Everything you need to know about resilience

Our feature blog this week is from Fran Costello, she runs a business called Aha Moment. Fran is an organisational psychologist and resilience expert, here she gives us her advice on resilience and what it is in reality.

Is the word resilience overused?

As resilience has no operationalised definition it’s difficult to say categorically what it is, but it’s recognised as dynamic process between risk and protective factors, i.e. the ability to bounce back from adversity and maintain normal functioning in adverse conditions. Through the enhancement of protective factors, individual cognitive and emotional ability can be strengthened to mitigate trauma and can have a huge impact on subjective wellbeing, psychosocial ability and performance energy levels.

What are protective factors?

Change agility

In developing greater workforce agility or adaptive capacity, organisations can manage both moderate and rapid change and experience competitive advantage. Modern organisations require a flexible base that can adapt quickly to customer need and organisational change. In understanding change readiness, by sharing understanding and knowledge that prevents individual agility, organisations can deal with change in a more positive way.

Physical Energy

The enhancement of physical resilience falls into three categories: sleep, nutrition and exercise.

Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation creates increased blood pressure, cortisol, insulin and proinflammatory cytokines leading to depressive symptoms affecting mood and wellbeing. A direct correlation has been found between improved sleep and physical and emotional wellbeing, achieving rapid eye movement sleep increases the ability to recover from stress and trauma. The loss of just one night’s sleep can result in compromised emotional regulation.

Nutrition

Nutrition affects both physical and cognitive performance, resilient people have healthier dietary habits including eating more fruit, vegetables, fish and dietary fibre than those who have lower resilience levels. Diets rich in saturated fats, refined sugars, animal products, low vegetable and fruit consumption have a negative impact on cortisol levels, micronutrient interventions which include greens, beans, fruit, protein foods, seafood and plant proteins, fatty acids and refined grains are found to reduce stress and anxiety in positively affecting cortisol levels.

Exercise

Active people have greater resilience than those who lead a sedentary life, have less stress and improved mental health. Physical exercise is a protective factor with an effect on overall resilience, research shows that exercising just once a week has an outcome of decreased emotional stress, and has a neurotrophic factor protecting the neurons in the striatum and hippocampus.

Emotional

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive, access and generate emotion, have clarity in thinking and regulate and reflect upon emotions allowing motivational and intellectual growth. Emotional intelligence is highly correlated with individual advancement within organisations and individuals with highly developed emotional intelligence are found to have higher resilience and motivation levels when under pressure

Multitasking

Multitasking has been found to have a direct negative influence on the retention of information and working memory (WM) and this has been found to be greater in older adults, (those over 30) integration recovery failure manifests in the inability to dynamically switch between functional brain networks, losing approximately twenty minutes  each time we try to change tasks. In focusing on key tasks and staying with them until competition our mental resilience builds as perceived work overload decreases.

 

Inner Voice

Our inner voice, inner speech or verbal thoughts are essential to thinking, self-awareness, self-regulation, problem solving, motivation, calculation, memory and cognitive tasks occupying a quarter of humans waking life. However, this internal commentary or dysfunction of inner speech is identified as a risk factor for depression, anxiety and mental resilience levels.

A direct link has been found between increased executive functioning and self-regulation of thoughts, negative inner speech impairing performance and controlled inner speech enhancing mental resilience.

 

Purpose in Life

An association can be found between individuals understanding their purpose in life and reduction of age-related conditions such as stroke, disability, and cardiovascular events. Purpose in life is also regarded as a protective factor against biological risks such as inflammatory markers, cognitive aging and dementia. Higher purpose in life scores correlate positively with increased executive function, memory and cognitive performance across the full adult population acting as a protective factor against stress.

 

Recovery

Recovery in all dimensions, agility, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and recovery are dependent on the creation of new individual habits. Habits are defined as actions that are triggered in response to contextual cues associated with performance. Making one small change can increase overall resilience, whether focusing on how we feel during change, getting the right information and help, moving towards a better diet, exercising more, sleeping well, stopping multi-tasking and controlling the voice in our head, choosing to use our respons(ability) (EQ), or thinking about our purpose in life, can have a significant impact on protective factors that enhance our overall resilience.

 

Fran Costello is an organisational psychologist and resilience expert, she works worldwide delivering resilience and behavioural change programmes increasing personal and organisational performance, diagnosing, designing, delivering and embedding organisational change. You can find out more about what she does on her website.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Never underestimate the need to plan effectively

Successful projects don’t just happen. They need to be managed effectively.

