How to ensure that the business of tomorrow actually arrives

Neil Maslen, President BMGI Europe, Middle East, Africa

The critical steps to ensure the successful implementation of innovation, change and improvement

Johannesburg, August 6th, 2012 - Big gaps exist between great ideas and business benefit in many world companies and SA’s corporates are no different. This is the finding of BMGI management and training consultancy following interviews with local CEOs representing listed companies on the JSE.

However, successful transition to change is likely when the following six guidelines are observed:

1. Don’t venture into the unknown without a clear and visible signpost

Don’t forget the people involved in the change process, because they are critical to a successful transition. Invest time and energy and sufficient planning to ensure that they are fully competent and buy into the vision. They must possess a clear sense of what the business is aiming to achieve. Successful implementation happens when people have enough direction so that they can make critical decisions on their own.

Constant communication is essential here. Ensure that everyone involved understands exactly what is expected of them. Business owners can cover all their bases by supplying employees with answers to “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why” and “how”. Because of the inherent risks associated with change, the business leader must be clearly seen to lead the change, and his/her credibility needs to be well established with employees.

2. Failures along the path are part of a successful end result

Don’t let failure discourage you. While distractions often cause transformational efforts to fail, some can actually improve the overall quality of the output. Here, the key job of leadership is to recognise which distractions actually add value, learn from them and remove those that don’t. BMGI Africa’s research found that it’s better to have some momentum with mistakes, correction and continuous change, rather 100% correction and then only action.

As with everything balance needs to be found between too much latitude to experiment and fail and allowing enough freedom for creativity to manifest. The trick is to develop a culture that rewards risk taking and accepts mistakes, but also honours constraints and the necessary controls to prevent disasters.

3. Building with a blueprint: things fall apart if something is left out

A blue print provides structure and forms a model that represents the current or desired state of the change required. It is a framework within which disparate data can be collated more cohesively. It draws attention to every aspect that should be considered when building, defining, redesigning or understanding an organisation. It also captures all possible implications of change and its implementation and helps manage uncertainty factors.

BMGI Africa’s research identified 10 interrelated components that have to be considered when implementing change. These are: culture, management of performance, information flow, the game plan, process, structure, skills, systems and IT, facilities and layout and equipment or technology. These can be narrowed down into those areas that are of paramount importance.

With the relevant components in mind, the blueprint forms a guide for the following important questions:

  1. How will we operate in future?
  2. What organisation structure best suits our strategy?
  3. How should we configure our business processes?
  4. Which practices will we adopt?
  5. What levels of performance should we aspire to?
  6. What competencies will we require?
  7. What information will we need to operate in this manner?
  8. What measurements do we need to achieve our goal?
4. Constraint: the mother of all invention

The reduction or removal of resources to drive change successfully was proven by Hulamin, Africa’s leading supplier of aluminium products. By simultaneously implementing BMGI’s Lean Sigma Six business management approach, and reducing or removing certain budgets, capability was developed throughout the business, resulting in steady growth, greater sustainability and profitability, and an estimated saving of R50-million.

Hulamin CEO Richard Jacobs identified a three way accountability model between his innovations team, line management responsible for change, and the specialists (those trained in Lean Sigma Six) who help lead the way.

Within this model there is a three step approach that is applied:

  1. Constrain the environment (reduce and remove certain budgets)
  2. Train and equip people to solve the problem
  3. Standardise, improve, and sustain
5. Don’t ever forget the problem you are trying to fix and keep the end customer in clear site

Change and innovation must impact the bottom line. An unknown point of realisation normally translates into no realisation at all. All of the top 40 listed companies on the JSE interviewed, highlighted the need to remain close to the customer. Four key themes were identified to make this possible:

  1. Keep good relationships,
  2. Understand customer needs,
  3. Develop “partnership” relationships, and
  4. Ensure good communication.

Bottom line realisation will only occur when the benefit translates into a meaningful outcome for those who make the money flow, clients and or customers.

6. We don’t want to forget the tools, but tools without people are useless

An analysis of the Top 40 listed companies in South Africa demonstrated that the most important business driver for success is dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled people.

Action is dependent not only on our understanding of the situation at a cognitive level but our “heart” level of acceptance of it as well. Change only happens when we become emotionally involved with the outcome.

It was possible to identify five critical success factors for managing the change process:

  1. When we have to call it “change management” we have already lost - change management is not something done by everyone else, it has to be fundamentally woven into everything we do and more importantly HOW we do it from conception to delivery.
  2. Silence does not mean acceptance - change will never stick in the absence of debate but rather in the presence.
  3. There is always wisdom in the answer “NO” - spend time listening to those who say NO. Make sure they are heard, They often offer pearls of wisdom, that if considered within the overall plan, normally results in commitment to change.
  4. It’s not who you talk to but rather who you leave out. When managing stakeholders, make sure that you have a complete picture of which stakeholder needs to move through which point in the change curve.
  5. There is no substitute for involvement and engagement - you can’t just rely on email or other poor channels of communication. Find ways to get people involved, and then don’t just communicate, rather facilitate. Better yet create options that allow larger groups to participate within the project.

There are six key tools we can all use when managing the implementation of innovation, change and improvement:

Learn from others. Engage more, network and use role models. We are never all that unique. We can always benefit from the experiences of those around us. From experience and research it is evident that people are the fundamental key to successful business sustainability. Now, more than ever, business needs to managing the people side of change more effectively. Arriving tomorrow will be determined by the ability to engage, facilitate and mobilise people.

About BMGI

BMGI provides people-driven solutions to your most pressing business problems. Whether it’s through your people, our people, or working side-by-side, BMGI offers the wide-range of services you need to succeed. Be it global or local, big or small, strategic or tactical, we help you find unique solutions to your specific problems. Through its 13 offices throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, BMGI delivers services in multiple languages and with a mastery of many local cultures. BMGI’s clients, spread across more than twenty countries, include General Dynamics, TNT Express, Avis Budget Group, Credit Suisse, Hitachi, China Chemical, Graphic Packaging, Siemens, The U.S. Navy, Philips, and many others. For more information, please visit BMGI’s website at BMGI - Problem Solved!

For more information contact: Irma Karsten on +27 12 460 0310

Issued by: Pleiades Media
Editorial contact: Kerry Botha
Tel. No.: +27 83 263 0644

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