Middle-out, leading change

By 18. März 2010 No Comments

We create sustainable change projects … could have been the headline of the evening. Amel Karboul and her partners of „Change-Leadership“ invited to a network evening in the ROTONDA Business-Club in Cologne to discuss some elementary topics in Change projects. Amel is a network partner of Cenandu and an expert in Change Projects.

No theory – but basic thinking was the topic of the first speech and Amel Karboul gave her view on the top 3 trends in business today: Losing power of CEOs, informal communication through social networks, self-organisation of teams.

The topic of the evening was a concept which was called: Middle-out. The wording makes sense in confrontation to the standard Top-Down, bottom up approach. The new way is middle-out that stands for strengthening of  the middle management, so they will lead the change.

How it was done was demonstrated by of the case of  Zurich Insurances. The change project had started in 2008 and the goals of the change had been driven by efficiency goals. The strategy was segmentation: of  Customers, of services, of channels (phone, documents) and implied more qualification and specialisation for people, outsourcing of simple jobs, quality offensive of customer satisfaction etc. Not outstanding new. What was new was the way they organised the change: It was driven by the people in the middle management. The „financial goals of the change“ and the direction was the Top Down input for a deep discussion in workshops. The teams came up with a clear goal setting for the operational teams. „How can we do that, what needs to change, how do we do it?“ It was the group itself that set the goals, the way and the measurements, not some consultants. The change consulting team, which was steered by the partner Robert Körfer, gave the frame and the positive platform: Standing Morning Meetings, like a dinner talk, to discuss the issues of the day, strength and weaknesses of yesterday and how to handle the workload tomorrow. If teams work cross Germany, it is done as a Telco. It sounds a bit easy? Yes but to do it is like a cultural revolution. All teams started to talk open and trusted the whole concept. The issues get on the table, and if workload is different from one team to the other, they help each other. This is very new – as in the old days there had been big brig walls.

This was not a just dream of the COO. When she presented the challenges in the Rotonda, her team enthusiaticly added details to the presentation … they still have the fever and drive and show that they are very proud of their change job.

What made the change successful?

Kristina Evers gave a short intro. Most consultants try to set up trainings and programs to change attitude. All the change starts in the heads and gets digested in endless seminars. The effect is often limited. What the change team does different is starting with behaviour, even if you do not believe it. By doing it, you experience the difference and get a new attitude towards it. Change by doing! So – start the projects, make little pieces and steps and lets go for it. No big role out plans, no endless measurements, no long evaluations at the end. Start doing it, communicate success and fall-backs, distribute and consolidate the reports weekly and help out, make it one community.

Oh yes, I remember this discussion about the hen and the eg in my networks. It is the believe in change by experience and role models. All is a bit like the philosophy of Edward Deming and his “Plan-Do-Check-Act” circle and of course the teacher Krishnamurti, who tells the teachers to teach “silence and observation”.

What does the Change Team of Amel different? They try not to be better that the managers in the company, doing more analysis and more theory. They know that they have already done too much of that and even cultural analysis and are common sense now. Her way is very systemic – looking on it from outside. She asks the teams: „What is your picture of the company? Who are you?“

She gets hundreds of sometime very virtual pictures like: We are like Spaghetti, you do not find any structure any more. But we are ruled from an old castle, with strict walls. That does not work. We want to be more flexible in our structures.

The consultants add these pictures together and reflect them with the managers, like a mirror. This leads the change. If you are a matrix organization, try not to control it in a hierarchy. People are smart and want respect. Finding the way out and organizing themselves is what makes them proud and what makes sense to them. This is driving the change, not more structures and figures. And they will live with what they have given themselves, even the work councils will agree on it when it is developed with the teams.

Here just to remember the leadership concept of Deming – only 30 years old:

From this premise, he set out his 14 points for management, which we have paraphrased here:

1. „Create constancy of purpose towards improvement“.
Replace short-term reaction with long-term planning.

2. „Adopt the new philosophy„.
The implication is that management should actually adopt his philosophy, rather than merely expect the workforce to do so.

3. „Cease dependence on inspection“.
If variation is reduced, there is no need to inspect manufactured items for defects, because there won’t be any.

4. „Move towards a single supplier for any one item.“
Multiple suppliers mean variation between feedstocks. (Tricky today! –  single sourcing is not the recepy for most companies, but selected suppliers)

5. „Improve constantly and forever“.
Constantly strive to reduce variation.

6. „Institute training on the job“.
If people are inadequately trained, they will not all work the same way, and this will introduce variation.

7. „Institute leadership“.
Deming makes a distinction between leadership and mere supervision. The latter is quota- and target-based.

8. „Drive out fear“.
Deming sees management by fear as counter- productive in the long term, because it prevents workers from acting in the organisation’s best interests.

9. „Break down barriers between departments“.
Another idea central to TQM is the concept of the ‚internal customer‘, that each department serves not the management, but the other departments that use its outputs.

10. „Eliminate slogans“.
Another central TQM idea is that it’s not people who make most mistakes – it’s the process they are working within. Harassing the workforce without improving the processes they use is counter-productive.

11. „Eliminate management by objectives“.
Deming saw production targets as encouraging the delivery of poor-quality goods.

12. „Remove barriers to pride of workmanship“.
Many of the other problems outlined reduce worker satisfaction.

13. „Institute education and self-improvement“.

14. „The transformation is everyone’s job“.Netzwerkveranstaltung von Change, Leadership & Partners im Business Club Rotonda in Köln, eingeladen von Amel Karboul, Netzwerkpartnerin von Cenandu. Blog Eintrag nur auf englisch – bitte umschalten.

Thema des Abends: Change Projekte bei Kunden
Name: Middle-out
Gäste: ca. 30 Kunden und Berater

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