John Hardie, is an experienced programme, project, transformation, and change manager. Here he gives us his insights in what makes a successful programme.

A Great Business Case

 

Any project or programme undertaken in this climate needs to demonstrate clear business value and align with the incumbent’s vision and goals.

 

Benefits can be described quite simply using the IRACIS model:

 

  • How will this project improve our revenue, IR?
  • How will this project help us avoid costs, AC?
  • How will this project help us improve our service, IS?

 

Projects that fail to address these 3 simple metrics, in whichever form, suffer from a lack of purpose, leading to subdued, if any, support, from the senior team.

 

Great Communications

 

At the heart of every good project is a great communication plan. Everyone can draw up a standard comms model, yet it is the execution that differentiates the great from the amateur.

 

Mapping out benefits early, allowing the story to evolve and be heard, is key, especially on those tougher projects where staff may lose out to automation, or similar. A great comms plan will mitigate against those types of scenarios and will make delivery and your relationships reap many more benefits.

 

Having conversations with people, understanding their thoughts and feeling, building rapport is key to building bridges. Bringing teams, colleagues and suppliers together so they are included in the changes around them. Honest and transparent communications will break down barriers, and raise questions and answers which is how we all evolve.  And listening will help us to understand how the reader or user likes to receive their communications.

 

Communicating a single story that’s consistently communicated from top to bottom, avoids the trap-doors that could materialise in the project.

 

Super Sponsors

 

Having great sponsors can be the ‘make or break’ for any project, and it’s key that they are invested in the project, that they are engaged for the duration, and have multiple channels where their input can be gathered, outside of any scheduled meeting. They will have significant pressures on their time, and if you can lighten the load in any way, it will be appreciated.

 

It’s worth remembering it’s the sponsors who give the project the authority to act, keeping them close is essential, allow them their voice, they will act as ambassadors, and be honest, good or bad, the sponsors are senior members of the business team for good reason, experience, and it’s a well that you can drink from in the time of need.

 

With sponsors, it’s key to remember the old adage. ‘You’ve got two ears and one mouth, try to use them in that proportion.

 

Positive Business Engagement

 

Having clear objectives, a great communications plan, and super sponsors allow the project to engage with the business, providing a baseline for positive engagement.

 

Tell people what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, your kick-off meeting should include as many people impacted as possible.

 

The more people you engage with, the greater the empathy and understanding between teams and about the project. The hope is that this means less friction along the way.  Good leadership is always shown by example.

 

And, don’t forget, in order to build rapport and strengthen relationships, stay in touch and build consistent interactions to gain trust with those involved.  Remember the trust equation

– the three formulas that build trust are:  credibility, reliability, intimacy = Trust.

 

So trust the message, listen carefully, understand concerns, help where you can, even when it’s not directly connected to the projects, one of the benefits of building a trusted relationship is that people will come to you to assist in items outside the direct scope, look upon this as an opportunity, not a chore, embrace it, and you’ll reap the rewards.

 

Embrace Supplier as Partners

 

I find this all too obvious, a large client and a small supplier can cost the small supplier money, with unplanned delays. Equally a larger supplier and a small business can leave the smaller company out on a limb, as other larger clients demand resources.

 

Unfortunately, I have seen too many projects fail when size is not taken into consideration. Small suppliers are required for their innovation, equally larger suppliers are required for the maturity of their products, and if this difference is recognized and a partnership model is embraced, things can thrive.  Clearly, these differentials must be recognised and addressed and held in place, if need be, with SLA’s for both parties to sign-up for and to.

 

The key is honesty, recognise the respective sizes and how best form a relationship, smaller suppliers will sometimes require support, while larger suppliers, through no fault of the staff on the ground, may have burdensome processes to follow. Recognising, this disparity and having mechanisms in place, that allow peer-to-peer relationships to build, which will then become partnerships.

 

A Clear Set of Objectives

 

Having a scope document, or PID, Charter, Mandate, whatever you choose to call it, is key. It needs to be challenged, using the benefits model, IRACIS, to ensure you’re doing work that has value and adds value to the business.

 

Further, the scope document needs to have agreed phasing. if you’re in an iterative process, these could be Sprints in the Agile world, then it must include measurable and attributable outputs for each phase: e.g. the new infrastructure will support the extended commercial footprint, moving from 1000 users to 2500 users.  For example, we have an early test case, in fact, the Scope document should be the place from where the test cases are generated.

