Top Ten Tips for Transformation Go-Live Success

Our featured blog this week is from Simon Brown, of Simon Brown Associates. He has 20 years of experience in transformation and has been involved in six end to end transformation programs, including the merger planning to create the new GlaxoSmithKline company, which was the world’s largest merger at the time and set a trend for the Pharma sector to follow. Here he gives his top 10 tips to make sure your transformation project is a success.

 

As a veteran of six end to end Transformation and Shared Services Programs since 1996, together with consulting for numerous other clients since 2010, I often get asked: what works best, what are your key learnings, what advice would you give?

Whilst there is no single “cut and paste” solution since each company has its own culture, its own spend budget and change readiness agility, there are certainly some common factors which, if applied with the correct level of dedication and follow-through, can make a great difference to the speed of implementation and effectiveness of your transformation.

 

My own experience to date is with these 6 global companies:

  • SmithKline Beecham 1996-2000,
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 2001-2,
  • The Coca-Cola Company 2007- 2010,
  • NCR Corporation 2011-13,
  • Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) 2014-2016,
  • Becton Dickinson (BD) 2016-2018

*My views below are based on my personal experience and personal views over 20 years and are not specifically assigned to as representing or reflecting the above organisations.

 

My primary focus has been with Human Resources Transformation, plus a dose of Global Business Services (integrating IT, Finance and HR back-office functions), and yet the journey to ‘go-live’ success is a similar one whichever function you are transforming.  So where I have referenced HR in this article please substitute the name of your own function in transformation as needed to suit.

Go-Live is that high profile moment when you turn all the thinking, planning, blood, sweat and tears of knowledge transfer including the processes which you lift and shift or lift and transform, into a new operational model. A model which the customers can see, feel, touch and truly experience. It’s exactly like when you open your store or restaurant and suddenly your customers are ready to consume your products and services and give you feedback on what they did or didn’t like.

So here are my 10 top tips for Transformation Go-Live Success:

 

  1. Begin with the end in mind.

    One of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits!
    Think future state. Know your goals.

Establish a visual blueprint of your future organisation, your Target Operating Model. Be clear on the deliverables, and desired outcomes: the measures of success in terms of operational effectiveness, customer satisfaction and cost-efficiency. Define and agree on these upfront and together with your key stakeholders. Plan ahead and get answers to these points before you get sucked into the doing mode.

 

  1. Create a Compelling Vision to move forward

    Draw your own ‘Big Picture’.

By working together on the design and actually articulating the vision by physically drawing a tableau (“Big Picture”) to describe your future state (and at the same time to confirm why the current state is unsatisfactory) you are creating something which you can show and share with others to get them involved and engaged.  A picture is worth a thousand words: it draws people in, starts a conversation, creates meaning and dialogue for change. Like in a good art gallery, it provokes a response, creates an emotional reaction.

So to gain momentum to move forward we need to create a compelling vision, a good story, something to believe in, to follow, to become part of.  It is a kind of journey map with key milestones worth reaching, and a pot of gold or treasured place to be on the horizon, at the sun-rise, on the other side of the mountain. The compelling vision and the story that goes with it will particularly for senior managers have both a clear business case and like all good stories be capable to win hearts and minds, especially when good things come to those who take up and stay true to the journey. We all remember story-books where there are challenges to overcome, tangible outcomes and people as role models we can relate to.

Do share real stories from other companies who have already had successful journeys: they survived and thrived after all!  Provide real case studies, real people with real roles in the new model. Describe “A day in the life of…” for each of the key roles in your future state organisation.

 

  1. Engage your key stakeholders early

    Enlist business “change champions”.
    Obtain the voice of the customer.

Before you start to implement your new ways of working, be sure to get real supporters from the business on your side. Convert spectators into participants of your team, on the pitch, helping you to win.  Identify and enlist “change champions” who can talk positively about the benefits of self-service, portal and system technology, freeing up true HR business partners to actually spend more time supporting the business agenda and less time as a pair of hands-on administration.

Change champions are leaders, role models (walking the talk), who are well respected by other managers and thus engender and enable peer and cascade credibility to the transformation story. Their enthusiasm, business savvy and effective communication style will help the transformation to become a business transformation, a new way of working, not just something for and on behalf of HR (or another back-office function).

The line manager then becomes a People Manager who has more ownership of hiring, onboarding, managing performance and engagement of their team. They become responsible also for initiating system transactions for and on behalf of their teams. Good People Managers will show by example to their colleagues and direct reports on what to do.

 

  1.  Align

    Systems with Processes, Projects with work-streams, Portal with People, to ensure the most frequently asked employee questions = content answers.

