Dear Prime Minister…

HR and management consultants have had plenty of experience in driving
change management in the past decade, both in the private and public sectors.
Here, Lyn Bicker prepares a seven-point plan which she believes would have
saved Tony Blair a lot of heartache

It’s hard, isn’t it, to get people on side when you’re trying to make
significant change? Fresh from the challenges of major conflict, it seems as
though a Cabinet reshuffle and the creation of a ‘new’ department isn’t going
to win you more friends straight away. Number 10 is driving UK Plc through much
change management at the moment, and if I were advising you as the leader of a
major organisation, I would be urging you to think carefully about the
following seven points:

1. Have a plan, a fall-back plan, and a contingency plan. It can’t have been
helpful when Alan Milburn decided to go; the Lord Chancellor evidently was
pretty decimated by his removal, and moving John Reid into health clearly wasn’t
ideal. Getting wedded to one plan can be persuasive and powerful, but having a
couple more up your sleeve makes it all work so much more smoothly.

2. Get the succession planning sorted. Generally speaking, you need three
candidates for every job: the Crown Prince, the Also-Ran and the Wild Card.
Chances are the Crown Prince will have other ideas, the Also-Ran will be Crown
Prince for someone else; and the Wild Card? Well, there you have a challenge.
But it is helpful to have a view, at least.

3. Set out the vision of the future. You clearly have a modernising agenda
for the country’s system of justice – and some might say it is none too late.
But so far, it is a bit hard to get behind it. Produce a major attraction that
will pull people towards it. Remember the impact of Labour’s return to power in
1997!

4. Influence key stakeholders in advance. I’m not part of the legal system,
but I have worked with it a little, and I am well aware that the system, never
mind a few reformers, is pretty resistant to change. Tradition, history, the
sheer importance of the judiciary and its administration, are not matters to be
cast aside lightly. It was inevitable that the law lords would be up in arms.
What a shame that there aren’t more senior judges arguing for change, too.

5. Demonstrate the excellence of the person in charge. Sorry, but memories
of the Dome and its myriad of problems will continue to dog the person you put
in charge of it, Lord Falconer. His only credentials for his new job within UK
plc seem to be his flat-sharing days with you. A more glowing reputation, and a
few words about his success in making change work would have been helpful.

6. Make sure the people who should know what’s going to happen next do
actually know about changes ahead. It is not helpful for stakeholders within UK
Plc to hear leaked comments from Downing Street about the lack of clarity
surrounding your plans for a new Department of Constitutional Affairs. Surely
these do not reflect your own views? Your staff need to know how to answer
tricky questions better.

7. Last but not least, I want to warn that change is never easy, even though
it is so constant in modern life. There are four basic reactions to change:
people who want to see out into the future, and get a good sense of where
they’re going before they can sign up; people who value their history and
achievements, and won’t throw them away unless you can prove to them that the
new way is better; people who love the idea of change, and want to be even more
creative and perhaps radical than you’ve been already; and people who, frankly,
are fed up with all the discussion and simply want to get on and do what’s
necessary. Play to all four of these reactions, and you are onto a winner. We
in the management consulting and HR arenas, both in the public and private
sectors, have had to drive through much change in recent years.

If you would like to draw on our experience, we’re more than willing to
impart the lessons to you that we’ve learned. In the meantime we wish you good
luck!

By Lyn Bicker, Managing director, TSO Consulting

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