 

Change Management

 

Every project will deal with change management.  Put simply, there must be a mechanism to control and manage change, with teams on the ground, stakeholders and suppliers.  And even manage cost-cutting across projects if need be. Remember, when engaging with suppliers, their commercial health depends on a reasonable and fair approach to change management.

 

Too many companies try to adhere completely to the legalese within a contract, to bind a supplier. Hopefully, most sensible suppliers would walk away from these entrapments.  It’s a good idea to adopt the ‘is this reasonable’ approach, and can we work together to overcome this difficulty.  Sometimes when time is pressing, we must ask ‘what can I leave out?’.

 

Change will happen, perhaps a change in priority, a funding cut, a key resource leaves the project, pressure on the schedule. One thing is sure, and change is inevitable, agree how these changes will be handled, try to avoid onerous, multi-level approval protocols, empower the PM with support from the PMO to authorise local changes, but be ready to deal with it.

 

Planning

 

One assumes you have a working plan, which appears achievable at the outset, too many projects suffer from ‘Heroic Failure’ syndrome.

 

Plans need to be honest, practicable, resourced correctly, have their dependencies and assumptions built into the schedule.  They must be able to accommodate the arrival of risks, both known and unknown, and schedule time for issue resolution, which will come up, like it or not. Mitigation is key, alternate pathways are essential, a plan B, so to speak.

 

False optimism has killed and derailed many well-intentioned projects. Too many plans are based on optimism and hope, and not based on the reality of the work ahead. Again, to paraphrase ‘Plan for the worst, and Hope for the Best’, make sure you have it covered. Don’t commit to schedules that don’t make sense, when resources are stretched. You will end up defending an ever-tightening noose.

 

If you are given an unreasonable schedule, then use the MVP model, or minimum viable product or delivery, as the initial goal, using a work prioritisation key to determine any future stages.

John Hardie brings 30 years of experience across a range of industries from software development to large scale transformational change​ focussing on business outcomes, delivering value-based benefits using empirical evidence as a baseline, with programme, change and transformation experience delivering effectively in complex and demanding environments with teams across the UK and internationally

 

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

10 things you need to get right when launching a new business

Lesley Allman is an internal communication and employee engagement expert. She has ran her own consultancy for many years, here she shares her tips on how to get it right.

If you’re facing restructuring, redundancy or simply having a career rethink and are considering setting up on your own, here is some of the great advice I got from friends and colleagues when I was starting out.

  1. Decide at the outset what type of business you want

Is it a lifestyle business i.e. one that provides you with a decent income and relies solely on your skills, personality and efforts?

Or is it a one that can function and grow without you in it and that ultimately you can sell on?

This will inform what sort of legal entity you set up and what funds and infrastructure you will need.

  1. Don’t over complicate the naming and branding process

If you’ve established a good reputation in your field, use your name.  Otherwise, think of something straightforward that is easy to spell and no one else is using and get a logo designed Then just get yourself on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc and start communicating.  Having a great story is more important than having a great name or brand, so get it written and get it out there.

  1. However much marketing you think you’ll need to do – you’ll need to do more

To misquote Field of Dreams, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.  As a start up, you really need to get yourself and your story out there. Tap into all your networks, post stories and comments on all your social media platforms, join industry bodies, offer to judge awards, speak at (virtual) events, etc. Think about where your target customers are, and make sure you’re there too.

  1. When it comes to clients, you are what you eat

Think about the types of businesses you want to work with and target them. If your first client is a metal basher in the Black Country, then your subsequent clients are likely to be similar. Great if that’s the market you’re after, but don’t be scared to turn down the wrong sort of work.

  1. When it comes to prices, you can’t ski uphill

Don’t undervalue yourself.  See what competitors are charging, consider what the client can afford, think about what value you’re adding and be bold.  It’s better to go in high and be able to come down, than to try to do the opposite.  Focus on the outcomes the client is getting for their investment (value based, solution selling), rather than the inputs you’re providing (day rates).

  1. Spend time working on the business as well as in it

When you win your first client, and there’s only you in the busines, it’s tempting to spend all your time and energy on them.  But don’t forget that your primary focus is building your business, not theirs.  Making them happy is a means to that end.

