Thursday, December 2, 2010

Change is good, unless it destroys you.

I love my job! I get to meet all kinds of people and hear about their businesses and how they're run. This, predictably, generates tons of ideas for this blog!

A client I worked with recently works at a business that hired a consultant to come in and "audit" the sales staff and review their organizational structure, then make recommendations as to how to improve things. According to my client, the sales team had been functioning fairly well, especially when compared to the other departments. Frequent concerns about communication in particular triggered the hiring of the consultant, however.

There's loads of great stories she shared with me about the audit process, but the short version of her story is, the consultant presented the company with a report following their audit with some suggestions for improvement. Among them was a suggestion to implement a complete restructuring of the sales deaprtment. Her company took the suggestion to heart and immediately began efforts to implement the consultant's recommended new organizational chart.

To their credit, in an effort to avoid layoffs, which had been looming on the horizon for months, the company shuffled staff members around to fit into the new org chart. This, however, created some strange situations. Some team members were placed in positions for which they had no aptitude, experience, or interest. Some team members were given entirely new job descriptions, and their old duties assigned to others. She described the process as “putting round pegs into square holes”.

In the end, there wasn't a whole lot of buy-in from the team on the new organizational chart. The team members had no part whatsoever in it’s design, reacted accordingly, and after much foot dragging the reorg failed to materialize as intended.

The moral of the story? Just because a consultant makes a recommendation does not mean you have to take it. No one is in a better position to judge what your organization needs than you are. Granted, you hire a consultant to give you a different perspective and provide subject matter expertise. But if the recommendation is that far out of line with what you’re already doing, look closely at the new plan before committing to it. AND you’d darn well better have a plan in place for it’s implementation -and spend some time and effort preparing your people for it before you jump into the deep end. Especially during challenging economic times. A major change can kickstart your revenues, but have a plan!

PS: John P. Kotter wrote an excellent book on change in business, “Leading Change” and I highly recommend it. Kotter details the extensive work that it takes to implement a major- or even minor- change to the way a company does business. It definitely takes more than a few e-mails and revamped job descriptions.