Challenge 27. Productivity drops

Nut to crack: How do you maintain a focus on results in times of uncertainty?

You have your normal kpis to meet: productivity ratios, revenue targets, and cost reduction guidelines. The change agenda aims to improve business per- formance. So far, so good. However, in the here and now, business perfor- mance typically declines instead of increases on the “normal” indicators pre- cisely because of that change. One of the reasons for this is a loss of focus on the business and the customers due to uncertainty associated with change. How do you prevent the change agenda from directing energy inwards and business results from deteriorating instead of improving?

Nutcracker: Clarity in times of uncertainty

Implementing change takes time and energy. Challenge 16 explained how you can ensure that you have a single business agenda in which running the business and transformation of the company are managed in harmony. In practice, it often takes much work to maintain focus. In times of uncertainty, the attention on the external business quickly diminishes, and the attention is turned inwards instead. You cannot prevent this entirely, but it is possible to remove ambiguities and uncertainties actively. The example below illustrates how to do this effectively, so all eyes remain on the ball.

Real-life example: Two questions, one message

The decision is made in January: the takeover will go ahead. The board of the listed fund has informed senior management. Unrest immediately occurs. ceo Jim notices that the attention of the organisation is focused internally, which jeopardises the results. He wants to ensure productivity stays the same during this turbulent period.

Therefore, Jim installs a small transformation team: this is the only team that, together with the management, is involved in the integration. He asks all other managers two questions: “Which activities would you stop immediately because of the takeover and why?” and “Which activities are you unsure whether you should cease or continue, and what do you recommend?” He lists the responses. He then justifies which actions to stop and decides on any ambivalent case with the relevant managers.

Now that the woes and ambiguities have been resolved, he can forcefully send out the message that it is “business as usual” for everyone in the company because where there was doubt about whether the business should be stopped, this has already been resolved. This provides guidance and focus on the business in times of uncertainty, so productivity minimally decreases.

Tip for the change leader

Make time to listen and be sensitive to the signals of unrest.

Tip for change enabler

Pulse check the organisational temperature to pick up the voice of all employees.

Kernel: Unblock

Proactively detect energy leaks due to the uncertainty that change processes may trigger. Where do people stop business-related activities, delay customer conversations, and where do you hear the noise? Address these topics pro- actively, take decisions and create clarity, so you minimise the reduction in productivity due to change.

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