  1. Your first employee is a 100% increase in your headcount

Another key decision point is when you’re too busy to look after your business and your clients on your own and you have to decide how to grow your team.  If you’re building a sellable business, you’ll need to recruit an in-house team, people who will eventually be able to run the busines without you in it.  However, for a lifestyle business you may decide it’s better to create a virtual team of freelancers, so you avoid on-going overheads and can match skills exactly to client requirements.

  1. Do your housekeeping

It’s dull but vital to keep receipts, send out your invoices, pay your suppliers, pay your taxes, pay your employees and get an expert advisor to make sure you’re doing those things right.  And don’t forget, your clients are unlikely to pay you for at least 60 days, some as long as 120 days, so you’ll need to keep a careful eye on your cashflow.

  1. Ask for help

People you know, and many you don’t know, will want you to succeed.  They’ll be keen to help you and willing to share their expertise and advice.  Don’t expect them to come to you though.  They may think your doing fine and don’t need their help.  So make sure you ask for it.

  1. And finally…

Whatever your venture is, make sure it is something you love and are passionate about.  Not forgetting that it is something that enough people actually want and are willing to pay for.

Now, the most important piece of advice.  Just get on and do it!

 

Lesley Allman is an internal communication and employee engagement expert. As an independent consultant, she has provided expertise to leadership teams at companies including Carlsberg UK, Kuehne + Nagel, Evergreen Garden Care, Pukka Pies, Domestic & General, Hovis and PepsiCo. She previously held senior communication roles at Premier Foods and Coors Brewers. She is an IoIC Fellow.

www.allmancommunication.co.uk

 

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Workplace transformation – how to setup for success

I recently caught up with Change and Transformation consultant, Janey Thomas.

We discussed how businesses might adapt as people return to work and Janey’s experience of managing the change workstream for Deloitte’s Workplace transformation programme. Here are her thoughts on how to setup for success.

 

Workplace transformation – setting up for success

 

If I’d been asked to share my ‘change top tips’ for a successful workplace transformation three months ago, how different would they have been?

 

Three months ago, a ‘normal’ workplace was very different. While many organisations embraced home working and some more aspirational organisations had transformed the way they worked through their physical environments, this wasn’t by any means the norm.

 

But since the end of March 2020, most people across the UK have shifted to working from home and the reality is that there isn’t any urgency to return to a physical space as health and safety challenges remain. And nor should there be.

 

Entire industries now question quite rightly whether their old ways of working serve them post-Covid-19 and into the and future. But against what ‘new normal’? The fact is ‘normal’ no longer exists. COVID-19 has provided the ultimate lesson in the constant unpredictability of our world.

 

Rather than trying to achieve the impossible task of predicting the future, organisations should instead focus on building adaptability and flexibility into their workplace (behavioural, physical and technological) environments. Return-to-workplace strategies and basic decisions about how many spaces to open and how to open them should be planned very carefully. Workplace transformation is no longer only for aspirational organisations – it is essential for every organisation.

 

So, what workplace transformation ‘change top tips’ would I promote today?

 

  1. Lead from the top. More so than ever, leaders must fully and authentically support and coach their people through any workplace transformation. They shouldn’t underestimate the current volume and impact of change on their teams, and it will keep rising, necessitating them to focus on building resilience in their teams. Successful transformation not only requires an inspiring and honest change story (the why) and vision (the what) of the unclear future from leaders but a certainty of process, with clear, simple steps and timetables.
  2. Provide a sense of safety and security – a human need and the foundation of adaptability. Many people have recently experienced a sudden drop in job security, increasing stress, workloads and the inability to ‘carry on’. Losing the security of physically working with colleagues adds another layer of stress for many. To stop people relying on ownership of their environment, actively create and sustain their connection to the organisation through other inherent activities which maintain a foundation of trust and belonging.
  3. Give flexibility and choice in where and how people work. This is more important than ever. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory. Smart leaders leave room for those affected by change to make choices and involve them in planning, giving them ownership. They’ll not only be equipped to be higher performing; crucially they’re more adaptive to future disruption.

 

What next?

Is there anything new here? No, but the priorities are highlighted against the backdrop of the unchartered volume and flexibility of change that people are already experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 disruption. There is however a huge opportunity for positive change ahead of us. I have often found that organisations struggle with defining a clear and compelling change story and vision that engages people to want to embark on change and be part of it – the ‘burning platform’ ie. Why jump now? If ever there was a more compelling reason for workplace change it has to be now. ‘Let’s embrace this opportunity.

