Professional Agenda: Managing change for commercial advantage

Many organisations seem hell bent on continuous change, but at what cost? Change is critical when organisations find themselves at odds with the marketplace – in manufacturing terms, when products are not selling or not achieving the required margins, or in construction, when profits are suffering with the 80-20 rule and losses are occurring or serious risks manifesting themselves.

Organisations that are achieving their targets and producing the forecast levels of shareholder return should be looking towards stability within their operations. If, as many do, they wish to grow their business empires, they should consider acquisitions rather than just organic growth, maintaining the level of earnings via their core business and spending time on rejuvenating a well-priced purchase, which will allow them to improve their return on investment and expand the organisation.

Such acquisitions give the parent company an opportunity to implant its star performers and succession candidates, giving them not only the opportunity to practically improve their skills and competencies, but also to be recognised for fiscal success.

While change can bring many rewards to an organisation in terms of improved revenue and share value, and to successful managers and employees by way of increased compensation/incentivisation and profitability, there can be a downside to constant restructuring: human and mental fatigue.

There is a need for organisations and their executive board members to recognise that many directors and senior managers, while being good at change processes, need to be reintroduced to normal business operations at regular intervals, to recharge their batteries and bring back a semblance of order to their work-life balance.

A small number of directors and managers excel at revitalising businesses, driving profit and ‘sweating’ assets, and could not envisage another way of life. But even these change agents have to be given a safe haven to reinvent themselves and address the balance of life. Organisations that are well used to corporate acquisitions, integration and development have a number of proven processes that hone and improve upon these human assets, following successful completion of assignments or extraction from long-term change programmes. These include:

  • Short interventions in the business school fraternity to spread the gospel of corporate change and coach the would-be chief executives (CEOs) of tomorrow
  • Coaching new CEOs/operations directors in operational situations and acting as mentor or coach
  • Researching new business propositions and arranging due diligence in readiness for others to take over
  • Secondments into other parts of the business to learn new skills and share expertise with their peers.

The guardians of such resources are usually the chairman or group CEO and the HR director, the latter ensuring that they are nurtured, highly rewarded and kept centre stage.

Stephen Hall
Managing director
Stephen M Hall Associates

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