25 August 2009 • 7:00 am

The Case of the Undermined Change Program – Part II

In Part I of this case, I recounted the history of an engagement I had several years ago with a particularly challenging client, WorldCo, a division of a large U.S. corporation. We met Reggie, the head of the WorldCo division, Karen, his head of strategy, and Linda, Karen’s deputy (all names and some details have been changed). Please read Part I now if you haven’t done so already.

As I requested, Linda accompanied me to each of the interviews, and was able to provide valuable context and insight into what was revealed. Some members of Reggie’s leadership team were enthusiastic, and well informed about the intent of the program, but at least a couple of them had no idea what was going on, and seemed especially impatient with our use of an hour of their time for the interview. All knew of the upcoming full-day kick-off and strategy map workshop, but some were clearly skeptical. Linda wasn’t surprised. She told me that Reggie rarely met with his team as a whole, and that each of those managers was operating fairly autonomously. There were also some mild rivalries among those team members. Reggie was seen by Linda and others as having a “hands-off” leadership style.

One prevailing theme I drew from the leadership team interviews was that Reggie’s was an organization that had a good track record of success. Few had anything but high praise for Reggie, who was seen as an effective leader with the smarts necessary to lead WorldCo. There was little recognition of a need for major change in the organization itself. But enough opportunities emerged for Linda and I to construct a credible, if somewhat un-ambitious draft strategy map. We reviewed the result with Karen, who was satisfied, and offered no revisions.

A few days later, Karen, Linda, and I met with Reggie, although our 90 minute meeting had been trimmed to an hour because of (no surprise now) a conflict on Reggie’s schedule. I learned soon after that it was typical for Reggie and his executive assistant to double- and even triple-book his calendar, and that we were fortunate to have gotten the full hour with him that we did. Reggie was focused and inquisitive as we presented the draft strategy map. This was a guy who understood things very quickly, and he was fully engaged in our discussion of the content of the map, and offered valuable suggestions. He expressed his complete satisfaction with our work, and said that he was looking forward to the strategy map workshop a few days later. We emerged smiling from our meeting with Reggie, with a renewed optimism for our effort. We were ready.

Next: Part III – Workshop day

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