 

Janey Thomas is a highly experienced people change and transformation consultant with a strong track record of supporting global blue-chip organisations, including Deloitte, Heathrow airport, Eurostar and SABMiller on a variety of culture, workplace and business strategy change programmes. Some of her most recent experience includes nearly 3 years managing the change workstream for Deloitte’s North West European HQ transformation programme in London, 1 New Street Square.

 

THINKING OF HIRING AN INTERIM EXECUTIVE? YOU NEED TO GET IT RIGHT! DISCOVER THE 8 STEP PROCESS YOU SHOULD FOLLOW, BY DOWNLOADING OUR FREE EBOOK HERE.

James Cumming is our Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

 

Restructuring? You must take an ethical approach during this crisis

On a daily basis I speak to C suite leaders of large corporates. It doesn’t take a data scientist to get that with the government’s furlough scheme soon coming to an end, there is a significant amount of restructuring about to happen.

It will be interesting to see how large businesses react. I hope that businesses will take in to account that this time is different than normal, people have long memories and will remember those that do the right thing and those that don’t.

You can already see from the negative press that a certain airline entrepreneur has had, that this isn’t the same as before.

Business leaders should heed Warren Buffett’s advice “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

In a typical recession, cuts are broad and indiscriminate, this time (from the conversations I have been having), it seems that companies are taking a more nuanced approach.

There are 3 key themes that come up time and time again:

 

Companies are mindful of the reputational damage associated with how they act during this crisis

Staff are often a significant part of a company’s P&L and are one of the quickest ways to reduce cost. During most recessions, mass redundancies are one of the first things that happen.

Government intervention has paused this for a lot of companies but it hasn’t gone away. Companies need to be mindful of the reasons why they might make redundancies.

If it’s because your levels of business have dropped and you are facing a liquidity crisis – people will understand.

If it’s because the CEO needs to keep profits up to keep the share price stable (and to get a bigger bonus), people will remember this for some time to come and it will have a negative long term impact on business reputation and ultimately performance.

 

Employees have realised how to get stuff done quickly (and have generally delivered it well)

Business leaders seem surprised at how easily people in operations have delivered things. Actually getting on and doing the job they are paid for… Who would have thought?!

It won’t come as a surprise, that given UK PLCs productivity challenge, that many companies are now reviewing their management structures with a view of having the right business people in the most effective roles.

In my view there is going to be a significant need for organisation design, change professionals and management consultancies to help businesses come out of this crisis in the right shape.

The common themes are to work out the most efficient structures, to define what job roles the organisation might need in a future state and to ensure that technology is adopted.

 

Communication and engagement has never been so important

Transparency is going to be key as we come out of this.

If your company is in trouble, I would suggest telling people the truth. People are well aware of the magnitude of what is going on around them, they might not like some of the business decisions that are made but they won’t appreciate being lied to.

Honesty brings people together around a shared cause or purpose. The more engaged and knowledgable people feel, the better their ability to understand and support decisions being made.

Remember, a few months ago that ‘Talent’ was in short supply and although the fundamentals may have changed in the short term. People will remember how their leaders have acted and how they have made them feel during a crisis. The best people will leave when things get better if they haven’t been treated in the right way.

 

Thinking of hiring an interim executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

James Cumming is our Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So, what’s with all of the cow puns?

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So what the hell do cows (and cow puns!) have to do with recruitment anyway? I’ve been asked this a quite few times recently given our new website launch.

You may have been wanting to ask this yourself if you’ve seen our social media recently (we’ve been udderly obsessed with cow puns!)

Well, unbeknown to most people, my family are Scottish dairy farmers! My family continue to run a few farms up on the West Coast. So, you could say it’s in the blood. But even though working in recruitment is a far cry from the fields of Scotland, I’ve never fully left behind my admiration for these fantastic animals.

(Even my favourite artist is cow themed… A lady called Caroline Shotton, you can check out her work here: http://www.carolineshotton.com/)

So, hopefully that explains all the cows.

To discuss anything recruitment or cow related you can email me on James@refind.co.uk

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here

Transformation in the insurance sector – a glimpse at the scale of the challenge

transformation in the insurance sector

 

Adam Hembury is COO, Innovation and Transformation Director at Gunbury Limited: business, operations and technology consulting across financial and professional services. For this blog, Adam has kindly shared his views on transformation in the insurance sector, discussed the challenges faced and given some home-truths!