Generally, alignment is the keyword. Alignment of activities, sub-projects, work-streams etc. are key to the successful implementation and end-user digestion of the transformation and changes to the ways of working. Having a clearly coordinated and well-structured Project Management Office with a well bundled Communications plan can really help to present the transformation as one initiative, not a thousand unrelated busy tasks. Just like the air traffic controller the role is to ensure that planes take off and land safely at the right time in the right place.

Align Process & System. System design and implementation and process design and implementation need to happen in parallel, to be aligned. You can’t implement a system without a clear and consistent set of global processes, and global processes will only work if the system enables the necessary transactions.

Roles and workflows must be defined and aligned. One without the other = an unholy and costly mess and lots of re-work.

Align Portal with People. Think about what is relevant for the end-user when designing your intranet portal. Ensure navigation and access to information is simple and easy. Use a search engine with keyword enquiry. The most frequently asked questions that employees normally ask (have you got five minutes…?) are the ones to ensure you have written good content answers for on the portal. Keep these answers up to date, relevant and fresh and you will save everyone time.

 

  1. Hire an HR Shared Services Team Director and Team Leader * early.

Sadly, all too often companies make the mistake of leaving it until their new HR Service Centre is up and running before hiring the HR Service Director, and team leaders (for spans of 12 people +). The mistaken belief is that it is costly to hire these roles early. Particularly if they are an additional cost to a headcount not yet saved elsewhere in the organisation. My counter-proposal is to hire these pivotal roles early. Select those who are change agents, good at stakeholder engagement and employee relations, and particularly strong on delivery of customer service satisfaction: the most important metric there is!

Make them part of your pre-go live project team, conducting knowledge transfer, engaging early with key stakeholders, hiring the team. If they are involved in this it will build a stronger psychological contract and a vested interest to build the best team, the best processes, lay the best foundations for the new house right from the start. That’s actually cost-effective!

 

 

  1. Be clear on HR roles for the new HR Model

Answer the “what’s in it for me” (w-i-i-f-m) question honestly.
Have a clear, transparent, and fair selection process.
Give guidance on the transition and the project opportunities.
Be honest about the exit process and financial and career support for leavers. 

The HR Community will have one question on their mind as you announce your HR Transformation program: What’s in it for me? Behind that question lies their hierarchy of needs:

  • What happens to me – and when, what are the opportunities/options for me, and what if there are no opportunities for me?

Don’t pretend that these questions can remain unanswered. Don’t leave the elephant in the room unannounced. Don’t lose trust. Acknowledge that their questions are relevant and real. Be honest. You may not have all the answers yet but do your best to outline the road map and the 3 routes to be taken:

a – you can be selected for a role in the new model,

b –  you can grow your CV in change and project management,

c – there is no clear role yet defined that we can see for you, however, if you stay and help with knowledge transfer a fair and respectful package and support will be there for you if ultimately no suitable roles match for you.

 

  1. Change Management is key – win over HR

From all my transformation experiences in the last 20 years this is the one common theme for them all:  

HR is often more resistant to letting go of the current state than managers or employees are.

Take time to get HR on-board with change – actively listen to their hopes, fears, and concerns.
With them on-board you have a salesforce for the new way of working!

 

Don’t underestimate change management or the time it takes. Give quality time to this.
Behaviours don’t change on paper or after a single slide deck presentation. You are promoting a new concept (well not that new since Dave Ulrich first promoted the new HR Model back in the mid 1990s) and at first it seems just a concept, a rather uncomfortable concept. Until people see how it works for them.

  • There is a change for line-managers to become more empowered and empowering as People Managers.
  • There is some change for employees – to do some of their own self-service system transactions.
  • There is even more change for HR -changing roles, changing organisation structure, headcount, new skills to learn, old skills to let go.

Of all the stakeholders in the change mix, my experience is that HR is often more resistant to letting go of the current state than managers or employees are. They have more skin in the game and they perceive they have more to lose. Have the courage to spend time with HR to help them through their personal transition. First, they need to accept that the change must come from them.

 

  1. Rule of 8: communicate, communicate, communicate

In times of significant change, research shows the same messages need to be repeated up to 8 times before they are heard, understood, and internalised.

(Price Pritchett: Business as Unusual).

I attended a seminar back in 2000 and read the book. At that time, I was involved in the merger planning to create the new GlaxoSmithKline company. It was the world’s largest merger at the time and set a trend for the Pharma sector to follow. A huge change was taking place and Price Pritchett taught us the “rule of 8 “for communications. In turbulent times of change, you can never over-communicate. As we have all experienced in 2020 with the Covid19 pandemic.

