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Kick The Habit

THE HABIT HAS TAKEN hold in South Africa in recent years, but local sufferers may be relieved to learn that the condition is common in many other jurisdictions. Obsessive, repetitive organisation has even spawned an acronym in the UK. I came across it on a consultancy assignment. Staff at the client organisation repeatedly referred to Bohica. I was mystified. After trust had developed between us, they spelled it out: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. The development of such a pejorative term is an indication that some companies are close to suffering an overdose of restructuring. Episodic organisational changes that disrupt the workplace without significant improvements in performance are not only demotivating, but also costly and time consuming. There is hope: the habit can be broken. For this to happen, however, change must be sustainable. This requires a comprehensive approach.

STRATEGIC INTENT AND VISION: The point of departure for all organisational interventions is the strategic intent of the business. Interventions with no basis in company strategy are often inappropriate, leading to ineffective use of resources and excessive cost. Any intervention, be it process re-engineering, systems design, people skilling or structural change, must take account of the vision and environment, the desired leadership and organisational culture. In any engagement, it is mission critical to recognise at an early stage the interdependence of the different elements of an organisation.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS: When embarking on a project, it is important to use the latest project management techniques. New methods of restructuring management are applied while special management techniques are adapted for better control and the best use of existing resources.

Although there is overlap with other management disciplines, many of the techniques are unique to project management (such as critical path analysis, work breakdown structures, and so on). Experience shows that all groups with a stake in the outcome must be involved, including processes, functionality, capability, timing, costs and people interfaces. The commitment of top and senior management is crucial, but business partnerships at all levels of the organisation must also be developed and maintained. In short, project management directs enhanced organisational resources at a specified activity, on time and within budget, with the aim of exceeding performance targets while maintaining good customer relations.

PROCESS MODELLING AND VALUE CHAIN OPTIMISATION: When redesigning processes, analysis typically focuses on issues such as workload, work environment, a logical combination of tasks and availability of skills.

A value chain review usually considers six end-to-end processes:

• Marketing awareness to customer;

• Customer to accounts receivable;

•Demand to delivery;

• Request to pay; • Capital acquired to disinvestment; and

• Investment to environment. To ensure improvements in performance, the redesign of the process employs re-engineering and transformation methodologies associated with best practices. Information technology strategy – ability, capability and flexibility – will also influence process design.

HUMAN CAPITAL: Having remodelled the processes, the next step is the development of job descriptions and the competencies of an organisation’s people. Detailed specifications in each role assist in the recruitment, appointment and identification of training and development opportunities. Job specifications can also be used for reward and recognition purposes.

ORGANISATIONAL RESTRUCTURING: The next task is to restructure the organisation in a way that optimally supports the value chain from end to end. The supporting environment must be functional and foster high performance, with emphasis on:

• Leadership that supports innovation, empowerment and self-driven performance;

• A culture where people want to perform, where continuous improvement is encouraged and brought about; and

• A performance management process where key performance drivers are understood, measured and rewarded. These drivers must be aligned with and support the overall strategy.

SYSTEMS SOLUTION DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION: Once the processes and value chain are optimised, interventions need to focus on the design and implementation of a suitable solution that satisfies the organisation’s systems requirements. This requires the identification of a solution that is appropriate for the business processes, information technology strategy, budget, existing systems and the competitive environment. There should also be clear and defined data, and a data migration strategy that ensures integrity of the systems.

ESSENTIALS FOR DELIVERING HIGH-VALUE PROJECTS SUCCESSFULLY: The history of improvement interventions is tainted with failure. Experience teaches that success requires the following:

• Top management support and buy-in. If top management does not actively support the intervention with visible enthusiasm, the probability of project success is greatly reduced;

• Clear project management and continuous mobilisation throughout the intervention process;

• A change management element characterised by a responsible, peoplefocused approach; and

• Ownership of the intervention by staff members.

Address all of these factors and you will save vast expense while avoiding staff trauma – which can be something of a nice change.

by: Rudy Absil is the CEO of Gemini Advantage consulting group


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