Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Q: I've been appointed to a senior strategic management role, with a brief to restructure and revitalise the function I head. I've been in post three months and have ostensibly gained agreement to a new structure and substantial reforms. But I'm finding myself blocked at every turn now I am trying to implement my plans. HR seems to find reasons to gainsay every change of personnel I request, and other members of the senior team seem to undermine my initiatives. I'm feeling disheartened. How can I regain momentum?

A: Three months may seem like an eternity to you, champing at the bit to get on with making the changes you've been brought in to introduce, but, in the grand scheme of significant transformation, it's still early days.

Frustrating though it is to meet these roadblocks, it is not unusual to encounter problems with implementation. They usually stem from a disconnect between the high-level acceptance of the need for change and, lower down, the inertia of people being asked to alter processes and practices accumulated over many years.

Don't despair: by definition, your appointment with a brief to transform implies criticism of the status quo and, not surprisingly, you will encounter resistance from those who feel their way of working is threatened. Recognise that unwillingness to change can also be characteristic of some senior managers. But it's important to distinguish between hostility and lack of engagement. The former is hard to shift, but the latter is usually susceptible to clear communication of the goals and the benefits of achieving them.

Since much of the transformation you are seeking to create involves changes in personnel, it is vital that you don't make an enemy of HR. HR may not be deliberately thwarting progress but merely abiding by company freezes on recruitment and pay rises.

The way round this is to enlist help from HR colleagues. Make sure they understand what you have been briefed to achieve and explain what's required. Ask them to help you find ways round budget constraints. If you don't make much progress because they are set at group level, you may have to involve your bosses in negotiating some flexibility. Sometimes, the delay between appointment and arrival is helpful in shifting the cost into a new financial year. …

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