Case study: leading change

Our client was a world leading software organisation. The leadership team of one of their principal European markets came to us asking for their help. Within the organisation, their market was consistently ranked in the bottom five markets, out of over forty markets in total. As a result they were under continual pressure from global leadership to improve their performance. They had tried to plan and lead transformation on a number of occasions, with little impact. It was at this point that they came to us for help.

When we conducted research within the organisation, we found a three key factors that underlay their performance challenges. Firstly, the matrixed nature of the organisation meant that the individual functions within the leadership team received their goals and KPIs directly from their global function. This meant that goals and KPIs within the leadership team did not always align, and often meant that certain functions ended up competing with each other. Secondly, relationships within the leadership team were conflictual and strained, but this was rarely if ever surfaced or addressed within the team. In fact, there was little awareness of personality styles and preferences, and how this was showing up in the leadership team. Thirdly, the leadership  had up until this point operated a top-down approach to strategy development and transformation. This meant that the team consistently experienced resistance and push back to their plans whenever they announced them.

Working with the leader of the team we designed a three month development journey for the team. Firstly, we undertook an extensive process of team and individual development – with each leader undergoing a 360 assessment and receiving three one-to-one coaching sessions. Secondly, we created an environment within meetings where it was safe to speak about conflict and tensions in the team. Through a series of facilitated dialogues, the team realized that the matrixed nature of the organisation was putting them into conflict, and it was this that was being exacerbated by the differences in personality on the team. It was this insight that enabled the team to mobilise as a collective whole around creating a shared picture of success– integrating diverse goals from across functions and departments into a shared vision for their market, whilst also resolving potential areas of disagreement productively. Finally, we also introduced the leadership team to whole system approaches to change. As a result, the leadership team involved a broader group, consisting of key influencers from across the organisation, involving them in the process of planning, rolling-out and implementing change. 

By the time this leadership group rolled out the new strategy, the benefits were plain for all to see. Because  they had done the work on themselves as a group, the leadership team appeared more unified to their organisation, meaning they were actually able to role model the collaborative behaviours they were demanding of the broader organisation. Secondly, because they had recruited a broader transformation group consisting of key influencers, these group members were more engaged and willing to act as champions for the change plan, maximising buy-in and minimising resistance across the organisation. As a result of our interventions, the team transformed its performance in the marketplace, moving from a ranking of 35th within the organisation to fourth over a period of two years.

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