 

Having worked across financial and professional services, I continue to be both surprised and intrigued by the potential for change across the insurance industry, as well as the enormity of the task, whichever part of the industry you sit in.  To be fair, the insurance industry covers a diverse spectrum, from the highly competitive personal lines sector, where margins are tight and regulatory pressures high, through to the business carried out in the hallowed halls of Lloyds of London, where ways of doing business have changed little for decades.  Yet as an industry, change has been slow coming, and many insurance businesses are struggling with legacy systems, clunky processes and out-dated operating models. These strategic issues then spawn significant transformation programmes underpinned by large technology spends.  Yet in an industry that is relatively immature in the delivery of change, this creates a massive challenge – how to manage and deliver the transformations in a way that avoids the usual pitfalls of escalating costs and a failure to realise the benefits.

 

So, I hope to provide a brief overview of some of the industry challenges and provides a few age-old truths we need to be reminded of concerning delivering change.

 

What is driving the need for transformation?

 

The case for whole-scale change is probably most acute in the Property and Casualty arena and, in particular, motor and home.  Fiercely competitive markets, where traditionally the insurance companies lose money on new customers and look to build profitability off customer inertia on renewal.  However, with the FSA’s review of ‘dual’ pricing, the pricing differential between new and existing customers may well diminish.  Coupled with ever-increasing price competition, insurance providers will need to focus on three key areas: customer retention, data analytics and pricing, to create innovative products that exploit market opportunities and continued driving out of operational costs through automation, self-serve and digitisation.

 

In the realms of commercial and speciality insurance, the pressures may not be quite as intense, however, the same three focus areas are driving significant change – customer-centricity, the sophistication of products and pricing, and operational efficiency.  The investments required to deliver change are often much larger, but my experience in these sectors is that despite large IT functions and change teams, they struggle with the same delivery disciplines and challenges described above.

 

Each one of these key areas requires a complex mixture of change across technology, data, processes, roles and capabilities, governance and organisation. However, many insurance businesses are faced with the need to be driving change in all three areas at the same time.  Without exceptional leadership and change expertise, this could well lead to taking on more change than the business can handle, which often manifests itself in cost and time over-runs, management exasperation, and failure to deliver.

And the home-truths you mentioned?

 

Delivering meaningful change is tough, often because the big investment in money, time and effort is in technology, and increasingly in data, yet the actual value is not delivered by the technology or the data, rather by changes to the way the business operates and uses the technology and data to deliver value to customers.  All too often the complexity of the technology and data implementation starts to take over the programme and the leadership attention, such that the real business change is de-prioritised, and a good chunk of the real value is lost.  In a slow-moving industry with decent margins, this is not ideal, but in the competitive, margin-driven world of insurance where the speed of change is accelerating, this is a recipe for disaster.

 

What are the typical challenges?

 

An indecent rush to start the project, with insufficient clarity and business ownership on setting out the strategic aims and the core outcomes, as well as robust challenge to limit the scope to the essentials rather than trying to build the perfect solution with all of the ‘bells and whistles’.

 

Too many different programmes going on at the same time, usually due to a lack of strong portfolio planning and decision-making to identify the priorities and the sequencing roadmaps that best support the overall strategic objectives.

 

Over-optimistic timelines and budgets, especially in the technology and data areas, leading to implementation delays, de-scoping, additional budget and other critical programmes being delayed.

 

Insufficient engagement and ownership from the business, in the design of the technology and data solutions, as well as in designing the new processes, roles, responsibilities, operating model, decision accountabilities, and in the testing and roll-out approach.

 

A programme ownership and governance approach that maintains transparency and honesty.  Sounds simple yet it is remarkably easy to find yourself in a position where you start to promise delivery against increasingly impossible timelines, especially as key relationships with stakeholders come under stress.

 

The above issues are present in all change initiatives, but here I am looking at major projects or programmes that are significantly changing the way a business operates.  For example, if a motor insurer is implementing a new cloud-based, sophisticated pricing tool with a view to compete in the aggregator markets, then the entire business needs to increase its speed of operation to match the 24/7 nature of the market – real-time data and algorithms to support quotes, automated policy administration and documentation, increased system resilience and emergency response times. This will require, in addition to the technology and data solutions, redesigned processes, roles, governance structures, new reporting metrics and a roll-out an approach that helps the overall business move to a new way of working, as it will not just happen by chance.  These programmes must be set up, managed and measured on the overall business outcomes and benefits, which is why these are business programmes supported by IT, not IT projects with a bit of business input.

