Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Performance through People

Our section has recently undergone a re-organisation.  The team of external consultants who were brought in to sort us out had their work cut out.  It seems that our traditional structure didn’t effectively meet the challenges of the modern era.  That we’d employed this structure with success for the last 50 years only added to the problems.  We’d become institutionalised with everyone stuck in their silos.  Trans-organisational flexibility wasn’t our strength, it seemed.  Although in truth, few of us know what that particular skill is, and why it is so important.  Because our traditional values had become engrained in our business process, changes to our value structure would also require a fundamental overhaul of our operating norms.  Or was it the other way around, I can never remember.

But if you are going to go through such radical surgery, it is comforting to have at hand a consultancy firm with the experience that our “partners in change” clearly have.  Six different individuals each with their own unique experience and expertise took charge of the military operation.  High level strategic goals were defined, agreed, reshaped and re-affirmed.  A working party was established to collect performance metric that could be cascaded across the organisation as we communicated details of the new look organisation.  We adopted the phrase “Performance through People” as a summarising slogan of how we were going to get to where we were going.

Although there were no losers in this Win-Win situation, one of the senior managers in the group found his hitherto sphere of control realigned somewhat when two of his direct reports were promoted to an interstitial project management role.  As a functional leader, he would be expected to contract with these two individuals to resource and support them to deliver their project deliverables.  But of course the most important thing was not personal gain but the overall company benefit accruing from individual tolerance of ambiguity and that people got over having staff promoted above them.

It is probably only fair to say that both newly advanced project leaders were ill equipped to deal with their sudden elevation.  God knows (apparently), even in that most traditional of hierarchies, the Catholic Church, Bishops go through a ‘TR001 – Becoming a Cardinal’ training course before they are let near a conclave.  However our organisation has had to reprioritise personal development plans, training curricula etc because the entire HR section is fully immersed in managing/containing/undermining the business process realignment project.  

The now eclipsed Section Head has taken his relative demotion badly.  He refuses to acknowledge publicly the obvious slight that he has suffered.  He will not speak with either of the two project leaders which must make the whole “contracting with for services” negotiations interesting.  He has sat silently at client meetings watching one of the new managers floundering.  He refuses to respond to queries, requests and begging emails.  Uncomfortable with the atmosphere, the second project manager has just tendered her resignation.  Her telling comments – “one of the reasons that there aren’t more women in the board room is because we realise that life is too short to endure such shit”.

But it is comforting to know that our organisation is focused on “Performance through People”.



Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

I don't think I understood any of that! Don't you just love consultant/HR speak?

"We're restructuring the week so that the basic outcome will be more productivity, with less use of resources"...meaning "You've lost your jobs lads and those of you lucky enough to hang on to your minimum wage slavery will have to do twice the work to make up for it".

Or MY favourite: "this is a new and unexpected direction for the company, but we intend to link in with other departments vis a vis the situation as it progresses" meaning...."we haven't a baldy notion what the f*ck is happening but you can bet your ass it means more work!"

Ah, where would we be without it?!

10:19 a.m., March 21, 2006  
Blogger Steven said...

I am reminded of this

Consultants are the type of people who 'con' you into the fact they're doing a job and 'insult' you at the same time

Essentially they ask the employees what the problems are. Then they dress it up in a fancy report and charge X millions for it.

I'm sorry - did I let it slip that I don't like consultants? :-)

10:50 a.m., March 21, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Kaz, you and me too!

Rinceoir, love the site. I too am jaundiced by the origins of the word Consult


1:19 p.m., March 21, 2006  
Blogger Fence said...



Of course. All makes sense to me.

9:14 a.m., March 22, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

I better own up to being a business consultant. I could say I have been such a consultant but that would be misleading: I am still available for hire.

In order to build rapport with you, I'll start by saying that I agree with you, with all of you, with all of your good intentions.

Then I'll ask you a few questions like: would you like to continue working with all these people, if it meant that you could all go down together? which is more important to you: that you all can stay in your present jobs for a long time more or that some of you can have demanding, but more secure, jobs for at least a while?

I'll pay awful lot of attention to your answers and your style. I'll be asking myself: does this organisation of people have a will to live, does it have the ability to live (the skills, the knowledge, a track record of changing direction). I'll ask myself: is the CEO any good? Do the directors have the bottle for change? Should the staff have confidence in the ability of their senior managers?

Will this organisation be around long enough to pay my bill?

I'll hopefully find out that the directors know what needs to be done. Hopefully, they just need someone to blame when they reveal their plans for change. Unless they are clear and confident about the way ahead, I'll be no use to them. I can't save them from themselves.

I must be seen to be doing something, even when it is so blindingly obvious what needs to be done. I must appear to be doing serious research and listening to everyone's views, even though I have enough intelligence about the organisation from prior reading, market analysis and a few chats in the staff canteen. The longer I hang round making a few waves, the more people will realise that something is up.

I already know that the internal communications isn't good enough. I know this because it is a universal law: there is never enough good communications.

I already know that no matter what plan is invented, it will not be implemented well. The devil is in the implementation; anyone can write a strategic plan.

The most I can expect to do is have an interesting time promoting creative discussions and behaviour.

I am influenced by the mantra: if you can't change the people change the people.

Although I am available for hire, I will only take on special projects. I don't do it for the money. I have a proper job.

I'd hate it if someone loved my consultant side. After all, it's only work, not something important like bringing up the next generation.

8:05 p.m., March 22, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

Oh, I nearly forgot. I better charge a lot for my services, otherwise everything I do will be ignored. Most chief executives only listen to people who could cost them a lot of money.

8:06 p.m., March 22, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

When can you start?

(And don't give me the consultant answer that you already have!)

11:06 p.m., March 22, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

LOL... LOL...LOL...

I do a really small amount of business consulting work for no financial return - when the people are right.

The trouble with you is that you cop on so bloody quick that you make me feel as if you understand it all already.

2:35 p.m., March 23, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

LOL... LOL...LOL...

I do a really small amount of business consulting work for no financial return - when the people are right.

The trouble with you is that you cop on so bloody quick that you make me feel as if you understand it all already.

2:36 p.m., March 23, 2006  

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