The Business Improvement Network

Change Management

By Chris Learmonth

We all accept that today’s world is perhaps the fastest changing we have seen in business. This rate of change will only get quicker as time ticks by. BI or Business Intelligence is available for the measurement of virtually every industry KPI and where a metric doesn’t exist it is now very easy to create that KPI and quickly populate it with the key electronic data for effective business analysis. One would think in today’s strategic arena this provides significant opportunity to be pragmatic, to then efficiently implement a revised strategy for business which is deemed logical, measurable and therefore SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

SMART strategy based on today’s information seems like a logical way to do business, however excusing the sporting analogy a SMART strategy gives you todays ‘home run’ and immediate win. We must not forget the value of the ‘long game’ which of course underpins every ‘home run’ that you will make off the field in your boardroom with your leadership team.  Let’s call these the ‘HR’ or the ‘LG’ for ease of reference (and writing).

In a business environment we can liken the HR to short sharp bursts of activity. These can be present in your business in many forms, staff and customer engagement, policy changes, tactical activity, facilities changes, campaigns or social media presence. The list is endless but these HR’s are designed to give you maximum impact at a time when you need it. You deploy, review, and then move onto the next opportunity. In most instances, they are low to moderate in cost, have little consequence beyond the arena for which they were intended thus maintaining the overall status quo of your organisation. It also demonstrates to your employees that as a business, management are seen to be ‘on with it’ when faced with a set of circumstances that are having an impact on the general performance of the business. In most instances as employees broadly consider themselves open and adaptable to change (the reality of course of this statement may be somewhat different) there is normally little resistance to driving the business forward in this manner and employees generally enjoy the ride. It uses yesterday’s data today to make an informed decision to improve tomorrow’s business for the better and engage employees. A win for all it would seem and a sound way to do business based on facts and pragmatism. Always bear in mind with any HR’s you are putting in place that you are basing the returns on BI from an historical past. You may get the return you need based on expectation but it’s limited based on current methods and conventions of working.

The LG is of course a very different scenario and requires a different perspective on the goal. The LG is pioneering, a nod to tomorrow and like a very fine bottle of wine takes time and many adjustments to get it just right. In a business context we are constantly pushing boundaries of performance and thinking by re-evaluating the end goal and creating a new bar for achievement. The LG is gratifying as you choose your own conclusion. Whilst you can use BI to trend historical data into future interpretations the LG has a very fundamental difference to the principle of the HR. The HR is about taking today’s reference point and making small but regular steps of Margin Accretive Growth. Today plus a little and often on the change front and the bar creeps forward. The LG allows you to define your own bar which may not be based on convention or prior performance (although a sprinkling of reality is preferable!) to at least get an audience for your vision (it’s your vision remember so you have do some selling here!). The LG allows you to make significant step changes in your business that drip in over time. A 1, 3 and 5 year plan if you will. These are all of the steps that are required in order to make that HR the best you could ever make it all without quietly making it known you were on that path. Achieving your output requires focus on your input measurements, identifying through GAP analysis where your opportunities lie. Changing the inputs allows you to impact far earlier in the value chain of any given process you wish to influence. It’s also the slowest to bear fruit as it’s likely to be more deeply embedded within a culture and therefore requires leadership, tenacity and above all perseverance. An output may be the result of many inputs all of which may require calibration to deliver the long term goal. On that basis feel free to multiply your requirement for leadership, tenacity and perseverance many times over. Naturally you will measure the improvement and impact of your inputs to ensure you are holding to plan, but be realistic if there are 10 steps in a process (and that doesn’t include any sub-processes) this can take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all which also applies to the best businesses. Effectively this style of business change and process re-engineering will take your business forward in quantum leaps and will be both gratifying and rewarding in terms of overall progress.

In most instances where there is a change of leadership or senior position in an organisation (if you are a new hire) there will be an understanding that a business needs a long term plan for it’s longevity there will also be a quiet review of that new individuals ability to start shaping and improving the business performance in the short term. The HR’s are your trump card and should be at the core of your short term activity. Results will be immediate and those viewing your business will see that you have everything in hand and are dealing with local issues as they arise. The other significant win with the home run is that they also quietly provide you with the time and opportunity to steadily change the foundations of your business to create a sustainable platform. The key factor here is that it provides you with the time to establish sustainability and vision in your business and of course that powerful long term objective.

Both strategies are optimised in return when used in conjunction with each other. Additionally they can be used in every area of your business as a simple principle to work with.  For today, move the needle and make those small but margin accretive gains. For tomorrow, choose your own tomorrow and achieve through business intelligence based process re-engineering. Used together it’s a very powerful way to lead your business and effect positive change.

I trust you enjoyed this simple but concise insight to change management. Naturally all views and opinions are my own but with 21 years of experience in the automotive arena this has been one of the most exciting and fast moving times to work in this industry. With the advent of new powertrains, online connectivity, autonomous mobility solutions and the the shift from physical to online presence in retailing along with rapidly changing customer behaviour this is an area of business strategy that holds my attention and curiosity.  In my role as Managing Director of BMW & MINI Park Lane there has never been a more exciting and enjoyable time to not only be involved in this fascinating industry, but also to make a that tangible difference that continues to keep us one step ahead.

About the author

Chris Learmonth is Managing Director of BMW & MINI Park Lane, London.

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