What would be your takeaway, Adam?

 

This article is not offering any new insight into the issues set out above, as most professionals have seen these challenges. The insight is that despite our accumulated knowledge and experience, these issues arise again and again. Why? Because the issue is rarely about the technology itself, it is about the business fully and relentlessly taking ownership of the transformation programme, rather than letting IT do their thing, and the ability of the leadership of the programme and the business to bring their expertise to bear in a constructive and open environment. To do that all parties need to trust that the right expertise has been recruited, is operating effectively as a team, and that when difficulties arise, honesty, transparency and collaboration will make the best decisions for the business.  Transformation is never easy, and is certainly not an individual sport, as it succeeds or fails on the joint commitment to deliver the business outcome.

 

Thanks to Adam for sharing his views on transformation in the insurance sector. Adam has written a series of articles in the Transformation in the Insurance Sector, including:

How data analytics is transforming the insurance sector.

Typical challenges in getting new technology and data to work.

How innovative is the insurance sector?

 

 

To discuss transformation and change further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Hiring an Interim Executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

 

Why the best advice I ever got was to just f’ing do it…

 

I walked into a large manufacturing plant in Birmingham, I was only 23 (and looked about 12). It was one of my first meetings as a recruiter. Thankfully I was with my boss.

 

The person we met was larger than life and scared the hell out of me… “JFDI” she shouted, “that’s what I tell them, JFDI”… I didn’t have a clue what she was on about, was this another manufacturing terminology like LEAN!?

 

Jeez, she scared the hell out of me.

 

On the way home I sheepishly asked my boss what she was on about, he laughed – but at least I now knew!

 

Being a small business owner, you don’t really have anyone to talk to about stuff (I am looking for a mentor BTW so feel free to drop me a line if you can help!) and at times it can be hard because there are a lot of things you need to do that are outside of your area of knowledge or your comfort zone.

 

But if you don’t do them, no one else will.

 

I struggle with tasks that are detailed or that take hours of dedication to get done. My boredom threshold is very low – look! a squirrel! – and I am off in another direction.

 

Important things can quickly stack up and this does cause people undue stress, especially if you don’t talk to someone about it. You see this all of the time in a broader business sense as well, people who are great technical experts are often promoted into leadership or managerial roles, where they have to deal with people. Great salespeople now have to manage a P&L and struggle with the broader responsibility this brings.

 

I have found that there are various tactics you can use to ensure you deliver these things well and none of them will be revolutionary, but they might just help keep you sane.

 

Just f***ing do it!

 

Some things need doing, that’s just the way it is, no matter how much we hate them. Surprisingly, things we procrastinate over (because we don’t want to do them or don’t feel we are equipped to do them) get a bit easier once we start doing them.

 

The trick is to move quickly into doing and once you start thing get easier. I am not sure why this is, maybe it’s because of the reduction in stress for starting or you gain a bit of confidence once you realise it’s not as tricky as you first thought? But if you get going even after weeks of not doing it, it does get easier – I promise.

 

If I have a large ‘to-do list’, the obvious thing might be to do the tough stuff first. I quite often do what is easiest first as it gives you momentum and you can start to tick things from the list. Note: you can’t put the tough stuff off forever, so don’t use this as an avoidance tactic!

 

Plan stuff out

 

Without my outlook calendar, nothing would happen. FACT: if it’s not in there it 100% doesn’t happen. Ask my wife or my team! (I get ripped about this all the time at work, “ooh James are you going for steak tea tonight”…)

 

  • Don’t however, use planning, as an excuse for NOT doing. I know lots of people who have a very pretty list that never gets done.
  • Realise that some things just aren’t going to get done and don’t worry about it (learning to say no is a good step in the right direction).
  • Set yourself deadlines or targets. If you work on your own perhaps ask friends or family to hold you to account. If that’s an issue, get an external coach and they will do it for you.

 

Delegate, delegate, delegate

 

I cannot stress enough that focus is the best way to becoming productive.

Think about things that are causing you stress, are outside of your comfort zone or that you shouldn’t be doing. Letting go is often the hardest bit.

 

  • Find someone better than you at tasks you struggle with. This could be a virtual resource or someone in your team or even a family member or friend who is willing to help
  • Use the people around you to help, support and give guidance on the parts of your role you shouldn’t be doing
  • Utilise technology for routine tasks

 

I am still learning and am by no means an expert! Found this useful? What tips work for you?

 

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

 

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