachael has responsibility for all administrative tasks, and she thrives on the knowledge that it all ‘just works’.