In Evidence We Trust

James Beazley, Founder & Managing Director


Have you ever wondered how and why Sherlock Holmes has always been able to solve the seemingly impossible? Is it gut feeling, is it because the statistics infer that 75% of all murders are committed by someone known by the person murdered, or is it just years upon years of experience combined with an inherent intuition?

No, it is evidence. Not just one piece of evidence, but a whole conglomeration of evidence all pieced together to reveal the solution to an intricate puzzle.

The world we live in is becoming increasingly complicated and uncertain. When it comes to  the transformational change of the organisation or its leaders, the need to cut through the veneer of gut feeling and bring more assurance to decisions is more important than ever before. The need for us all to take a leaf out the book of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson is a relevant analogy of what is required to truly uncover the best executives for your organisation or the best route to navigate a successful organisational change.

Let’s explore this in more detail…

McKinsey & Company released a report back in 2003, another in 2013 and, more recently, an additional piece looking at transformational change. In each of the reports, there was a common statistic stating that 70% of all transformational change projects fail.

When looking at mergers and acquisitions, the percentage of failure is even higher at 80%! But why is this so?

Most of the reasons given are poor management of the integration or that the consulting firm used were to blame. When digging deeper into these reports and examining the case studies, it was clear that the integration process missed some vital steps to ensure the change (or integration) was successful. Putting it simply, it was the evidence – the hard facts, the unemotional data, the challenge and testing – before rushing into the implementation.

It is human nature that when you finally make the decision to change you want to then experience or see tangible differences almost immediately. It makes us feel good, we can see something’s happening. However, this is invariably led by instinct, perception and in many cases, it ignores what is actually the right decision.

The best analogy we can give is when you are carrying out a building project at home…

You have made the decision to do an extension. Each day you come home wanting to see the progress. For days on end you come home but don’t see any tangible difference in bricks being laid or structures going up and you start to question what are the builders doing. Then, you come home the next day and see a tremendous amount of structure in place and even some bricks! You then ask why hasn’t that happened every day?

The reason being is that good builder spends time on laying the right foundations, prepping the ground correctly before making the transformational change to ensure that it sticks. They prepare all the areas of evidence and facts to get the right outcome.

Transformational Change is exactly the same.

6 Group has developed its own methodology for guiding organisations through this by ensuring no steps are ignored and all the hard facts are pulled together to ensure the right decisions are put in place to make the change work. What do I mean by this?

When organisations decide on restructuring teams or embarking on a transformational change to their organisational design, too many companies start with the people they have and begin putting names in boxes based on their feeling of whether that person could do that job or not. In some instances, they will have been a world-leading strategy house come in and define a new strategy for the business but rarely do they even question the organisation on how they want to operate and deliver that strategy.

When an organisation wants to change, it is invariably led by one or a few senior executives; typically the CEO and EVPs. What many companies fail to translate is the picture in the heads of those people wanting to make a change or who and what they are envisioning.

In most cases they are thinking of another company and, for whatever reason, they have a perception of this particular company’s operations and functions as being ‘the best’.

However, they rarely test their perception and actually examine what makes those organisations tick…

How are they structured, how are people performance managed and how does that influence the behaviours and culture of the organisation? Then you can evaluate whether the real case mirrors the perception? It is all about getting the evidence to help guide and support the reason for change.

Typically, what we see is the picture in the minds of the executives is a combination of a number of companies i.e. the product development prowess of Apple, with the world-class production process of Toyota, and the sales capability of LyondellBassell.

The key is to dig under the skin of these companies to see how it actually works and then plot that against the drivers of the change to see if there are operational synergies.

On many ooccasions it is taking something from one company, something from another and then leaving other things out which ultimately brings the organisation to an informed position of what is right for them. It is this ‘informed’ position that is critical as it is the evidence the organisation needs as the basis to start developing and agreeing on an organisational design to execute against the drivers for change and the ultimate strategy.

It is only then that you can start to map the behaviours and values that support that execution which then leads to the process of what roles do you need and how will they fit in the new-look organisation. Subsequently, we can then look at the process of deciding on the names to go in what boxes.

This is probably the hardest part for all organisations going through transformational/organisational change.

Jim Collins coined the phrase “who is on the bus?” in his book ’Good to Great’. Easy to say, but much harder to decide who should be on the bus and then gauge whether they are they really want a seat on the bus. When organisational change fails is when companies are not prepared to cut those people who shouldn’t or couldn’t be on the bus and those who don’t want a seat at all.

Instead, they approach the change as a process or way of working that all employees will be able to do and have a desire to do. Sure, most of the employees will say they are fine and will take their new roles but the talk around the water cooler will be “if they think I am going to do that, they can think again.”

Before you know it, people create processes and ways of working that were exactly what they were doing before the change and the company then wonders why things haven’t moved on.

It is critical to assess and gather the evidence for all people in the organisation to determine what is the best role for them, where are the skills gaps, are they coachable/trainable and who are the ones that will be blockers to the change sticking – whether that be by capability or attitude. But how do you do that?

At 6, we call it The 6 Way.

We work with our clients to create a behavioural competency framework linked to the new values, covenants and drivers of the change. This framework is backed by a matrix of evidence that clearly defines what under-performance is through to master for all levels of the organisation. We are then able to create an assessment that looks at behavioural competence through the solicitation of functional examples.

This allows us to make evidently clear which people in the organisation are functionally competent to excel in their new role and whether they also display the right behaviours to ensure the new values and drivers of the organisation are met. More importantly, it is about ensuring each person is set up for success in their recently defined areas of responsibility.

So, we return to our detective hero Mr Sherlock Holmes. The importance of evidence is crucial. As he said in The Adventure of The Copper Beaches, Data, Data, Data; I can’t make bricks without clay.”

6 Group has been a leading facilitator of transformational change for some of the world’s largest organisations for over a decade. To learn more about what we can do for you, get in touch.

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