When the game is changing, and the old rules and framework is not the same any more you have to help the team to take it all in and to adjust to the changing environment. People often don’t hear, and sometimes don’t want to hear, the first message of change. They just don’t take it in.  So say it again, and again and again eight times like a beat in slightly different ways but actually with the same core message. At 8 times or more nearly everyone hears it, internalises it and recognises it as their new terms of reference.

 

  1. Do knowledge transfer as a Joint Project Team:

Country HR working together with the HR Shared Services Centre.
Aim for a “one team together” mindset. HR Services team and Country HR team working together. Transferring knowledge of process, policy and transaction and legislation from each country to the new HR Service Centre is a big full-on project, not just a short task.

Create a project management team mindset with a clear charter and purpose: we are doing this together and we will do it well. It’s about collaboration, it’s about not wanting to let employees in that country down. This approach sets up conditions for success.

Spend time and budget to do as much face to face/voice to voice knowledge transfer and training as you can. It’s about giving and receiving the gift of knowledge and can actually be a reward for an employee to get the opportunity go to another country to do this.

Steer clear of any connotations of “taking over”, “raiding their brains”, “us and them” – these set an unhealthy atmosphere for the project and must be confronted early if they arise.

 

 

  1. Go-Live is just the start!

When you “go live” it is not the end of the project – it is just the tangible beginning of the new way of working.
Stay close for the first 3-6 months to create habits for the Service Delivery Model.
Keep the score to record early successes, and encourage improvements.

 

Don’t disband the project team just yet. Check first that the new roles, systems and processes are working and working underneath the surface. Ensure that people are trained for their new roles and that they have actually made the behavioural transition from the old state model to new state new model and new actions. Invest time to institutionalise the new ways of working.

Actions are everything. Read also the signs -verbal and non-verbal. Praise adoption and good examples of new ways of working. Encourage customer feedback on the service and be quick to improve the service where needed. Nip in the bud the bad habits and signs of old ways of working via firm, constructive feedback with SMART examples.

Do take time to positively celebrate Go-Live day with a drink and a cake as a milestone achieved.      It marks the end of the beginning; the start of a new life-cycle of continuous operational excellence.

 

Simon offers bespoke HR solutions to match your business needs, to deliver effective Human Resources outcomes. You can find more about what his company does on his 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.

This is the time for an Agile approach to the Mobility of Talent

In our featured blog this week, Kevin Lyons shares his views on the Mobility of Talent and having an agile approach..Kevin is a senior HR professional at FTSE learning business Pearson, he has a career spanning Human Resources in leading companies and is a regular voice in media communicating his views regarding Human Resources trends and topics.

 

A fast changing and rapidly altering business reality and global economy, with shorter term challenges added to the mix, and a landscape of digital transformation, mean that all organisations must face the requirement for a workforce that is both agile and flexible. In addition, this requirement encompasses a workforce with the ability to mobilise to quickly meet business and marketplace needs, while also being able to develop the skills and capabilities that will future proof the organisation.

Talent mobility enables a business to rapidly meet requirements, and move key skills across areas and provide the routes for the talent to develop  So more than ever organisations will need to blend talent mobility with an agile approach. But how can they best do that?

At Pearson, where I work, the world’s learning company, we have developed a highly successful talent mobility programme. Based on short term secondments, we can move employees quickly across teams and divisions to meet resourcing needs, but also provide a key opportunity to develop talent, and break down silos by the sharing of knowledge and skills across the company

The programme is called Wave, and every employee that goes on a short term secondment, called a Wave, is a surfer, and joins the ranks of Wave surfers. This combination of achievement and recognition, blended with the experience of working in the new role, is developmental, and motivational and engaging. The Wave programme is also light on administration and highly agile and flexible.

This programme indicates a key direction of travel in the way that organisations meet the challenges of the evolving society and marketplace.

Traditional structures of talent acquisition and workforce planning are not rapid or nimble enough to meet today’s rapidly evolving business needs and the changing requirement for skills and capabilities. Equally traditional forms of development must be replaced by a greater emphasis towards learning through experience instead of seeing learning purely through the lens of training.

We are moving to an agile mobile approach to Talent that is fast and highly flexible, and so be prepared and ready!

 

Kevin Lyons is a Senior HR Manager for Pearson PLC. Kevin’s passion is Talent, and what he sees as the key pillars of inclusive Talent Management, Diversity & Inclusion combined with Learning & Development and Wellbeing. Kevin is also fascinated by the impact of technology on HR, organisations and wider society, and believes strongly in evidence based management. 

 

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

 

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 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