Catalysing Rapid Change in Leadership . . . Without Damaging Organisational Culture
This is a case study of a WA Medium sized Professional Firm (Client X). Company ‘X’ is a medium sized professional practice, with a proud history of almost 50 years. Owned by 5 Directors, staff numbers range between 22 – 30 people, subject to market fluctuation and project work. The 5 Directors include the founding Director and then first, second and third generation ownership with tenures ranging between 4, 8, 15 and 50 years.
A very successful firm, staff sizes had doubled from 15-30 people over the past 15 years. Due to growth of the business, the practice having doubled and the changing industry environment in which their practice operates; a number of changes and thus challenges were presenting. To name a few:
- Number of projects had increased
- Increasingly project complexity – requiring different team structures and approaches
- Directors roles changing as firm grows
- Industry is becoming more technology based
- Client and industry procurement practices are changing – necessitating different approaches to service delivery and different lines of accountability
With some members having 30 years of history together, the culture has a lovely family feel to it. With every cultural strength, there can at times be a corresponding limitation; and the Directors had recognized that they were having trouble working through succession planning and associated changes in roles and responsibilities. This was impacting their strategic focus. They noted that where a difference of opinion existed, individuals often withdrew from discussions, modified and/or tempered their views to avoid causing potential offence or conflict – not wanting to cause distress within the ‘family’. Whilst there had been previous workshops and facilitated sessions with different consultants over the prior 3 years – there was a general feeling that no real traction had been made on a number of significant issues.
Company ‘X’ engaged Susan Kroening to assist the Directors in:
- Establishing common goals for the business that met individual needs and also inspired commitment and collective effort
- Re-building their Director’s team, increasing their comfort so that communication could occur openly and honestly, helping to recreate their former environment of trust and mutual respect
Susan’s consulting, change management support and facilitation approach included:
- Diagnostic and Data collection using a written questionnaire
- One on One Interview with each Director to more fully probe into identified issues, barriers & potentialities – and then feeding back diagnostic data at a Directors workshop
- Facilitating conversations to support directors as they developed a code of conduct to enable people speaking frankly
- Facilitating frank discussions as to personal vision, ideal work environment, individual and group values – so this could be incorporated into: Business and Strategic Planning, identifying/refreshing vision and defining corporate values/principles
- Facilitating sessions to explore succession issues and implementation plans
- Defining and documenting of Directors’ roles and responsibilities, exploring alternative team structures and approaches for project delivery
- Enrolling team in creating some best practice meeting formats to better suit the changing nature of the business and Director roles
RESULTS: One Director realised he had been unhappy for a while as his career aspirations had changed and thus he resigned; the Founding Director has set dates for his retirement; a succession plan is in place; the 3 remaining Directors are feeling motivated, resilient and collectively committed to their refreshed vision, values and new project team approaches. ‘Family’ culture has been preserved.
Testimonial: “Our Directors team had been avoiding particular conversations and frank expression which was impacting on our accountability – and it was becoming important that we moved beyond our discomfort with conflict and tension. With rigour, compassion and an ability to work with whatever emerged – Susan facilitated a number of crucial conversations first individually with each Director and then as a collective – which ‘unblocked the log jam’ that had been in place for several years. Susan helped us with some key conversations about our organisational purpose, guiding values, rules of engagement and leadership roles – which has led us to have some very ‘real’ and necessary conversations. As a team we are now more comfortable with conflict, invite dissenting views and are thus feeling more aligned and energized. With some new meeting formats in place we’ve increased our efficiency and effectiveness as a team of Directors – ready to tackle the challenges ahead! I would highly recommend Susan’s services and plan on using her support as we build on our Leadership Capability next year.” Director – name available upon request